Posts Tagged ‘metal bender’

My previous blog post featured a clock I built from recycled material. Turns out I am still feeling the re-use theme and decided to carry it through to the next project. This time it is a rustic kitchen table built from old pallets.

Our household has been in need of a kitchen table upgrade for years. We had gone shopping for plank style tables previously and found things we liked but still had yet to take the plunge. I am not much of a wood worker however I figured that since the theme was “rustic” it would open things up to not have to be perfect.

I liked the idea of basically using garbage to make something cool. I had access to plenty of pallets and although the wood is of the lowest quality you can get I could see some potential. I was up for the challenge of creating something that one would never suspect was build from junk.

The tooling required to handle this size of wood project was beyond what I was equipped to deal with so I needed to improvise. The idea was to build a plank style table in small sections. I wanted to incorporate some metal into the design so I planned to separate the smaller sections of wood using aluminium accents.

The design, and process, is not over complicated however it did turn out to be very time consuming. Prepping pallets into useable pieces of lumber is not a quick task. In the end everything came together and I have picture to prove it. So I’ll stop typing and let the show begin.

The project started by collecting an unknown amount of pallets and breaking them apart. I estimated a couple of truck loads should do it. Turns out I ended up with approximately 20% extra.

The garage floor turned into a war zone as I was de-nailing all the wood, sorting through usable pieces and trimming off bad sections of the pallet wood

I laid out the usable wood to get an idea of how much I was going to need. This is where I required my second truck load.

All the wood then got run through the thickness planer. I varied the thicknesses depending on how much thickness I had to work with. I wanted to mix things up with the look of the table.

After hours of planing I ended up with good, usable, neat stacks of wood organized by thickness. The 2 garbage cans are only half of the shavings I collects from planing.

Next I moved onto the table saw to trim all the boards to just over 3 inches wide.

The idea was to build 5 plank sections. Here I started to jigsaw puzzle the wood together in order to come up with a pattern and sections that would equal 8.25″ wide.

Next came the gluing and clamping of each section.

I only had a limited number of clamps so I was required to wait until each section dried before moving onto the next.

A picture that is lacking for this post is the one where I ran all the glued section back through the thickness planer in order to achieve an even 3″ thickness. As you can see I edged the 2 sides of the table with cedar. Since all the sections are going to get bolted together I cross drilled every plank assembly. The end sections received countersunk holes in order to accept the 1/2″ nuts.

Here everything gets bolted together using threaded rod. In order to add an extra dimension I sandwiched 1/4″ 6061 brushed aluminum flat bar between each plank section.

The idea was to built a rustic table top and not a china cabinet so with the slab complete I proceeded to distress the wood using the pictured weapons.

Time to cover things up. The top received a total of 3 coats of dark ebony stain before being topped with 2 coats of a polyurethane clear coat.

This is what the countersunk threaded rod holes looked like. They obviously required some cover up.

I machined aluminum press in plugs to cover up the hardware and also tie in the aluminum flat bar with the sides of the table.

With the table top complete it was time to move onto the base.

The table base was going to be constructed of metal and was also going to have some curves applied to it. Here I pulled out the homemade metal bender and curved up some .250″ x 4″ mild steel sections.

Using 2″ x 4″ rectangular tube for the base I created some visual lines. I marked the floor so that I could build two assemblies to the same dimensions.

Trying to incorporate different materials and sizes I decided to implement some curved 5/8″ rod. Using a different bender I radius-ed the stock.

Mocking things up it is starting to look like my vision may have some potential.

I drilled holes through my 4″ flat bar in order to thread the 5/8″ round bar through it. The assembly then got jigged up on the bench and ready for welding.

This is what the welded up base looks like. Time to clean up the welds.

With both based fabricated I built some cross supports to help with stability. Everything was made to bolt together.

Since I am limited by the size of my oven for the things I powdercoat in house I was forced to send the table base out to a local company. They did a fantastic job.

