DIY Roll Bender Keeps it Simple and Sturdy

If you’ve ever tried to bend a metal pipe or bar over your knee, you’ll know that even lightweight stock requires quite a bit of force. And the force needs to be properly directed, lest the smooth bend you seek become a kink or a crease. When your hands and knees no longer fill the bill, try [MakeItExtreme]’s sturdy and simple roll bender.

As we watched the video below, we had a little déjà vu — hadn’t the [MakeItExtreme] crew built a roll bender for their shop before? Turns out they had, but in reviewing that video, we can see why they gave it a second shot. This build is a model of simplicity compared to the previous. With a frame fabricated from just a few pieces of steel I-beam, this version is far more approachable than its big brother and just about as capable. The three forming rollers ride in stout pillow blocks and can be repositioned for different bending radii. A 2-ton hydraulic bottle jack provides the force needed to direct the stock through the rollers, which are manually powered. In a nice touch, the incomplete tool was used to create the rim of the large-diameter handwheel for the drive roller.

The tools keep piling up at [MakeItExtreme]’s open air workshop — we even get a glimpse of their heavy-lift electromagnet that we recently featured. As always, we love the fit and finish on these builds, and watching the time-lapse videos is like a condensed class in metalworking.

24 thoughts on “DIY Roll Bender Keeps it Simple and Sturdy

    1. I’m wondering what the dimension of “too small” rollers refers: are you referring to the diameter of the 3 center axle type components?

      One thing that kind of bothered me about this video was the lack of simple specifications of the materials/components/measurements within the video, thus my uneducated “center axle type components” description (although there is a link to a more detailed blog post within the video description). Still love the production quality and the fact that I can follow the flow even without narration/annotations.

      1. At the ends of the shaft it is fine and when the rollers run on bearings it is fine because the shaft is not turning. When the shaft is turning and flexed it will fatigue and break over time. I have seen this happen with motors and shafts that have way too much unsupported load on them, snaps right at the bearing. With large rolls there is no (well, little) flex as it rotates and on bearinged rollers the axle does not see the stresses when turning.

    1. A small barrier to entry is always an awesome thing to see, especially with metal working (eg. avoiding lathes, milling machines, cabinet bandsaws, etc.). Hackaday’s regular posts with such projects and normally specifically pointing out the simple tooling is pretty inspiring.

  1. I’m starting to really like this youtube channel; it’s like Tasty for fabrication.

    Anybody have tips/caveats when using I-beams like this or can they be used like normal mild steel?

  2. Or you could just buy one. I mean I hate to be that guy but it’ll probably work better anyway. Impressive and effective build, but definitely a tool I wouldn’t make for myself.

  3. Quick question: Where does one get metal stock from? I mean, if I want to make some woodworking project, I’d just go to my local home improvement shops for some dimensional timber. If I want fancier wood, I’d go to woodworking-specialist shops. But, I can’t seem to find an easy source for metal stock. There are some industrial warehouses, but they don’t seem to sell small pieces to individuals.

    1. Here in germany small metal shops (like my one) are the basic provider for individuals. You can get some way overpriced metal stock at homeimprovement shops, but as is just stated, you can get it an order of magnitude cheaper, as specially if you can work with clippings form other projects.
      For example, we have rectangular tubes in the hundreds of sizes 70x40x2 mm in lengths of about 1,5 to 1,7m and are happy to give it away for its scrap value.

    2. You could make friends with someone who works at a factory. Some places allow employees to use the scrap for their own projects.
      I got to watch a snow plow attachment for a tractor get created during our lunch breaks.

    3. I can recommend Midwest Metal Warehouse, Speedy Metals, or McMaster for metal stock. Ebay can also be a great place to look, search for ‘metal remnants’ + the desired alloy. The above sources are where I get all the materials for my home shop. Between those you should be able to find most any material you would want to use; to save on shipping for larger structural sections (like the I-beams in the article), it’s worth calling your local steel yard(s) and asking if they have any drops or remnants they would be willing to sell cheap.

    4. There are usually local metal suppliers and you can go in and order what you want but there is usually a minimum, at least on the smaller stuff. Some places have remnant racks where they sell stuff by the pound. When I have time I just order from onlinemetals.

    5. Thanks for all the tips! I need to look around more and see if there’s a local place like Blue Collar Supply. eBay looks pretty interesting, too, I never thought of looking there for metal stock. I’d imagine Craigslist would have some listings as well, though CL scares me a bit.

    6. If you’ve got a local Welding/Fabrication business that’s open to the public (i.e., not strictly B2B), they will probably be willing to order raw material for you (usually cash upfront, sometimes negotiable depending on their mark-up). They’ll also probably be willing to give advice/recommendations in terms of what material(s) are preferable for your application. It pays to get to know your neighborhood/local area businesses.

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