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Bend it Like A Pro

With this handy tool, fabricating almost anything is possible

Mike Petralia Mar 18, 2005

Sometimes form can follow function, but in the hot rodding world, function should complement form. Function can also compliment your ride, if you do things right. Anytime you build a car, you're bound to need to fabricate something. Whether it is a small mounting plate, a custom exhaust bracket, or a smooth wire holder, cool cars need trick appendages. While searching online for rollcage tubing benders, we came across this nifty little number from a company called Shop Outfitters. They call it the Model 2020 Compact Bender and for less than $500, it can bend flat stock (hot-rolled up to 5/16x2 inches), along with solid materials (up to 5/8-inch thick), and both round and square tubing, (1/2 to 1 1/4 inches, sorry, not big enough for rollcages). It even comes with a sharp right-angle bending attachment that can shape flat stock as thick as 3/16x2 inches and 1/4x1 1/4 inches (unbeknownst to them, we've used it to bend 1/4x2 inches with no problem). Each 2020 Compact Bender comes with seven heat-treated, hardened steel dies, (1 to 3-inch diameter), for putting U-bends in flat and bar stock, a die-mounting rack, a square stop block, heat treated pins, floor stand, sharp right-angle bend attachment, collapsible handle, and instruction manual with bending tips and projects.

Before we had a chance to use this tool in our shop, we used to bend flat stock just like everyone else. Clamp the piece in a vise and hammer it to the angle we hoped to achieve. That usually resulted in at least one piece being thrown away, due to all the hammering marks left on it, and another that had been hammered too far and couldn't be bent back into the proper shape without leaving a curve nearest the angle we tried to create. And forget about trying to duplicate more than one bracket at a time in a bench vise. Although it can be done, with lots of time and patience, there's little chance for the novice to get more than two bends exactly alike.

Unlike many other benders on the market that can only handle tubing, the 2020 Compact Bender's ability to bend and shape flat stock is something we've found to be very useful. In fact, it's been used to fabricate more flat-stock brackets than anything else. That's really what makes this bender so unique. Also, its compact size takes up very little floor space, (we unbolt it and store it in a corner when not in use). Set-up time is minimal and its design is very easy to operate. Combined with Shop Outfitters Open Face Ring Roller, (PN 1250, $329.00), a tool that rolls flat stock into a steel ring, these tools give you the abilities to fabricate just about any type of bracket, mount, or accessory holder your mind could ever imagine.


Here's the Shop Outfitters Compact Bender fabbing up some 1/2-inch tube-steel fuel cell mounts.

The bender comes with dies to shape flat stock that are stored on the side of the unit so they won't get lost in your shop. All tube bending dies must be ordered separately.

Right after I mounted the bender to the floor, I envisioned my first project:

a bracket to mount the bender's collapsible handle on the side of the unit.

Recently, I bent up these custom fan and radiator mounts for my friend's '70 Camaro. Not counting design time, it took less than 10 minutes to bend all pieces.

Here's one of the fan mounting brackets during construction. Note the stop pin in the upper right of the photo. This can be moved to any position to repeat any angle over and over again.

An adjustable stop bracket also comes with the bender to give you even more flexibility.

Ensuring equal length bends is easy with a pair of Vise Grips holding the piece in place.

Here is the 1/2-inch tubing dies used to make the fuel cell mounts. My Craftsman Ratchet-wrench quickly loosens and tightens the tube clamp, which keeps the small tube from slipping while it's being bent.

Here's the fuel cell mount nearly completed. You can see there is four 90-degree bends on two different plains on this piece. It took a few sample pieces to get it perfect. I'll cut the ends off square and even after the bends are done.

Here's one of my favorite uses for the Compact Bender. Shaping flat stock using the hardened steel dies (included). Here, I'm forming a nitrous bottle holder I've designed, (see next photo)

With a quick-release pin I picked up from a supply store, my nitrous bottle holder is ready to be welded to the rollcage or a mounting bracket that could be bolted to the floor.

The bottom of the nitrous bottle gets secured in these twin rings I rolled using the Shop Outfitters Bench-top Open Face Ring Roller.

Here are two different-size rings I've created in steel (left) and aluminum. You can see that the roller leaves a slight flat spot at the butt joint, which I fix by welding the pieces together, and re-rolling them over and over again until it disappears.

The Compact Bender takes up little floor space when bolted down and is easy to remove and store in a cabinet or just in the corner of your shop when not in use.

Bonus Tip!!! Use the Compact Bender to fabricate things like these ironing board hangers, and your wife will never bother you when you're working in the shop again!


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