Archive for the ‘Metal bender’ Category

So with the metal art project officially completed it was time to move onto and address some of my own projects that have been getting neglected. First order of business involves making some progress on my outdoor fireplace. I purchased a Heat N Glo Montana outdoor wood burning fireplace about 4 years ago. The fireplace itself is only comprised of the firebox and therefore the surround needs to be created. Last year I actually made a bit of progress and built the steel base for it and then framed up the basic structure. I got so far as to get the unit mounted and installed onto by stone patio. Once I got that far it ended up getting wrapped up in a blue tarp and that is how it sat for the winter.

Well this is the year when this project will see completion. There are no plans for me to follow in regards to building the surround. I have read the installation manual for the fireplace 6+ times to ensure that I understand all the building and safety codes involved. I then proceeded to design my own unit. Part of my design involves building a steel pergola type structure that will hang off the front of the fireplace chimney section. The idea is to simply give the structure a slightly different feel by adding another dimension and building material.

I sat down and AutoCAD’d a basic design. I used the dimensions of the fireplace to base the size, and angles, of the pergola in order to keep things looking proportional. So with the plan in hand it was off to the metal yard to pick up some flat bar and cold rolled steel.

In order to ensure that everything was built evenly I opted to trace out the exact template onto an old garage door. Since the project would involve multiple bends I would be able to compare the arcs I put into the metal to the template. Next I dragged my homemade metal bender out from the corner and proceeded to run a 7 foot length of 5”x 3/16” flat bar through it. The bending was easy and I had no issues creating an arc to match my template.

Next it was off to the band saw where the 30 degree angle was set and a set of 8 support arms where trimmed up. The arms were all cut from 4” x 1/8” flat bar. I would be lying if I said I cut them all to perfect length the first time. Because I was dealing with an arc; 4 pairs of the 8 arms needed to be cut at different lengths. Welding a scrap straight bar onto the 2 outer arms helped me to be able to cut the remaining arms to length.

Next it was time to start rolling some 5/8” cold rolled solid round bar. I was incorporating 3 arcs all on a different radius therefore as I needed to roll each arc tighter as I moved towards the center. I was fairly impressed with myself and my ability to get all the arcs bent as close to perfect as possible especially when using a manual machine.

Next all the previously built support arms had 5/8” holes drilled through them in order to allow me to thread the cold rolled round bar through their centers. I suspect I spent close to 2 ½ hours rough assembling the structure and clamping it in order to prepare it for welding. It was crucial that all the dimensions were set precisely as the purpose of the pergola was purely visual. I often find myself eyeing up structures and construction everywhere I go to see if they were built square, straight and even. It’s important that I know, in my own mind, that the pergola is symmetrical and spaced evenly. When the sun is perpendicular to the structure I want to see my shadow lines hit the ground evenly.

So with the final support plate fabricated and drilled and with the unit structure clamped down it was time to start pouring on the molten metal and hope the pergola doesn’t twist itself up from the heat. Between the Silver Beauty MIG and Miller TIG the welding was completed in an evening and the structure suffered no noticeable warps.

Another couple hours were then spent getting the unit ready for paint. The Silver Beauty MIG really throws down the splatter and so time was spend removing all the little weld marks. Everything was either ground or sanded smooth. The edges and corners all got their sharp edges taken off and then prepped for paint.

Next I moved onto the previously wood framed upper portion of the fireplace surround. The steel pergola was going to get bolted to the top section. Using some scrap 2 ½” angle iron I had in the shop I cut and drilled out some bracing for all the front vertical studs. The idea is to bolt the pergola on using ½” hardware. I confirmed everything was going to work by bolting up the pergola to the chimney frame.

