Hydraulic Tubing Bender
Hydraulic Tube Bender
Ever since my college days when I worked on Formula SAE race car team and we built a small race car from scratch, and building the roll cage involved a tubing bender, I’ve wanted one. I’ve kept my eye open to purchase one, and occasionally I would see one, but the timing just wasn’t right. That particular bender was one that wasn’t very common, and it wasn’t until many years later that I did the research and figured out what it actually was. More on that later…
I remember one auction where an old mandrel tube bender came up for auction. It hadn’t been used in many years, and as it was electric over hydraulic, and it looked to need a lot of work to make it operational. In order to be a “mandrel” bender, this term is mostly mis-used, there is a long rod that slides in the end of the tube, and then a steel ball that is just the size of the inside diameter of the tube is located right where the bending operation of the tube is. That keeps the tube from collapsing slightly when it is being bent. If the bender doesn’t have this function, it is NOT a Mandrel bender, but just a regular tubing bender. I realize now that the bender on the auction had this capability, and probably would have been a really good buy. But the other guy might have wanted it just as badly, so the price probably would have gone up considerably if I had bid on it. Oh well….
Off and on I did research on the JD Squared tubing benders….. The bending frame is quite low priced, but where they get you is on the price of the tubing dies. Not cheap, and in order to really be usable you need to have a selection. There are some other things I learned about the design of the dies, more on the below…
The “benders” that Harbor Freight has are intended for thick wall “pipe”, which is NOT the same size as tubing. They are pretty cheap benders though. I bought one when I was working on my snow dozer project, and while it bent the two bends I needed, it was not ideal. The tubing partially collapsed and made a rather ugly bend.
So what was the tubing bender that I had used back in college? It was an interesting type as it radius die was locked onto a vertical shaft, then the tube attached to one side of the radius die, and then drew it around as another straight die was drawn forward with it. It was activated by a long bar handle on the side, that when rotated it made the vertical shaft rotated and move the radius die. For many years I had no idea what brand or size it was, but after searching off and on the internet I finally found some pictures that allowed me to figure out the brand, and from there the model/size.
It was a Lakeland 648 tubing bender:
Image courtesy of their website: http://www.lakelandprod.com/model648.html
These are not very common, and rarely come up for sale used.
After searching for some time, I stumbled upon a larger one, model 848, that was for sale from AM Industrial, and they sell used fabrication equipment. I emailed back and forth with the sales guy at AM Industrial, and he was pretty helpful about getting information about the particular dies that came with on this machine. I then contacted the guys at Lakeland to know more about the machine. They were also quite helpful and I learned significantly more about tubing bending. These benders are ideally suited for bending tubing for fluid power and aerospace applications. They are called Rotary Draw Benders, and with the moving slide block follower they will not make any marks on the tubing during bending.
With the JD2 bending dies, they use a stationary follower die that slides against the tube. This will leave marks, and would unacceptable for anything in fluid power or aerospace. It also may result in a slightly distorted tube in the bend area. However, for the guys that are building roll cages and similar items, then the JD2 bender is really all they need, and it should be fine. But, one cautionary note, if those stationary follower dies on the JD2 start leaving some serious scratches, it could lead to eventual stress cracking and failure.
The Lakeland guy also sent me a very nice guide on tube bending, and how the mandrel bending pieces work. This is not a sales guide, it is a serious technical document that really gets into the design behind the bending, and the forces at work during the bending operation. I’m not going to post it on the website, but if anyone is interested in it, I will email it you. It has some great diagrams and tables for tubing diameter, thickness and bend radius capabilities. Here’s a teaser pic from that guide:
I also learned from the Lakeland guy that a NEW Model 648 bender with tooling could easily cost $30,000. Yes, $30,000 for a manual tubing bender!!!!!
I really wanted this bender, but for $3500, plus delivery, I just couldn’t justify it. Maybe if I was building hydraulic lines, and roll cages every week, then I could, but not for just starting out for hobby use.
Model 848 Tubing Bender:
I passed on this one, but maybe someday I’ll buy one like it. I continued on searching…..
Around that time (November 2013) my twin brother out in PA forwarded me an email with a link to an online auction out in York, PA. And there was a tube bender on the auction! While somewhat similar to the JD Squared bender, I believe it is the Hossfeld bender, that someone had spent some time and money on making it hydraulic powered. It also had a decent set of the most commonly used dies for tubing: 1″ x 3″ radius, 1-1/4″ x 4.5″, 1-1/2 x 5″, 1-5/8″ x 6″ and 1-3/4″ x 6″. 5 sets of dies, and in the most commonly used tubing sizes for rollcages and the like.
When the dust had cleared and the bidding was over, I was the proud new owner of a tubing bender for $1300!!! But then a 10% buyers fee, sales tax, and a mandatory $100 rigging and loading fee brought the total up to $1621.80.
If you look at the Hossfeld website, then you’ll see I got a pretty good deal on this hydraulic version that includes 5 sets of dies.
Unfortunately, it was out in Pennsylvania, and I needed in the shop in South Dakota! I also wanted to get a lathe, and so it got to sit out there for some time. I finally bought a lathe in June of 2014, also out in PA, click on the link to see the story about that one.
Now finally with the lathe bought, I could focus on getting a Uship listing going. I just now (Nov 15, 2014) got a shipper lined up to bring it out to South Dakota. More updates once I’m back in December and receive it and get it setup for operation!
The tube bender and the lathe arrived! See more information on the lathe page.
You can just see the the frame of the tube bender, located next to the lathe on the trailer:
I got everything unloaded, but I did not assemble the tube bender. The frame appears to possibly be stainless steel, but there’s definitely some surface rust on it, so I want to paint it. It will be easy enough to remove the remaining parts (hydraulics), and paint it now, otherwise it will probably never get done. My brother recommended the Rustoleum brush-on paint, so we’ll give that a try to see how it goes.
My brother had said that it didn’t roll very good on the existing caster wheels, so I bought some larger 5″ ones at Lowes to replace the small ones with. I’ll make some plates with tapped holes so the caster wheels can bolt on rather than weld on like the current ones. Welding caster wheels is a bad idea…. the welding spatter gets in the swivel bearings and keeps them from swiveling properly… I know, as I made that mistake many long years ago!!!
I’m hoping to get the new casters mounted and painted over the upcoming home visit late December 2014/early January 2015.
Click the link to see the Painted Tube Bender with the new Caster Wheels and the 1st bends!