Common Questions about Tube Benders

So, you’re a fabricator working on a tubular project and are in need of a tubing bender. You’re overwhelmed with all of the options and unsure about which tube bender is the right machine for you. Regardless of your application, Trick-Tools is here to be an information source to make sure you’re investing in the right tool to overcome your fabrication challenge. We’ve put together a list of frequently asked questions to help aid in your research for your next tubing bender.

What is the primary use of a tubing bender?

Professional shops, as well as DIY fabricators, both rely on benders. These tools are required for building tubular structures such as tube chassis and roll cages for race cars and offroad vehicles as well as handrails and other tubular applications. Whether building a simple transmission cross member or a complete ORV roll cage, tube benders are a necessary piece of equipment. In addition, tubing benders are also used in bending header primaries and exhaust systems, turbo manifolds, brake lines, and even solid bar applications. Trick-Tools offers options for all levels of fabricators looking to take their work to the next level.

How many types of benders are commonly used and how are they powered?

Tubing benders offered on the market can be broken down in the 3 main categories; manual, powered, and programmable.

Manual benders operate by a rack and lever system and are generally used by DIY home shop fabricators and small job shops limited on space and budget. This style of bender produces similar quality bends as the larger and more expensive hydraulic machines, but at a lower cost and at a much slower cycle time. Shops requiring faster cycle times gravitate towards air/hydraulic and electric/hydraulic tubing benders. As a result, these machines offer effortless bending.

Production-oriented shops often utilize powered benders with programmable functions. Programmable benders make it easy to recall parts that have been programmed into the machine. This simple process is a necessity when bending repeatable and consistent parts.

Are the bending dies easy to swap out for different size tubing? Will it bend square? How tight of a bend is possible?

The time to change tooling varies from a few seconds to several minutes depending on the complexity of the machine.  Most tubing bender manufacturers offer dies for both round and square tubing, as well as pipe sizes. The fabricator will need a die set for each specific OD (outside diameter) of material and Center Line Radius (CLR). Center Line radius refers to the measurement of how tight or how broad the bend is, like bending a tube around a baseball vs. basketball.

Achievable bend radius is a product of OD, wall thickness, and bend radius.  As OD increases so must the bend radius and wall thickness.  For example, a typical non-mandrel bender, 2” tubing would require at least a 6” CLR, and .095” wall thickness, but 1” tubing could be bent on a 3” CLR with an .065” wall.  A good rule of thumb for a non-mandrel bender is the CLR must be 3 times the OD of the tube.

Can it do Mandrel Bends?

Mandrel tube bending is a widely misunderstood bending term. Many customers, and even some bending companies, refer to the bending dies as mandrels or shoes. Technically, the mandrel is a part of the tooling set but does not exist in most bending applications.

The mandrel goes inside the tube and is held by a mandrel rod to support the tube at the tangent point of the bend. The mandrel is then extracted after the bend is complete or within the last few degrees of bending. This requires a machine with a bed longer than the tube being bent and strong enough to support the forces against the mandrel.

Common mandrels configurations include the plug, ball, disc or multi-ball or disc design. The type of mandrel required varies depending on the wall thickness of the tube, radius required, and type of material being bent. Mandrel bending can create a bend much tighter than empty bending as well as improve the appearance of bend. Radii as tight as one times the diameter of the tube (1D) are possible. This is especially useful for automotive exhaust applications or when a fluid or gas is being flowed through a tube. Most chassis or frame tube bending applications do not require a mandrel. Even though the bend may appear stronger the outer wall of the tube is actually stretched thinner by the mandrel bending process

We want to help you!

In the end, tubing benders come in all shapes and sizes and these are just a few questions to consider when purchasing the right tubing bender for your budget, demand, and application. Head over to our website to see our line up of tubing benders and visit our YouTube Channel to see these tools in action. As always, give us a call with any questions or concerns and we’d be happy to assist you!

