How To Bend Metal Without Expensive Equipment
Bending metal can be costly if you don’t know the cheaper hacks around it. Of course, you can easily access this service in a bending company around you. However, that doesn’t necessarily make it cheaper, especially if they don’t offer affordable bending services.
That’s not to say you can’t find a manufacturing specialist that can match your needs. At Rennd, we use the latest technology and traditional craftsmanship to provide quality services and turn-key prototype solutions, like CNC machining.
But what if you want to bend metal at home without using expensive tools? This article will discuss how you can achieve this and reduce the total costs. You’ll also learn other essential skills like calculating the bending allowance for better results.
What Materials Are Good For Bending?
One of the main factors to consider when learning how to bend metal is the type of material you want to bend. Softer and more pliable metals are the best candidates because they can bend without breaking or cracking. You can also work with the less malleable ones, but you might need to heat them before bending them.
That said, here are some materials often used in the process:
- Mild steel: This is one of the most common choices because of its affordability. It is also malleable, which makes it suitable for most engineering applications.
- Aluminum: The most common aluminum alloys are 6061 and 5052. The best option is 5052 aluminum, as it’s highly formable and offers high corrosion resistance. The 6061 alloys must be heat-treated before bending because it’s prone to cracking and breaking.
- Copper: It’s a soft and malleable material often used for bending where excellent electrical conductivity is required.
- Brass: This material is strong, malleable, and resistant to corrosion.
- Annealed steel: It’s one of the most robust and durable materials. However, it isn’t easy to bend as the rest on this list.
Every option above has different qualities, and you’ll need to choose based on your project. Due to their strength, DIY bending methods may not be ideal for some of these materials.
Determine The Yield Strength Of The Metal
A metal’s yield strength is the stress beyond which a material deforms plastically. That means it won’t return to its original shape even after the load is removed. It’s measured in units of stress such as megapascals (MPa) or pounds per square (psi).
This mechanical property helps you know the maximum stress a metal can carry without permanent deformation. Remember that this isn’t the same as tensile strength, the maximum strength a metal can hold without breaking. Tensile strength is typically higher than yield strength, and the ratio of the two is called the strength-to-weight ratio.
Determining the yield strength of a metal allows you to estimate the leverage you’ll need when bending the material. So, how do you go about it?
- Set your metal on your workshop table and push to see if you can bend it.
- If you start feeling the metal give, stop and observe along it to see how much it has bent.
- You can estimate the needed leverage (extra length) for comfortable bending from the results.
Remember, thicker and stronger materials require more leverage. So, consider increasing the length if you struggle to bend your metal.
Here are some bending methods you can try if you’re on a budget:
- Using your hands: Some metals can be bent by applying force to them with your hands. This method depends on the metal and requires a lot of strength from your end.
- Using a vice and hammer: This method involves clamping the metal in a vice and using a hammer to it until you get the desired angle. You don’t need any budget if you have the mentioned equipment in your workshop.
- Using pliers: This is ideal for small pieces of metal. To do this, you must squeeze the metal between the pliers’ jaws until you get the desired bend.
- Wipe bending: Support your metal with a die leaving part of it hanging at the edge. You then wipe or slide a punch over the metal to achieve the bend you want. The punch is wedge-shaped, with the wedge’s angle determining the amount of curve you’ll get.
The method you choose will depend on the size and thickness of the metal you are working with.
When metal is bent, the outside of the bend stretches while the inside compresses. This reduces the metal’s cross-sectional area and may not fit your project if you had an exact size.
As such, you’ll need to make the metal thicker to compensate for these changes. This additional size is what’s referred to as the bending allowance. It’s calculated based on a metal’s thickness, material properties, and the radius of the bend.
It’s worth noting that the bending allowance is indirectly proportional to the bend radius. So, the smaller the radius, the higher the bending allowance required. This aspect also increases with the thickness of the metal.
Understanding the bending allowance is essential because it impacts the strength and durability of the final product. A smaller bending allowance may cause the metal to break when bending. On the other hand, if it’s too large, some parts of the bend may be too thick.
It refers to a metal returning to its original shape after the bending force is released. This happens because of the elastic nature of the metal, which makes it resist permanent deformation. If you don’t accommodate it in your bending process, you’ll not get the exact bend you want for your project.
Metal fabricators usually bend the metal slightly beyond the desired angle to compensate for springback. The amount of over-bending you’ll need will depend on the type and thickness of the metal. It would be best if you also considered the angle and radius of the bend in your estimation.
Safety is paramount when bending metal at home. Some key precautions to keep in mind include the following:
- Wear personal protective equipment like gloves and safety glasses to avoid injuries.
- If you’re not hand-bending, ensure the metal is secured correctly on the workshop bench. This will prevent it from moving during the bending process.
- Ensure that the tools you use are appropriate for the job and in good condition. Also, strictly follow the manufacturer’s manual on equipment use.
- Inspect the metal for imperfections like cracks and knots to avoid bending breakage.
- To minimize accidents, keep your workshop clear and free of tripping hazards, combustible materials, and clutter.
Although DIY metal bending is cost-effective, you may still need to consult qualified personnel. For instance, there may be better options than DIY if your project needs inch-perfect measurements. At Rennd, we have metalworks experts who are always ready to help you get the best results in your project.
Metal bending is an essential aspect of any workshop. Some of the best materials you can use include 5052 aluminum, copper, brass, and annealed steel. Depending on the type and strength of the metal, you can use your hand, vice and hammer, and pliers to achieve the desired bends. These methods are cost-effective and ideal for DIYers.
Some main factors to remember in your metal bending process include bending springback and bending allowance. They determine the quality of the final product. If you have an upcoming project, contact us for a quick estimate.