Next, and final step, was to get some paint on the unit. I set up the pergola in the homemade paint booth and bolted it to the chimney section thinking this would be the best way to prime it. Turned out the angles were all wrong and I couldn’t get the paint gun in some of the tight spots. I opted to just lay the pergola down on the lumber frame and use the frame as a bench. Since the frame would never be visible the overspray didn’t much matter. Using my Iwata HVLP gun I laid down 2 medium coats of primer. The top coat was going to be a flat black. My local paint supplier sold me a flat black kit made by SEM. The kit comes with the paint, reducer, and activator and was exactly what I was looking for. With 2 top coats sprayed on it confirmed that the flat black texture was what I was going for.

So with the pergola section designed, fabricated, and finished I can now focus my attention to the fireplace outdoors. It’ll be time to pull out the wood working tools and start ripping sheets and pounding nails.


…is what has been going on for years now so it’s onto the gate project. Hopefully this project won’t drag out too long. Let’s face it…it is just a gate but then again why make it simple when it works just as well complicated?

 The criteria? Easy, some sort of vertically hung blockage that can be opened and closed by any living thing that posses opposable thumbs. It needs to keep out anything that has fur, is bigger then a ½” impact wrench, possess a gestation period of between 28 – 31 days, and eats anything and everything, in the form of plant, that grows on my property.

 The design was made to keep the lines and looks in harmony with the rest of the property. The main frame will be built from 1.5 x 1.5 x .065” square tubing to help keep things light. I have some leftover pipe from the gazebo railing project so I think I will toss in some rings to keep the theme consistent. The main filler will be 1 x 6 rough lumber fence boards painted to the same color as the fence. The top will get an arch to help pretty it up. Once the main section is welded I will then be able to stand back and try to envision the remaining requirements.

 All the metal was cut and prepped before an arc got struck. The top arch section was a 1.5`x .250`section of flat bar that got run through the metal bender until the arc visually looked good. The rings were cut on the band saw to a thickness of .750”. The rings were a bit thicker then the gazebo railing rings however I thought a slightly beefier look would suit the structure.

 The bottom horizontal section of the gate (the piece that runs adjacent to the ground) got set at a 3 degree angle instead of square to the verticals. I wanted to hug the gate as close as I could to the ground in order to minimize any entry points for Peter Cottontail. So the bottom horizontal now runs at the same angle as the property grading.

 The fence boards all got a free ride through the table saw so as to trim their widths down from 6” wide to 5.25”. This way I was able to fit 6 boards, with equal widths, inside the frame.

 So with the main frame welded up I will now be able to set up a meeting with the wife in order to discuss further design ideas. I am unsure what I will do about hinges and a latch. The easy thing would be to purchase some pre-made hardware. That does not sound like a whole lot of fun to me. Perhaps some custom, one of a kind, hardware is in order. I will see what the “sleepless night design department” can come up with.

 So I was approached the other day by someone who had a specific request and was looking to me for some help. Right away I thought to myself “I do not have time for this”, I have my summer lined up with projects that need to see completion before the snow flies. Out of courtesy I gave this individual a few minutes to state their case before I proceeded to tell them no. It turns out that their freedom was at stake. They had been feeling the pressures of life and they needed something new and exciting. They are confined close to home due to physical reasons and need to rely on others to take them places and help them accomplish certain tasks. At this point in life this individual is really incapable of providing for herself. As I listened to this person’s story I tried to maintain focus, my game plan was simply to listen and kindly, and respectfully, dismiss this person. As she continued to talk it turns out she was in need of a whip for herself, to help her go places and see the world. She thought it was time for her to step into car ownership. When I began to quiz her regarding just want is involved in obtaining and maintaining a vehicle I was met with a blank stare. Obviously this person is in way over her head and it became very clear that she would require a high level of help. I could feel myself getting sucked into her plea; I resisted and attempted to fight the sympathy I began to feel. I worked to maintain a cold heart and tried to emit an uninviting composure. It was no use; she was determined to get her way. I had enquired regarding the financial side of things; apparently this person has no resources or money to fund the project. When I asked what skills she possessed or where she thought she could make a contribution I was told that she can design and paint. Well at least I’m getting something out of her. After further discussions she was able to break me down. I started off strong and in the end I crumbled.