Drag Bike Body Build Series

Episode 2: From Start to Buck

So, you want to start a metal shaping project. You have the proper tools and a concept in mind (or on paper), or maybe you have a panel that you’re trying to duplicate, however you’re not quite sure how to get started. Cue episode 2 of our Drag Bike Body Series – From Start to Buck.

In this episode, it’s our goal to help you understand how to get started on a custom metal shaping project and to take the design process from an idea to a concept rendering. Buck building will also be covered, as well as different buck styles and when it’s necessary to use a buck. Once a buck is made, we’re ready to

Drag Bike Body Build Series

Episode 1 – A Ride Down Memory Lane

For Trick-Tools owner Bruce Van Sant, building a new body for his Pro-Mod Drag Bike had a lot of meaning. It was a symbol of a growing business and a learning tool for a new category of products. Bruce teamed up with Clay Cook, the original manufacturer of ProLine Metal Shaping Tools, to learn the metal shaping process and to gain hands-on experience with his equipment.

Now, almost two decades later, we’re resurrecting the unfinished body to create a build series that will walk metal shapers through the steps from start to finish. Topics such as buck building, panel layout, basic and advanced metal shaping, and more will be covered throughout the series.

Watch Episode 1 below to learn the history of the motorcycle and the passion behind the project.

Band Saw Troubleshooting Basics – The Key to Accuracy

Why won’t my band saw cut straight?

We get this question from customers quite a bit and it’s usually after some amount of frustration. Before you start tearing your saw apart, let’s take some time to review some band saw troubleshooting basics.

Tooth Count, Feed Rate, and Cutting Speed

Often, the blade is the most common culprit when it comes to cutting accuracy. Blade condition and tooth count is critical to cut quality and blades can easily be ruined if you’re not careful. Sometimes the solution is as simple as getting a new blade or using a blade that is more suited to your application. If you cut a variety of material, for example thin wall tubing and thick plate back to back, don’t be surprised if you start having issues right away. Therefore, take the time to understand the tooth count, feed rate, and speed settings required for the materials you are cutting. You may not be able to cut everything with the same set up.

Most saw manufacturers have guidelines listed in the owner’s manual (you did read that right?) and you can also get good information from the blade manufacturers. We would be happy to help as well. Band saws are versatile, but you can quickly ruin a new blade if you don’t follow the guidelines.

Correct Material Orientation in the Vise

Assuming you have selected an appropriate blade, feed rate, and speed for the application, there are still a few additional things to keep in mind. An often-overlooked detail is how the material is clamped in the vise. There is a big difference between 1×4 bar stock laid flat vs on edge. Feed rates can also vary dramatically as the saw moves through the work piece. Again, there are guidelines available, just be aware that getting this wrong can cause problems. Blade life can also be significantly compromised if the proper break-in procedures are not followed. When new, the blade tips are razor sharp and if pushed too hard too soon, they will grab. This results in damaging the shape and set on the tooth.

Realistic Expectations of Your Saw

Last thing is to know what to expect. A band saw that is set up properly for a given application should be capable of making accurate cuts to the point that your tape measure, marking method, and eyes are probably a bigger problem! Truth is, in most situations, a band saw is plenty good enough and offers a lot of capacity for the money and a huge improvement over messy abrasive chop saws. You shouldn’t expect it to be as accurate as a high-end cold saw and you should not expect your portable bench top saw to behave the same as a larger industrial band saw with a 1” blade. In general, the larger the blade width on a band saw the more accurate it will be. Obviously, there are other variables, but the point here is to understand the capabilities and limitations of your equipment.

For a lot of folks this may all seem obvious. Band saws can, and do, require maintenance and repairs from time to time, but it still pays to systematically double check the basics before you start fixing something that is not broken.

Dave Watson – Technical Sales

Cold Saw vs Chop Saw- What are the Differences?

