Introduction: Homemade Mini Bend Brake

Picture of Homemade Mini Bend Brake

In this Instructable I will show you how I made a Mini Bend Brake to bend some 1/16" aluminum.

I needed to make clean straight bends in strips of aluminum for my Hidden Bookshelf Light Switch.

I had pretty good luck bending the aluminum in my bench vise, but it was hard to keep the bends square and even.
So, this is what I came up with.

Step 1: Gather the Parts

Picture of Gather the Parts

To build this press brake you will need:

20" of 1" angle iron
10" of 5/16" steel rod
2 - 2.5" narrow hinges
2 - 1/4"x2" bolts w/ nuts
4 - screws
1 - chunk of 2x4

drill bits 1/4" and 3/16"
something to cut the angle iron (band saw, hacksaw, cut off blade, cold saw)
a small square
a welder
a vise of some type (drinking and smoking won't work here)
2 vise grips or clamps

Step 2: Cutting

Picture of Cutting

First thing you need to do is cut the steel. I used my 4x6 band saw to do this.

Cut 3 - 5" pieces and 2 - 2.5" pieces of angle iron.
Cut 10" of the 5/16" rod for the handle.

Step 3: Setup

Picture of Setup

Grab 2 of the 5" pieces of angle iron and clamp them into a vise as shown in the first picture.
It is very important they are aligned perfectly.

Next, take the last 5" piece and clamp it with vise grips as shown in the second picture.
Again, make sure this lines up perfectly with the first two pieces.

Then, get your hinges and set them on the angle iron as shown in the third picture.  
The hinges should sit tightly in the corner formed by the three pieces of angle iron.

Step 4: Welding

Picture of Welding

Get your welder setup and tack the hinges onto the vertical and horizontal angle iron faces.
Unclamp the vise grips and check that the hinges move freely. If all is well, clamp it back down and fill all the screw holes with welds. If it is binding, break the tack welds, check your alignment and try again.

Next, unclamp the vise grips and flip the hinged piece so the hinges are closed.  
Careful it may be HOT from welding!

Take the10" piece of steel rod and weld it to the angle iron as shown in the fourth picture.
Center it and make sure it is square.

You'll notice that you didn't weld the third piece of angle iron onto the break.  You can set it aside for now.  We will come back to it later.

The pictures show some modifications I made to the angle iron to allow some very close step bends.
I needed to bend 0.5" step bends and, obviously, 1" angle iron would not allow this.
You can skip to the end to see why I cut the angle the way I did.
If you don't need opposite bends any closer together than 1" you will not have to do this.

Step 5: Drill and Assemble

Picture of Drill and Assemble

Now you have the welding taken care of, its time to drill some holes and mount the brake.

Drill 2 - 1/4" holes---one near each end of the piece of angle iron that does not have the handle welded to it.
I centered each hole about 0.5" in from the end.

Next place the brake on a piece of 2x4 as shown in the second picture. Use the steel as a guide to drill 1/4" holes through the wood.

Here is the tricky bit:

Drill 1/4" holes near each end in the third, unattached piece of angle iron.  
This piece of angle is going to attach to the break with its corner facing away from the hinges as shown in the third picture. 
The location of these holes will be determined by  the thickness of material you are going to bend.
I made my brake to bend 1/16" aluminum, so I offset the third piece of angle iron by 1/16".
You can make multiple pieces for different thicknesses.

Step 6: Guides

Picture of Guides

I added a final pair of angle iron pieces to my brake to speed up the alignment process.
Grab the two shorter pieces you cut earlier.  
Drill two 1/8" holes in each one as shown in the first picture.  Positioning is not critical here.

Next place the pieces on the back edge of the brake as shown in the second picture.
Be sure to position each piece inside of the bolt at the end of the main brake section.
Use a square to square each piece to the break, and screw each piece to the wood.

Step 7: Time to Start Bending

Picture of Time to Start Bending

Putting it to use:

Loosen the nuts and slide your material into the break between the pieces of angle iron as shown in the second picture.
Align the metal to the guide and tighten the nuts down. 
Don't over tighten the empty side.  The angle should sit flat on the piece you are going to bend.

Next, lift the handle and bend the metal as shown in the third picture.
Loosen the bolts and remove or re-position as needed.

There you have it! One bent piece of aluminum!

Check the rest of the pictures for more bending action.  Some of them provide info on my mods for close bends.

Thanks for looking! Please check out my use of the brake in my Hidden Bookshelf Light Switch!


spark master (author)2012-03-15

way cool looks just like a scaled down version of th eunit the gutter guy used after last storm.

here is one fer 20 schadoles, but then there is shipping...

http:// www.grizzly .com/outlet/18-Mini-Mighty-B ender/G9951

mikeyj2015 (author)spark master2016-09-16

Or get this 18" for $30.39 with coupon.

mikeyj2015 (author)spark master2016-09-16

Same as this one at HF and no shipping for $46.39 after 20% off coupon.

Upir (author)2014-07-01

Did it... Kinda. Mine bends stuff down and with the use of some modified F-clamps, I can put in some spacer dies to do boxes.

vinz3nt (author)Upir2015-09-09

please, share this as an instructable, I'm very curious!