Final shots of the completed table set in place.

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.

Ram tough? Not as tough as hard core cyclists. A riding friend of mine approached me with an idea for a small project to help spruce up his winter beater. This winter season he found himself battling the snow drifts in an older Dodge Ram 4×4. Being an avid cyclist he wanted to bring out a bit of his personality in his vehicle. So it was decided that the ram hood ornament was going to be replaced with a mountain bike handlebar assembly.

The plan was to machine a perch that would bolt to the original hood ornament mount. The perch would allow for the mounting of a stubby steering stem. The original ram head was spring mounted. Since the handle bar assembly would weigh significantly more then the aluminum ram it was decided to incorporate solid mounting of the perch.

The build was fairly simple, the pictures tell the tale. A section of 1.375” solid round 6061 aluminum was chucked up on the mill and a centering slot was machined. The slot was designed to ensure the perch would not pivot which in turn would have put the bars off center.

The rest of the work was done on the lathe. The perch was machined with a built in stem cap. The idea behind it was to prevent theft of the stem. The stem would need to be mounted onto the perch first and then the perch bolted to the hood from the inside. Since the hood is latched, with an inside release, one would not be able to remove the perch. This, of course, does not prevent someone from unbolting the bar from the stem…not my problem.

In order to provide a bit more support for the whole assembly a smaller bushing was machined to give some strength from the underside of the hood. The completed perch was then taken to the buffing wheel and finished with a mirror shine to match the rest of the mount. In the end I think the perch worked out great. My fiend still has yet to piece the whole show together however it is guaranteed to add some personality to his ride and will keep him dreaming about the trails to come in drier months.


…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.


Well I am on the home stretch with the bending brake which is a good thing since it seems that I have too many other projects competing for my attention. Both the gazebo table and the lathe stand need to see completion first then I’ll be onto something new.

 Where did I finish off last time? Ah yes…I needed to fabricate the clamping system, then some way of taking the flex out of the clamping fingers, and finally some sort of a leverage system.

 I continue to build with no firm plan and so I start hunting around the shop for stuff I can make use of. Some 1” threaded rod, a couple of 1” coupler nuts, and some left over 2” pipe from the metal bender should work just fine. I need a way to clamp the 3” channel to the 6” channel so that the 10 gauge steel will stay put when it gets cut and then bent. I trimmed the coupler nuts down short enough so that they would fit inside the 6” channel. I clamped the 3” and 6” channel together and drilled a 1” hole through the ends. The 1” coupler nut then got welded to the underside of the 6” channel. I admit reading all this is kinda boring, just look at the picture ok? Instead of purchasing 1” bolts and washers I cut some threaded rod to the required length and welded on the left over chunks I cut from the coupler nut. Tossed them into the lathe chuck and faced the end to clean them up. I then shaved .500” off the 2” pipe to create a couple of heavy duty washers. There you have it, a completed clamping system. It’s not elaborate but it is highly effective.

 Don’t stop now, I’m almost there. Next is a solution required for taking the flex out of the clamping fingers of the brake when the bend is being made. The problem is that since only the ends of the 3” channel are clamped, and since the clamping fingers are bolted to the 3” channel, and since I carved out a .250” slot down the center of the 3” channel, the whole length of channel wants to twist during the bend. I decided I needed something to clamp the clamp. It’s like airplane building; I need to implement redundant systems. So a hunting we will go for more scrap to build with. After inspecting 4 metal piles I came up with a section of 4” x 3/8” flat bar and a length of ½” cold rolled round bar. It’s time for more bridge building and therefore a second truss system will be added to the build. The plan is this. Make a couple more clamping bolts a bit longer then the first, drill a couple of 1” holes in the ends of the 4” flat bar, then fabricate a truss to give the set up some rigidity. Again…just look at the pictures, I’m doing my best to try and make all this sound interesting. When it came time to weld the ½” cold rolled round bar onto the 4” flat bar in order to marry the 2 of them into a truss I decided to build a warp into the assembly. If I could concave the flat bar then it would give me even more clamping force once it is bolted down solid onto the 3” channel. Before welding the truss I propped the ends of the flat bar up with some 1/8” filler rod and clamped the center. It then all got pretensioned and welded which resulted in a very rigid, concave truss. Great! 2 down 1 to go.

