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.