Gelfling6 (author)2015-04-19

I'm in the middle of creating a walking robot, and wanted to build a pair of Servo frames for X/Y movement, and when I saw this design, it gave me a few ideas on a simple brake design, using a single heavy-duty barn door hinge, and a U-Bolt plate. It still needs some better foundation, but your hinge idea has it going in the right direction! Thanks!!

chris_w (author)2014-07-10

Those hinges look to be galvanized. It should be noted that welding
galvanized metal is dangerous and a suitable mask should be worn and the
welding done in a well ventilated area. Right, having said that, great
instructable and I'll be making a slightly heavier duty bender based on
this idea

Upir (author)2014-07-01

This helped me a lot in figuring out how to build just what I needed. Thank you muchly. Here's a pic pre-painting.

satish_munot (author)2014-02-03

Will it Cut PCB?

MiX3DJD (author)2013-06-10

What is the thickness of the 1" angle iron?

astral_mage (author)MiX3DJD2014-01-03

stanard 1x1 angle is 1/8th inch thick

astral_mage (author)astral_mage2014-01-03

to a 1/4th of a inch thick

padbravo (author)2013-09-16

Tks for the idea...
just one question: the distance or space that is between or offset on the "vise" (where you clamp the alum to be bended) have to be the thick of the alum? that is the idea?

streetrod5 (author)2013-03-03

I've been wanting a box brake for years - I'm going to make this one tomorrow. Great 'Able - nice photos and clear instructions.

djaco (author)2012-03-15

Elegant little brake.

But you're confusing your vises with my vices.

Right you are!
I am still not sure if I have too many vices or too few vises or, is that the other way round. Edits to be made shortly.

It's vice versa.

gmiguel (author)2013-01-09

Very nice, useful and cheap. Thanks.

bvsmanya (author)2012-07-30

useful brake for many small bending jobs.

throbscottle (author)2012-03-19

Good 'ible, I'll have a go at making one of these, but I don't understand, why is there a cutaway on the right of the handle?

The cutaway is there so I could bend the metal very close in opposite directions. To get the bends the 1/2" apart that i needed I had to create the cutaway. The pictures in step 7 better explain this.

Lorddrake (author)2012-03-12

would it work to make the holes on your hold down piece oblong so that you can adjust for different width materials?
you could even engrave measurement lines on the base piece to make sure your hold down is square.
or make a set of shims from various thickness of scrap materials ... keep them with the break, all you have to do is slide in the shim .. adjust the hold down piece to fit and tighten the bolts

You could do slotted holes but the setup for each bend would be tedious. Tightening the nuts would cause the hold down to shift. 1" angle is only about $7 for 4 feet so making multiple hold downs is very time and cost effective.

Good point .. makes alot of sense,

Opus the Poet (author)2012-03-15

As a metal worker myself I have to make one nit-picky comment. This is a leaf brake, not a press brake as was stated in the e-mail. Still major awesome though.

I had no idea leaf brakes existed! I caught my original mistake of calling it a press break and renamed it a bend break but leaf break does seem to be more correct. Thanks!

dropkick (author)2012-03-15

I've been wishing I had a brake for a long time. And now I have a design for building one.

dfecker (author)2012-03-15

Great instructable!! This is an awesome project I can do with my kids and show them some basics of metalworking!

Keep them coming.

tundrawolf (author)2012-03-15

Awesome, thank you.

Wimpi (author)2012-03-15

Nice instructable

WVvan (author)2012-03-15

Kudos. Very nice indeed.

koogar (author)2012-03-15

Nice Job !

Heres another DIY brake thats good for thin sheet

DJ-AS (author)2012-03-15

Really nice job!!! You must show this job on video.

ksykes (author)2012-03-15

Cool setup, very friendly for the average home workshop!

lmvlobos (author)2012-03-11


pfred2 (author)2012-03-07

All the brakes I've ever seen the pivot points are outside the work area. Like this: metal brake/MetalBrake002.jpg

Your design is a bit different. Seems to work OK for you though. Good job!

Interesting. I never looked at any commercial models. I can see how the external pivot points would be nice.That break looks expensive though! I made this one for under $20.00 in parts.

It was probably made in that guy's shop. Unless your pivots are external to the blades you can't really get a no radius bend, although practically I don't think you really can with any material anyways. What you did looks like it worked to me. I bet it is a lot easier to do too.

Just goes to show sometimes you're better off just doing it your own way.

CementTruck (author)2012-03-07

*step 7*

You can use one to blow square bubbles and the other as a tetris cookie cutter. Eating round cookies causes diamond shaped voids. Eating tetris cookies alleviates indigestion and gas.

Cool instructable.

rimar2000 (author)2012-03-07

Good design, well done!

heathbar64 (author)2012-03-07

Very Nice! I like that you can remove the hold down altogether when you bend a complete square. Now, for production work, how about a cam operated hold down.

About This Instructable




Bio: My Name is Brandon Fischer. I am a Theatrical Rigger and Carpenter. I like to build, make, and void warranties. Please visit my Etsy shop ... More »
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