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Thread: Homemade bending iron for $40 at the big home store

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2013
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    Somerville, Massachusetts, USA
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    4

    Default Homemade bending iron for $40 at the big home store

    I was eyeing the ibex bending iron from Stew Mac, but it seems way overpriced - it's a round piece of metal that gets hot, and from the reviews, not that consistently... why is it $200?!

    A bit of googling later and I see that folks are making their own using steel or aluminum pipe and propane torches or electric charcoal starters. I started looking into different materials available for piping/tubing that would give me a decent radius for bending ukulele and guitar sides. Should I go with aluminum pipe or tube from a metal supplier? Steel plumbing pipe from the home store? OOOhh an aluminum baseball bat, but what kind?! softball? slow pitch? fast pitch? tee ball? youth size?? What's cheap?!? The internets were getting on my nerves so I went to the Home Depot after work (the limited selection of the store vs. the infinite selection of the internet helps me come up with clever solutions.)

    After checking the plumbing and electrical pipes, I stumbled upon the fencing aisle - 6ft of 16 gauge 2 3/8" galvy steel post for $15! I also grabbed a fancy cap and a bracket for attaching the post to wood.

    Next I grabbed the electrical bits - charcoal starter, a handy box, cover, cable clamps and a dimmer switch. Done.



    Back at home I added an old computer power cord and a scrap 2x4 to the pile and got to work.

    Step 1: Squeeze the heck out of the charcoal starter to get it to fit in the fence post. Took a bit more effort than I expected. There was a lot of clamping pressure going on in the vice; I thought it was going to slip out at me, snap or shatter. The wood vise ended up working better for this.



    Step 2: Once it fit, I placed it in the end of the pipe and drew a line a couple inches from the tip of the starter, then I cut it with a hacksaw. The metal shield made a nice end-cap.

    Step 3: I de-burred and polished the pipe. Oooh shiny.

    Step 4: Attach pipe to clampy thingy. Put on the little cap and take a picture of your shiny rocket/hardcore sex toy/zombie weapon.



    Step 5: Attach clampy thingy to 2x4. I chose to use a 2x4 so I can clamp it in my vise either vertically or horizontally. I also added a bit of wire around the bottom of the element to make sure it doesn't slip out.

    Step 6: Wire it up with a dimmer and give it a test! I stopped at 540 degrees F because my temp sensor was getting close to its limit.



    Step 7: watch water disappear. Dang that's hot.


    After running it at 500+ degrees for about 10 minutes, nothing was hot except for the pipe. The bracket was warm, but did not scorch the 2x4. There was some burn-y smells, but it might have been my temperature sensor, or just some oil or coatings burning off the pipe. The dimmer, cables and electrical box were all cool to the touch. I'm impressed with how well this came together. Now to see how it actually bends wood...

    Here's my parts list with Home Depot links. Get one of each:

    2-3/8 in. x 2-3/8 in. x 6 ft. Galvanized Metal Corner Post

    2-19/50 in. x 2-19/50 in. Polished Aluminum Dome Post Cap

    2-3/8 in. Galvanized Steel Adjustable Wood Adapter

    Leviton Trimatron 600-Watt Rotary Dimmer

    1-Gang Drawn Handy Box

    1-Gang Toggle Switch Handy Box Cover

    Electric Charcoal Starter

    You will also need some clamp connectors for your electrical box, a length of board/2x4, MDF, etc to attach everything to, and an extra power cord.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
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    Default

    Thread out of moderation queue. Sorry for the delay.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
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    Wales, UK
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    I've used my Ibex for 18 years without complaint...

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jun 2011
    Location
    Salem MA
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    Well done.

    Step four was my best laugh of the day, so thanks for that.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
    Location
    UK Midlands
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    25

    Default

    Enough pipe left over to make a few more.......

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Location
    Hudson, MA
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    Nice. I tried using a charcoal starter in my first bending iron but it always tripped the GFI on my basement outlets. Maybe I cracked the insulation while re-shaping it. Now I use it with a heat gun with great results. Plus the noise from the heat gun makes it harder to forget to turn it off

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
    Location
    Prince George, British Columbia, Canada
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    Default Nicely done.

    I have been thinking of making the following: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ETUEyl_ovRA

    Not as nice as what you have done, but easy to make and I am only getting set to build my first ukulele.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jan 2013
    Location
    Somerville, Massachusetts, USA
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pete Howlett View Post
    I've used my Ibex for 18 years without complaint...
    Cool, good to hear! If my monstrosity gets enough use I'll probably bite the bullet and buy one. For now though, there's lots of other tools that the extra $150 can go to.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jan 2013
    Location
    Somerville, Massachusetts, USA
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    Quote Originally Posted by droze View Post
    I have been thinking of making the following: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ETUEyl_ovRA

    Not as nice as what you have done, but easy to make and I am only getting set to build my first ukulele.
    I watched his video before starting this project, very clever! That was my "backup plan" if I couldn't get the charcoal heater to work or find a cheap beefy pipe.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Aug 2012
    Location
    South Euclid, OH USA (Cleveland)
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    513

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    Quote Originally Posted by droze View Post
    I have been thinking of making the following: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ETUEyl_ovRA

    Not as nice as what you have done, but easy to make and I am only getting set to build my first ukulele.
    If you go with this one like this, please be cautious of the top - especially accidentally reaching across it. I have not made one of these, but the hot air that heats the pipe clearly vents out of the top.
    Tobin Crooks

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