Although Cold Saws and Chop Saws have more similarities than differences, it’s the differences that count. Many have confused the two and some consider them the same thing. Why take the time to explain the difference? We want to help educate the metal working community and equip them to make the best decision. Whether you’re working in your garage at home or a full time fabricator, which is the right saw for you: A cold saw or a chop saw? Let’s take a look at a side by side comparison on a 14 inch blade version.

Mitering Head vs Mitering Vise

A summarizing statement could be: “Cold Saws are best for industrial use whereas Chop Saws are best for a home shop”. The price would support that statement, however there are smaller bench top Cold Saws for around a thousand dollars. Some fabricators may find bench top cold saws very fitting for a home shop, others may find them a bit too much. A common oversight when purchasing these types of saws is how miter cuts are done, and whether that makes a difference. Cold Saws have a mitering head. Your material can remain stationary and in line with material rests while clamped in the vise. Chop Saws have a mitering vise. This means the opposite end of a long piece of material will swing way out on a 45 degree cut.

Blade Design

Unlike an abrasive saw, both Cold Saws and TCT chop saws use a toothed blade. This blade design transfers the heat generated by cutting into the chips cut by the blade. This enables the blade and cut material to remain cool, resulting in longer blade life and immediate handling of cut parts.

In conclusion, a Cold Saw will provide the lowest cost per cut and should be considered the best sawing method in a high production environment, but those wanting to keep a low upfront cost and intend to use the saw less frequently will find a Chop Saw to be a great and effective alternative.

Written By Derek DeNooy -Inside Technical Sales

How to Get More Life Out of Hole Saws when Notching Tube

So you’re on your 20th something notch of your latest tubing project and the 3rd hole saw in a row binds up, twists your arms like a pretzel, and distorts to the point you can measure the cutter’s run out with a yard stick.  Hole Saws are for the birds, right?  They’ll never work!  Well, maybe there are a few things we can take a look at to get a little better life out of those inexpensive cutters and save your wrists from drill-induced torture.

First thing – let’s check out the brains of this operation – yes, you the operator!  I’ve lost more hole saws than I care to admit by getting in a hurry or not paying close enough attention to what I’m doing.  The number one killer of hole saws in my shop has been not removing the little slug that breaks off on the first half of the notch.  When you pass through the first side of the tube, a little hole saw-slaying slug will break off, often inside the cutter itself.  STOP! Back the hole saw up and take that piece out of the hole saw before continuing.  If you don’t, more often than not, it will poke its devilish little head out of one of the vent holes in the side of the cutter and wedge itself against the tube. Game over for the saw and the use of your right hand for awhile.  

Next up is drill choice and cutting speed. We don’t need anything real special to get good life out of a hole saw.  A quality 1/2 inch corded drill does the job well.  Preferably something on the slower end speed wise with good torque.  I personally use a Milwaukee 0300-20 drill with a max speed of 850 RPM, and I don’t think I’d want anything slower, but not much faster either.  When I’ve tried to run the drill at half speed or less the cutter tends to catch and bind more often and can cause it to chip off teeth.  Start relatively slow, and ease the cutter into the tube, then when the teeth are engaged into the material, you can open up the drill and let the cutter do the work.

The next item on our checklist to notching nirvana is the depth of the cut.  Don’t plunge the hole saw into the tube 6 inches from the end and use the notcher to cut your tube to length!  I’ve done it, it’s dumb, and you’ll wear out a hole saw faster than you can imagine.  A good notch depth should just barely leave the long edges of the “fish mouth” shape untouched by the hole saw.  Any deeper and you’re engaging too many teeth into the material, and building too much heat, which will wear out the cutter faster than normal.  If you’re notching to the proper depth, that little slug we talked about earlier will break off inside the hole saw.  Don’t forget to stop and get him out! Beware at this point as you break through the first half of the tube that you are easing up on the pressure so as not to ram the hole saw into the opposite wall.  This is sure to ovalize your hole saw which will also end it’s life prematurely.

Finally, if you’re heeding at least some of the wisdom from above, you should be making some good notches, and getting your money’s worth out of these $12-$15 hardware store heroes.   The last items to take a look at are the hole saw itself and lubricant.