 So here is the new plan, my 5 year old daughter needs a “soapbox” car. I am going to try and squeeze it in between my other planned projects. My daughter came up with the concept drawing so between the 2 of us we will try and build something that resembles her vision. As far as specs go there is an issue. In the part of the world we live in there is no standardized soapbox derby racing. There are many towns in the surrounding area that hold their own derby’s however each town also makes all there own rules in regards to car design. If there was an existing standard already established then I would follow it but I have decided to spec the car the way I want and choose not to run it in derbies. In the area of town I live in we have lots of fresh paved hills in the area that have low, or no, traffic. The car will be built purely for enjoyment.

 The budget is low. The idea is to be inventive and use as many parts I can that I already have lying around. We are also going to build on the fly, obviously there is a rough game plan in place but how exactly everything is going to fit together is not yet known. With a couple lengths of 1 x 1 x .065” square tubing I had laying around they were cut to length and then run through the metal bender to get some radius. Using some leftover .5 x .5 square tubing from the railing project I was able to tack together a basic tub. I’m going for the classic derby looking cars with the tear drop shape.

 So the client and I headed out to pick up the supplies to create the rolling chassis. Wheel selection is a big one. Initially some pneumatic type wheels were considered however in the end we decided to outfit the car with a set of  10″ x 2.25” higher quality speed wheels. The front steering is going to feature a set of steering knuckles coupled to some adjustable tie rod ends. The steering column will involve connecting the steering wheel to the knuckles through a solid mechanical means; we’re not using cables or ropes. This thing has to be able to rail through the corners. The front axle will incorporate a way to build some positive caster in as well as front toe will be fully adjustable. We’re shooting for 0 degrees of camber. Because the chassis is not sprung we do not anticipate any flex in the front steering therefore 0 degrees of camber will give us maximum tire contact patch. We will decide on the front caster angle as time goes, I suspect anywhere between 8 – 14 degrees will give is some nice straight line stability.

 So as things sit now the tub is mocked up and the majority of the components have been collected. The basic shape has been built and we are onto axle fabrication. We will work to get it to rolling chassis stage and then we will be able to figure out cockpit size and placement. The build won’t be overly pretty and it will not scream precision engineering or built. As long as it is functional, safe, and gives my daughter and I an oppurtunity to have some fun I will consider to project a success. For now the gazebo railings are sitting at the powder coaters waiting for completion so this will be a good project to fill the gap.


With the feet completed last week it was time to start cutting and welding the metal which will, eventually, resemble a lathe stand. I didn’t have a plan drawn up for the design I simply started to work off some basic critical dimensions.

 The main structure was simple. It was all welded from 2 x 2 x .100 square tubing, the same stuff that I built the milling machine stand from. It was nothing more then a rectangle boxed frame with extended rear legs to accommodate the back splash.

I wanted to try and maximize the amount of space on the lower portion of the stand. The lower section was going to house the tool chest and a couple of shelves to hold my turning stock. For about a week straight my mental planning process was fixated on somehow incorporating the top section of the tool chest as useable space. I came up with some elaborate designs but decided that, in the end, using the top storage section was not going to work out. So the plan is to mount the tool chest as high in the lower stand section as possible and sacrifice the upper storage section. This meant getting rid of the tool chest lid. What was the best way to amputate the lid from the rest of the box? The first plan was to drill all the spot welds out on the piano hinge. After I counted about 20 welds I figured forget that! Then I thought I could slide the hinge pin out of the piano hinge. Well it turns out the hinge pin was peened into the hinge in about 20 spots as well. Ok…looks like its going to get done the fun way. Got the plasma cutter out and in about 20 seconds I had the lid sliced off. With the lid off I was able to lose a couple of inches off the overall height of the chest. If anyone has any suggestions as to what I can do with a tool  chest lid just send them my way.

