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Author Topic: Bending metal tubes  (Read 3786 times)
lady_brooklyn
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« on: December 23, 2009, 10:26:40 pm »

Hallo all!  So, I've been preparing to build a flashdrive case/mod.  My idea was to get some copper or brass tubing, then basically squish it in a clamp until it has an oval shape similar to my flashdrive.
Now, what sort of metal is ideal for this?  I've tried copper (not sure of the thickness) in a light-duty clamp, but there's not so much as a dent in it.  Perhaps I should try something else?  Would aluminum (spray painted as brass) be too fragile in the long run?
Any hints or thoughts would be great.  Smiley
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« Reply #1 on: December 24, 2009, 04:28:50 am »

My first recommendation would be to get a vise, almost any vise should be able to squish some copper pipe plus it will be incredibly handy for any filing, sawing or other holding needs on this project. (Steampunk is a vice, that's an altogether different creature.) I don't think you can do much metalworking without a vise.

If you don't have access to a vise you might try using a hammer, even a small hammer can produce an incredible amount of momentary force because it's moving. You'll need something solid to hammer against, big chunks of metal are great, the end grain of a piece of wood works if it's can be made stable and solid, and sidewalks and driveways will work if you don't care too much about your finish. When hammering be sure to turn your piece over and work from both sides to keep it symmetrical (actually a useful tip for the vise too).

I might put something the size of the drive inside the copper too keep from squishing it too far and to help get the sides straight.

If none of this helps, it may be time to anneal your copper. This is done by heating it red hot and then cooling it in water. (The cooling isn't necessary, but who wants to wait.) It doesn't have to be crazy hot, the glow should be visible in a dark room, it need not be visible in direct sunlight. Larger sizes of pipe are usually work hardened in the manufacturing and annealing them will make them much softer and easier to manipulate. If you don't have access to a torch a gas stove will do the trick. Keep in mind that any tool, like pliers, that is held in the flame with the copper will probably be softened also (though not too the same extent) so you might want to rig up something with wire or dedicate a crappy tool solely for annealing.

If you stick the hot end of a piece of pipe into a bucket of water sometimes steam and really hot water will blow out the other end. This can be prevented by plugging the pipe or just running water over it in the sink instead.

That's about all of the copper recommendations I can make for your available information. In regards to aluminum, I think it is the spray paint that would be too fragile to carry in your pocket.
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« Reply #2 on: December 24, 2009, 04:34:33 am »

My first recommendation would be to get a vise...
What an amazing amount of useful info in a short post...
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WillRockwell
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« Reply #3 on: December 24, 2009, 10:17:17 am »

Art stores sell brass pipe which is pre-squished (oval shaped pipe). I've been trying to think of a use for it, sounds like you already have.
I have found that copper pipe is brittle, I tried to put a bend in it and broke the pipe. It will only take a very gentle curve
If you squish your pipe in a vise, make a "soft" vise by applying thick tape to the vise jaws so they do not mark the pipe. I have a small soft vise only used for manipulating pipe
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sidecar_jon
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« Reply #4 on: December 24, 2009, 12:19:25 pm »

Its get Brittle with use, it needs to be heated to red and quenched to go back to soft and easily worked.
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« Reply #5 on: December 24, 2009, 02:45:58 pm »

Its get Brittle with use, it needs to be heated to red and quenched to go back to soft and easily worked.

So I can manipulate copper pipe if I heat it first? I'll try that.
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jringling
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« Reply #6 on: December 24, 2009, 03:26:13 pm »

Its get Brittle with use, it needs to be heated to red and quenched to go back to soft and easily worked.

So I can manipulate copper pipe if I heat it first? I'll try that.
Be sure to experiment with this... It is easy to melt smaller copper pieces very quickly. Also be gentle when you first bend a newly annealed piece of copper as it will be VERY soft...
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Narsil
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« Reply #7 on: December 24, 2009, 03:34:23 pm »


Also if your bending tube its a good idea to sipport it otherwise it will tend to crush and kink at one point rather then bend in a smooth radius. The easeist way to do this is fill it with sand other options include casting white metal into it or using a pipe bending jig,
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WillRockwell
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« Reply #8 on: December 24, 2009, 04:00:33 pm »


Also if your bending tube its a good idea to sipport it otherwise it will tend to crush and kink at one point rather then bend in a smooth radius. The easeist way to do this is fill it with sand other options include casting white metal into it or using a pipe bending jig,

I've tried all those things, and here's what I wound up doing. I clamp the pipe in my soft vise, then hold a steel punch up against it and bend the pipe against the punch. The punch is graduated from very thin to about 1/2", so I just move it until I get the bend I like. I even bought some different sized spring things that are supposed to bend pipe, but they only work for very gradual bends, anything tighter and the pipe gets stuck in the spring.