 Leverage system, what to do. As much as I wanted to make things look pretty I opted to weld on a couple of handle receivers which have some locking set screws. The pipe was leftover from the BBQ project and would allow me to use a couple of  ¾” round bars as handles. The build process was no more then cutting a couple lengths of pipe to proper size, then drilling and tapping them so they each would accept an 8 mm socket head screw. Unfortunately I have no chunks of 3/4” rod lying around. I’ll have to keep my eyes open for some freebies; I plan on coming under $100 on the complete build.

 Well here it is…official test time. It has taken a few weeks, and some “fly by the seat of my pants” engineering but I have something that resembles a bending brake. Who am I kidding; I’m not sure this contraption looks much like any brake I’ve ever seen. Oh well, if it functions and actually bends something then I guess it will have earned its title.

 First up, a scrap piece of 10 gauge sheet metal. I marked a bend line and clamped it into position under the 3” channel. I took some time to set the circular saws shoe plate into proper position on the guide plate. I am shooting for a 90 degree bend therefore I need more then 1 width of a saw kerf. If I set the saw blade slightly off center I will be able to make a cutting pass in 1 direction and then head back in the other direction essentially making 2 cuts side by side. This should hopefully give me a wide enough cut to allow for the 90 degree bent.

 Ok, enough talk…here is the video. I did my best to make it quick however it still took a hair over 5 minutes to shoot. I think the video does a good job of explaining what I have been writing about over the past few weeks. If you have been following the build and feel lost then this is your reward for hanging in there. If you haven’t been following the build and have just stumbled your way directly to the video then good on you, you just saved yourself 3 blog posts of confusing descriptions.

 The bend came out as good as I hoped for from the start. It’s a tight, clean, straight bend. The cut line does not impact the strength of the bend for my purposes, it feels rock solid. The bend actually took a bit more force then I had anticipated. I am unsure how much force will be required for a longer length however I suspect getting some proper handles on the machine, and then being able to bend from both ends, will help. The saw cut worked out get. The line was straight, the depth was fairly consistent, and the cutting width of 2 kerfs was perfect. I would have to call the project a success. I have a few little touch ups to do yet. I am contemplating throwing a coat of paint on it yet, maybe I’ll paint the metal bender at the same time. Time to get back onto the other projects.


It came time to put a couple of uncompleted projects off to the side. I have shoved both the gazebo table and the lathe stand into the corner. Trust me, I did it for good reason and not as a result of laziness. It was time, once again, to add to my inventory of garage tooling. The story goes like this…actually before I explain my story I have to first place some blame. It’s the plasma cutters fault. There I said it. The Hypertherm is responsible for my shop tooling issues over the past little while. The reason is that the machine performs so well and it allows my to cut so many different sizes and shapes of metal that it increases the level of fabrication. I have been angry at the machine for over a year now because it has made my Millermatic 135 MIG welder the most under powered piece of shop equipment I have however that is a story for another time.