 With the chest test fit into the stand I could now determine my shelf spacing for the 2 lower shelves. I only had 10 inches to work with. 2 of those inches were going to get lost to the 1” angle iron frame for each shelf. I wanted to ensure that there would be enough space between the shelves for me to get my hands, and eyes, into so that I could scrounge around for miscellaneous turning stock. I figured 4 inches per shelf was too tight. I opted to build a rear pivot into the middle shelf. This way I could mount the center shelf lower which would gain me more room for my hands. The lower shelf now did not have useable space above it however I could now lift my middle shelf up so that I could access my lower shelf. The turning stock will roll towards the rear of the middle shelf when it pivots up but oh well. I’ll build a back to the middle shelf yet so that the turning stock won’t roll out and fall behind the lathe. I made the shelf pivots from a couple of nuts and socket head bolts I had kicking around. If you view the pictures the design is self explanatory. The nuts were simply a way for me to screw the pivot pins into the main stand frame. The shelves will get lined with expanded metal.


I had an evening where I thought I would give the stand some personality. I had bent a piece of 1” square tubing for my metal bending video but I never actually had a use for the bent length. The arc has been kicking around the garage and taking up space (it’s hard to store bent steel). The chunk of steel shone in its debut performance of the video and now it was time for it to reappear in a new act and star in a different role. The arc got sliced up so that it would fit between the 2 rear legs. I had some 304 stainless steel 5/16” round bar left over from the BBQ grates so I cut some sections out and created a decorative top trim section for the stand. The trim serves no purpose other then it allowed me stop tripping over the poorly stored 10 foot bent 1 x 1. I did the original mock up of the trim on the bench but then did the entire SS rod welding when it was mounted to the lathe stand. The SS round steel got TIG welded to the steel using an ER309 filler rod. The tops of the rear legs got capped with a couple of decorative post caps I have had laying around for years. I think the trim touches worked out well, my wife thinks it makes the stand looks like a bed. I can see her point.

 The backsplash is nothing more the 11 gauge steel plasma cut to fit. The backsplash then got stitch welded in from the back side.

 With the main structure completed it is time to focus on the base chip tray and the upper shelving. This is going to lead me into another project. The problem is this. My brain does not always mentally design projects according to what equipment my hands have to work with. My hands continually argue with my brain. The brain wants something a certain way, it’s real stubborn. My hands, as capable as they are, still need certain equipment to perform the tasks my neurological side is insisting on. It’s like my brain has a mind of its own and is oblivious to the fact that just because it sits at the top of my spine it still has other appendages it needs to consider. Anyway…it looks like another project will need to be completed before the lathe stand gets finished.

With the gazebo table top mocked up it was time to focus on what would actually perform the supporting role. And the winner was…a 6.5” diameter piece of pipe! I was able to get my hands on a 26” section of the pipe and the girth looked right so I went with it (it was actually free so how could I refuse). I didn’t have a game plan for the base so I took a look at the metal extras I had laying around the shop and started to piece the structure together. The only thing I wanted to make sure of is that the base was visually pleasing. The backyard is built on a hill and the gazebo sits approximately half way down the total slope. When you are at the base of the slope your eye would be level with the base of the gazebo table therefore I needed it to be more then just a stick holding up a table top.

Most of the projects I build end up being over kill. When in doubt build it stout, why stop now? Since the table top substrate was wood I wanted to ensure it was well supported and that there would be as little flex as possible. It was going to have to withstand “table elbows”. I used some 2 x 2 x .100 steel tubing and built six outer supports. They consisted of nothing more then a 45 degree capped end and 3 holes drilled in each to allow for screws to fasten the top to the base. Once the sections were built they got butt welded to the center pipe using the TIG. At this point the supports were plenty strong but the visual was fairly boring and basic.