No matter what, every once in a while the cutter is going to bind up, the drill will stall, or something else will happen that puts a huge load on these thin steel constructed cutters.  Some hole saws are constructed with a thin stamped sheet metal base.  This thin base can distort and ruin a hole saw long before the teeth ever wear out or break off.  I prefer to use hole saws that have a thick steel base plate.  This more rigid design seems to be less prone to binding, and when the cutter does bind up, it’s less likely to destroy the hole saw.

A good quality cutting lubricant can also help to reduce heat in the cutter and extend blade life.  WD40 and similar products are probably not the best choice for this, as they are primarily solvents, and you’ll have to use some type of weld-safe cleaner to remove the residue left behind.  I prefer water based cutting lube that can be simply wiped off with a rag when finished.

While the number of notches per hole saw can vary based on a lot of factors, with a little practice you should expect to get 50+ notches in mild steel and somewhere around 20-30 in chromoly.   Once you’re in-tune with your notcher, the drill, hole saws, and the proper notching procedure, you won’t cringe when it comes time to take on that next tubing project. 

-Written by Christian Huffman – Inside Technical Sales

Custom Header Builds Just Got FUN!

As most of you may know, building custom headers is a major trial and error process. Massive amounts of time and material are wasted due to micro adjustments and tack welding, only to find your header is in contact with a frame rail or another element in your cramped engine bay. The cost of your job is rising faster than your blood pressure and your scrap pile isn’t getting any smaller. After hours in the shop with little progress, you find yourself back at the drawing board looking for a solution. The guys at Icengineworks know this process all too well and have come up with a header building system that puts the FUN back in fabrication. Some fabricators call it cheating, however if you ain’t cheatin’, you ain’t tryin’, right?

Icengineworks provides 3 categories of products that simplify the header building process. Their most popular product is the Header Modeling Blocks. These time saving blocks allow you to simulate an exhaust runner using plastic blocks built to specific radii and OD. Adapt your runner to the header flange on your motor and precisely maneuver around obstacles in your engine bay until you have created a model of your custom headers. This eliminates cut and weld adjustments that waste both time and material. Once you have a block model of your custom headers, use the Icengineworks Tube Cutting Jigs to cut pre bent U and J bends to match the radii of your block model. When you have all your pieces, recruit Icengineworks’ Tack Weld Clamps to get the job done.  Clamp and position your pieces to create the final product by using these easy to use clamps.

The video below explains and demonstrates how the Icengineworks system can save you both time and money. This video was shot at the 2015 PRI Show and highlights the major advantages of the Icengineworks products.

Bend-Tech Dragon Tube Cutting and Marking System

When first introduced to the Bend-Tech Dragon Plasma Notcher, it didn’t take us long to figure out how it got its name. Its unique beast-like figure looks intimidating and the sparks from the plasma cutter replicate the breathing of fire. These characteristics are vastly similar the the fictional beast, making the Dragon a perfect name for this hardcore Plasma Notcher.

It’s accuracy and capabilities are unlike any animal we’ve seen, almost as if it’s unreal. The Dragon is capable of taking full length tubing, cutting it to length, notching the end profile, marking holes or slots as needed, and marking any bend locations with rotation and degrees; something you wont find in any other plasma notcher.

Included with the Bend-Tech Dragon is two powerful software packages; Bend-Tech Industrial and Bend-Tech Dragon Software. Working side by side, these products will allow you to create 3D CAD designs from scratch or convert from SOLIDWORKS, AutoCAD, Inventor, PRO Engineer, etc. into a readable format for the machine. Dragon Software will automatically create your cutting, marking and etching paths directly from Bend-Tech Industrial and comes with a nesting ability to allow several parts on the same stock tube.

Check out the video below and see this nonfictional machine in action. This video was shot at the Trick-Tools booth during the 2015 SEMA Show and highlights some of the major characteristics that make the Dragon a necessity in a production environment.