Bending aluminum tubing doesn’t necessarily require the use of heavy, expensive machinery. The machines will make it faster, but a bit of elbow grease and ingenuity can get you the same results at a fraction of the price. Bending metal requires a bit of physical strength and patience. You will also need the right tools to get the job done. Follow these steps to get the best results when bending aluminum tubing.
Tools and Materials
- Sturdy table with a steel top, preferably bolted to the floor
- Aluminum tubing
- Protective gloves
- Large bolts
- Welding torch
- Metal plate (table top can be used)
- Paper and pencil
- Bucket of cold water
Step 1: Measurements and Paper Patterns
Take measurements of your pipe and of what you are planning to use it for. If, for example, you plan to use it as new handlebars for a bike, measure the distances needed. Use your paper and pencil to create the pattern of the bend you are trying to achieve. Good measurements and patterns are the key to achieving a good result, so take your time to make them perfect.
Step 2: Setting Up the Bolts
The bolts will be used as a counter-force when bending a certain part of the aluminum tubing. The bolt location depends solely on the type of bend you are trying to achieve. Place the metal plate on your table facing down. If the metal plate is heavy enough you won’t need to secure it to the table. Otherwise secure it in place using your choice of fastening device. A more straightforward option is to just use the table’s metal top, but this can end up damaging your surface. Take your created paper pattern and use the welding torch to tack-weld the bolts into position. You want to weld them hard enough to not give way when roughed and light enough that you can remove them later.
Step 3: Bending the Tubing
Place the aluminum tubing in the newly created bolts and lock in the direction of the bend. Use the welding torch to heat up the aluminum tubing at the point of the bend. Uneven heating will result in having kinks in the metal so make sure you constantly spread the heat across the entire bend. Use physical strength to shape the tubing around the pin jig. Push from the furthest end of the tubing to have an easier time bending it. This way you’ll have less resistance from the tubing. The most important aspects to keep in mind are doing it slowly and maintaining the constant heat. Having another person to maintain the heat while you focus solely on the bend is an easier way to get it done, but it is not necessary.
Step 4: Cooling the Bend
Once you have achieved the required bend on a certain section of the pipe, cool it off by dowsing it in cold water. Most of the time you will deal with multiple bends on a singular piece of tubing, so keep cooling it off after each bend. Always use your protective gloves when dealing with hot metal as it can cause severe burns. After cooling, check to make sure the aluminum tubing piece fits your requirements.