I had 20 feet of 5/8” hot rolled round bar kicking around. I bought it in anticipation of using it for a previous project but it never got used. I thought I would see how the metal bender would perform with round bar. I took a ten foot section and ran it through the bender till I had a radius that visually looked good. The bender did a good job however the bar wanted to “fall over” through the bending process. I clamped a set of Vise-grips onto the end of the 5/8” bar so that I could tell which way was up and then I clamped a second set of Vise-grips onto the bar so that I could manually hold the bar straight as it went through the roller. Worked beautifully! I then took my carpenter’s square and measured out 6 even sections along the circumference of the bend.  Lit the plasma up and torched the sections out (it too started to behave)


I TIG’d on the six angle brackets onto the existing 2 x 2 table supports. I think they worked out well. They do add strength however I don’t think they are structurally necessary. To add some finishing work to where the 5/8” rod attached to the support pipe I ring rolled a 1” x 1/8” section of flat bar and tacked it in place.


The main table structure has been fabricated. I was going for a 29” table top height, as that is standard, as it sits now I am at 28”. No problem. Next stage of the process will involve building a support plate to bolt and level the table to the gazebo floor. I will ensure that I gain an extra inch of height when I finish off the base.


I am still working on table top finishing ideas and things are coming together quite nicely. I’m still hogging the details to myself until I have all my required materials organized. I’ll keep you posted.


It’s only February but for me that means it’s time to start gearing up for the spring and summer projects. The summer of 2010 was the year of the gazebo build. The bulk of the work was completed before the snow set in last fall however there were still a few items remaining. The structure still needs a set of railings, a set of steps, and some furniture. The steps and the railings need to wait till the snow disappears so I guess the workshop is going to turn into a furniture fabrication shop.

The whole point of the gazebo build was to have a place to sit, relax, and eat good food therefore a table and set of chairs are in order. The chairs are going to get purchased. I have the ambition, drive, and technology to build the chairs, and I would love to do something unique, however I have not figured out a way to squeeze more then 24 hours into a day. In fact I don’t need more time I just need to figure out how to operate on less sleep. Anyway…too many tasks, not enough time so the chairs may get done at a very much later date. That leaves the table. Okay…now what? I have only had the last 4 months to come up with a game plan. Let me think…excuse…excuses…I got it. BBQ build, milling machine build, family, Christmas, my job, and all the “10 minute” (more like 2 hour) little jobs in between.

This is what I know for sure. I hate table legs. They always get in the way of the chair legs and people legs. I thought about using repulsorlift technology however shipping costs would be outragous and I’m on a budget. So I need to come up with something in between 4 legs and the repulsolift idea…got it, pedestal leg it is. I had left the center hexagon of the gazebo floor unfinished thinking I may have to bolt the table to the joists. A single round pedestal, maybe 6 inches in diameter, with some clean table supports welded on should take care of the southern end. The only criteria I had been given for the Northern side was it has to be round (that was a request by the woman who will be critiquing the work). I wanted something that would fit well within the nature theme so I settled on a leaf design.

The game plan…I started with a 4 x 8 sheet of construction grade ¾” spruce plywood. Pulled out the woodworking tools and routered out a 48” diameter circle. Then I put the woodworking tools away…that’s enough of that. I took a 14 foot length of 2” x 1/8” flat bar and ran it through the metal bender. One run through the bender got me a beautiful 52” diameter steel hoop. I strapped the hoop around the plywood table base, trimmed it to length, and welded the hoop shut. It worked out better then I expected and the metal edge of the table is perfect.

Next I spent some time on AutoCAD coming up with a table top design. I found it necessary to brush up on my leaf anatomy so some Google searches provided me with the info I needed. Once I figured out how the blade, vein, and petiole of a leaf all fit together I was able to build one on my 2D desktop. I then took the single leaf design and layered it on top of my AutoCAD designed table top till I had a pattern I (I mean she) was happy with. After scaling the design to a 1:1 ratio I printed it out onto 36 pages. I pulled out the TAG welder (Tape and Atmospheric Gas) and my dual opposing blade chop saw (some people call them scissors) and I built a paper template of my leaf design. This project is not going well, first wood work, then arts and crafts, where is the molten metal?