 The original story goes like this. The plasma has allowed me to start using sheet metal for projects. I am not a fabricator that works well with sheet metal. I visit the forum to drool over the talent, technique, and tooling there is when it comes to sheet metal work. That stuff is a true art form. The shrinking, stretching, and manipulating of the metal is amazing. I have a great deal of respect for the people how have taken the time to try, learn, and perfect the talent. Anyway…back to me and sheet metal. Both the lathe stand and the gazebo table need some sheet metal added to them and for both projects I need a way to bend it. So as you have probably figured out it was time to add a sheet metal bending brake to the garage family (I do not suspect anyone will get offended with him)

 The dilemma is this, I work by the rule “when in doubt build it stout”. Most of my projects weight is not a factor. We all have fear in our lives, something that scares us. For me it is light gauge sheet metal. It is flimsy, it warps, it is a pain to weld, and I have no idea how to manipulate it the way I want. This leaves me dealing with the thicker stuff. How about 10 gauge? Yeah!!!!! Now we’re talking, that’s man steel. Except it turns out I am not man enough to bend it. To buy a metal brake is not an option; it is not in the budget. Like with most equipment you get what you pay for, cheap brakes don’t cut it (I mean bend it). Even the budget ones that are rated for 22 gauge aren’t great. To get a brake that can do 10 gauge I would have to budget $5000? Maybe $6000 or $7000? I am buying a Millermatic 252 before I drop that kind of dough on a bender.

 So it comes down to having to build one. There are only about 232000 people that have posted their version of a homemade bender on the internet. I spent a very small amount of time snooping around to see what others have done. There was not a lot I found that was of interest to me. Come on…I want 10 gauge. I decided to trailblaze the project.

 So here it is the build criteria. Cheap! I believe that if something is worth building it is worth building well, budget is usually not an issue for my projects. With the brake I am not sure how well my idea will work so I am not going to sink money into the project. 2nd criteria, it has to be able to do 10 gauge (I think I have already mentioned that). 3rd it has to bend lengths up to 48”. 4th it would be great to be able to incorporate a box pan style. And finally 5th it has to easily be stored and not take up useful shop space. Shouldn’t be too difficult.

 Before I continue I need to confess something. I am going to cheat. There is a reason bending brakes cost $5000 and so if I am to think I can build an equivalent in my garage for under $100 I think may be demented. The trick to making my budget build work is to thin up the steel. So although I am going to use 10 gauge it is going to get cut partway through which will actually cut its thickness in about half.

 The concept is this. The sheet metal is going to get clamped down on top of the brake. Then, using my Dewalt DW362 (discontinued) circular saw, I am going to make a cut halfway through the steel at the point of the desired bend. Once the cut is made the steel will get slid over and clamped down again in the bending portion of the brake and the bend will be made.

 In order to have some idea as to whether or not my idea would work it required a little bit of R&D. I mounted a metal cutting 7 ¼ inch 24 tooth carbide tipped saw blade in the saw. The blade is rated at 6000 rpm and the saw spins out at 5800 rpm, should be good to go. I set the depth of the blade to about half of the metal thickness and buzzed it through a piece of metal. The metal was then clamped to the bench and, using Vise grips, I made the bend. First problem, the width of the kerf did not allow me to make a 90 degree bend. I think I may have maxed out at 70 degrees. So I tried again. This time I made a second cut set just slightly off center to the first cut to give me a simulated wider kerf. Now I was able to bend to a perfect 90 degrees. I thought about doubling up the saw blades but 2 blades are a bit too thick. The bend worked out well and resulted in very little bowing. The steel wants to bend at the weakest spot so when I performed the bend it wasn’t being forced it was more like being folded. The strength of the bend, once bent, was good. It held its position very well and was not at all weak or flimsy along the bend seam. The second problem was trying to keep the depth of cut even througout the entire length. When I feed the saw into the metal and when I exit I have a tendency of tilting the saw. This results in me cutting completely through the sheet metal at both ends.

 So the idea is this. Build a brake that allows me to “scribe” the bend line using a circular saw and then perform the bend. The brake will be designed to allow only 1 side of the bend to visibly look good. On the opposite side of the bend, where the cut line is visible, a few tack welds can be placed to help add strength if needed.

 I made a trip down to the metal yard and dug through their cut-off rack. I was able to pick up a 5 foot section of 3” channel, a 5 footer of 5” channel, and a 10’ length of 2 x 2 x 3/8 angle iron. Total cost? $68! Add to that the budget $20 circular saw blade I previously purchased and that puts the build cost at $88. The rest of materials will be coming from stuff lying around the shop.

