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.
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Step 1: 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 vise of some type (drinking and smoking won't work here)
2 vise grips or clamps
Step 2: 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
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
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
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
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
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!