 Back out to the garage…ahhhhhh, I can breath. The paper template was laid onto the table top plywood. Now the fun part. I took ½” flat bar in 2 different thicknesses. The spine and the edge of the leaves were going to get outlined with 3/16” flat bar and the veins would get 1/8”. Grabbed the carbide chop saw (he was no longer sulking) and clamped the ring roller to the bench and away we went. I spent the afternoon bending all the spines, veins, and perimeters of the leaves to form my design. Everything got tack welded with the TIG and then the final edge welds were MIG’d. I was amazed out how well white printer paper held up to the welding. The pattern came out perfect and the table was starting to take shape. However shape is all I have for now.

My original plan was to tile the top of the table. The tiles would all get cut and layed inside the welded pattern. I had not bought the tiles yet however I organized and obtained all the equipment I needed to make all the curved tile angle cuts. Earlier this week I had even run some test cuts on some old floor tile to ensure I would succeed at all the curved slicing. I had my technique all ready to go…one problem, I changed my mind. It’s funny that I did because typically once I have brainstormed an idea, designed the project, set up for it, and have begun executing it I very seldom waiver from the “plan”. Anyway…I have a new idea. It hasn’t been researched yet so I’m not going to share it. If I let the cat out of the bag I fear I will be setting myself up for failure. By not talking I can hide my failure and convince everyone that, whatever plan I come up with, was the one I had been going for.

The customer had wanted a lid for when the weather was a bit cooler. My original plan was to incorporate the lid with the rest of the structure however the customer wanted one that was removable. Since the lid was going to have to be lifted on and off I wanted to make it as light as possible. The main frame was welded using 1 x 1 x .065″ square tubing and the sheeting was 20 gauge sheet metal.

The BBQ was made with 4 holes drilled, .625″ in diameter, at each corner. The holes would allow for the pins of the lid to slide in. I started by making the 4 corner supports using 2 x 2 x .100″ square tubing along with 5/8″ hot rolled steel round bar.

I wanted to stay away from building the lid as a simple box so I chose to fabricate an arched roof section. I welded the 2 roof supports together and them ran then through the metal bender as a pair. Once I had the arc I wanted I cut the welds and separated the two pieces. All the 20 gauge panels then got plasma cut. I used the arch of the roof as a guide for the plasma cutter. I am not set up to deal with 4 x 8 sheets of steel so wrestling the stuff around by myself was a bit awkward.  Once the sheets were all trimmed then the seam welding and grinding began.

The customer had asked whether the project would be completed by Christmas. I made the mistake of committing to the time frame and now I am faced with shifting my efforts from slow paced enjoyable fabricating to a high speed and high production pace. The pressure does not agree with my techniques and therefore a certain amount of frustration has set in. However I am falling behind on my own projects therefore having the BBQ completed by Christmas will allow me to start the new year off fresh. I suspect the next BBQ post will be at completion stage.

A number of years back I was watching Reverend Gadget on Discovery channel where he featured a metal bender that he fabricated. Any tool that I can add to the garage will be another tool I can pick from when fabricating. After looking over Gadget’s design, along with some other home-built benders, I came up with this one.

The base and bearing platform were made from 8 inch channel. The rollers were built from 2 inch x .500 inch pipe. I machined the rollers to fit a 1 inch alloy rod as the axle. The rollers were then TIG welded together to make them 1 piece.

I wanted to make the bender fully adjustable in order to facilitate different sizes of metal as well as different radius of bends. The adjustment slots allow for bearing movement. I then made room for a 20 ton hydraulic bottle jack. The jack is way overkill however it’s what I had available.

So far the bender works great. The metal compresses and expands great, no kinking. It actually crushes and forms the rounded corners, you find on square tubing, and makes them perfectly square. I’m unsure how tight a radius I can bend, I haven’t maxed it out yet. I also don’t know how big a tubing it will handle, I’m hoping I will be able to roll at least 2″ light wall square through it.

The only glitch in the whole set up is getting the rollers aligned parallel with one another after adjustment. If they are not aligned the metal tends to walk to one side of the rollers. I plan to adapt some guides in order to help keep the steel centered.