 I am not going to bore you with the basic concept; you’ll catch on as we go. The only thing I have done is posted a picture of the basic layout of the structure (look up).

 Starting in no particular order I began with building the hinges that will allow the 2 x 2 angle iron to perform the bending. I used a left over section of 1.250” seamless pipe with a .250” wall thickness from the BBQ spit build. I decided to make the hinges greaseable as well as implement a set screw for securing the hinge pin. The overall length of the hinge is 5 inches. The seamless pipe was cut into sections using the band saw. The end and center sections were then drilled and tapped to accept a grease fitting and a set screw. The hinge pin was machined from an old broken section of a slide hammer. The shaft was trimmed down to .725” to allow for a smooth fit into the hinge body. It was pure guess work as to the size the hinge had to be. I’ll have to wait to see if I guessed right, hopefully the strength will be adequate.

The section of 5” channel is going to act as the base for the entire brake. A 5 foot section of 2 x 2 angle iron will be hinged to the channel and perform the bending. The trick was to hinge the angle iron to the channel to allow for the pivot line to bend even with the edge of the channel and angle iron. Both the angle iron and channel got notched at the ends approximately 5/8” (1.250” halved). With the metal notched and the hinge machined it was time to weld the assembly together. The challenge was going to be ensuring that both hinges are welded along the same plain so that no hinge binding will occur during the bend. I set the hinges into the notched sections, spaced them using 1/16” welding rod and then placed a scrap section of 1” angle iron overtop connecting the 2 hinges together. Tack welded the hinges in place and tested the pivot function for smooth operation. 100%! No binding. Good to go, the hinges get TIG welded into their permanent positions.

With stage one complete it was time to move on. Again, in no particular order, I directed my attention to the 3” section of channel. The 3” channel is going to be the top side of the clamp which sits on top of the 5” channel that is going to secure the sheet metal for cutting. It will also act as part of the guide for the circular saw. The channel needed a slot run down the center ¼” wide and 52” long to allow for the carbide saw blade clearance. I could plasma it, I could cut it with the angle grinder but I figured it was time to break in the milling machine. I clamped the channel down on the table, squared it up, and with a ¼” 4 flute HSS end mill I carved a slot down the channel. Due to the length of the steel the milling machines working envelope was a limiting factor. I ended up having to reset the channel 3 times in the machine in order to achieve the 52” slot. I measured the accuracy of the slot from the start of the cut to the end. It turns out I was only off .015”, not bad for a first try. The .015” will have absolutely no affect on the function of the brake.

I feel an explanation may be required at this point. As I mentioned earlier I need more than a saw blade kerf in order to bend 90 degrees. The saw blade has a carbide tooth thickness of .080”. Until I do some more R&D I will not know exactly what width kerf I will need however I am fairly certain double the blade thickness to a .160” will be too much. The slotted 3” channel is going to act as the guide for the saw. Right now the guide slot runs exactly down the center of the channel. The idea, if all goes as planned, is to off set the saw approximately .030” in the guide. I will start by making one saw cut one direction down the guide and then flip the saw and run it done the guide the opposite direction. This should give me a .100” kerf. If I need more or less kerf all I need to do is adjust the saw on the guide. If this is confusing I apologize, it would be easier if I could just scan my brain and post the image.

 As the bender sits now the hinges are built and welded. The 2 x 2 angle iron now pivots freely on the 5″ channel. The next stage will involve having to mill a sharp edge on the upper 2 x 2 angle iron that will be performing the clamping. The factory round edge on the angle iron is not sufficient for giving the metal a clean, crisp bend. Milling one side will give the bending edge a sharp clean edge. It’ll give me a chance to get more familiar with the milling machine. I need the practice.

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.