Actually, I've just found that my art store (where I buy all my brass and copper pipe and sheeting) has what they call soft brass tubing, which can be bent by hand. This weekend I will explore the possibilities of these tubes.
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lady_brooklyn
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« Reply #9 on: December 24, 2009, 04:18:00 pm »

Thank you all so much!  I am going to see what I can do now....  *puts on mad scientist goggles*
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blacksmith74westy
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« Reply #10 on: December 24, 2009, 06:50:36 pm »

Contact the USA distributor for this company and ask them to send you a representative selection of flat brass tube. Tell them you want it for free.
http://www.hydro.com/en/Subsites/Hydro-Aluminium-Precision-Tubing/HVACR/Products-systems/Hydro-HVACR-product-range/Brass-welded-tubes/
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sidecar_jon
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« Reply #11 on: December 26, 2009, 07:46:55 pm »


Actually, I've just found that my art store (where I buy all my brass and copper pipe and sheeting) has what they call soft brass tubing, which can be bent by hand. This weekend I will explore the possibilities of these tubes.

Soft brass will have been annealed after drawing to it finished size. The drawing and sizing makes it work harden. treat it when its hard, same as copper, red hot and quench it. (othe rmetals harden when quenched, but copper and brass dont)
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Capt. Stockings
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« Reply #12 on: December 27, 2009, 06:55:13 am »

If you're trying to bend pipe or a tube, it might be better to anneal it several times as you're bending it. Anneal it, then bend it a bit, anneal it again, bend it a bit more, ect. Pipe is tough to bend. One side has to be stretched while the other side has to be condensed in on itself. Take it slow and easy so the tube doesn't break.
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aquafortis
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« Reply #13 on: December 28, 2009, 02:10:24 pm »

Aluminium tube can be annealed too, if it is too stiff or brittle. This is especially important with 6082 alloy, the commonest grade of extruded aluminium. Scribble over it with a bar of common soap, heat gently with a blowlamp (big burner, soft flame is best). After a bit, the soap marks will go black. Quench in cold water and you're done. This will let you squash a 1" x 16swg tube flat without cracking the folds. If you don't anneal it it will split in four places. Aluminium will collapse long before incandescence is achieved, so you must use soap as an indicator.

The tube will be at "0" temper at this point, but bending it about will increase the temper as it work-hardens. Over time it will age-harden all the way back to "6" temper (T6).

If you are blessed with a collet-headed lathe, annealed 6082 tube spins most wonderfully into trumpets, funnels and venturis Wink No good in a chucked lathe though; not enough support.
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The Mechanic
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« Reply #14 on: January 01, 2010, 06:19:02 pm »

You may also check with a local plumber, or plumbing supply, as they might sell you a bit of coiled copper tubing. It comes in all the regular sizes, but it is already softer so as to be coiled in a box or on a spool. You should have no problem squishing the tube to get the oval shape you are looking for.
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« Reply #15 on: March 03, 2010, 04:15:04 am »

When trying to bend tubing it helps to fill it with water and cork both ends  (make sure there are no bubbles).  Pop it into the freezer overnight and let it freeze solid.  The ice will help support the bend and a hot water bath melts it right out.  This drive cover was shaped from 1/2 inch copper tubing with hammer and anvil with a 5 mm square brass rod inside...   
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Rdrash
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« Reply #16 on: March 03, 2010, 06:16:49 am »

While I have not given a proper introduction in other parts of this forum I will offer some insite to the metals discussed in this thread as I am have some firsthand knowledge into the annealing and hardening as I perform them on an almost daily basis as a metal fabricator.

Properly annealing copper will involve bringing it to a minimum of 490 degrees F roughly half of the melting point this holds true with most metals most copper pieces can be annealed in the home oven set at 500 for an hour or two. Yellow brass C268 which is what I think is mostly used in our endevors will need to come to 800 - 1300 degrees F

After these metals are brought to this temp you want to cool them down slowly do not quench them in any fluid at all this will only make them harder this is true with aluminum brass or copper ideally one would want to leave the metal in an insulated heat treating oven and slowly ramp the temp down over a peroid of four hours.

Most of the common copper tubing used for plumbing is L or M which as a copper alloy has a great chance at cracking should you try to flatten it without annealing it first if you are to go to a metal supplier and purchase or order such materials make sure you ask for tubing rather than pipe as the pipe will have a welded seam.

If aluminum is decided to be used then when purchasing one can simple ask for an "O" heat treatment, O itself will never age harden to T6 not even to a T3 but will work harden enough to crack. I would suggest a 5052 H34 if its to be aluminum as it is maleableenough and can be welded if the project is in need of such work.
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theviewfinderlife
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« Reply #17 on: July 11, 2010, 11:09:38 pm »

Hardware stores such as Lowe's and Home Depot (in the US) have soft copper rolls that I would imagine would be quite useful.  It's pricier than straight copper pipe though, so if you do go for it, just make sure you can use the roll for other projects.
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Otto Von Pifka
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« Reply #18 on: July 17, 2010, 06:34:45 am »

you can make a wedge to help form the shape from the inside out.

make sure the pipe is a bit longer than you need and lightly flare or at least chamfer the inside at either end.
aneal it if its hard pipe.

take a piece of hardwood longer than your final pipe and shape it to roughly the final shape you want with the pipe but slightly smaller to allow for the thickness of the pipe.  saw it in two halves lengthwise but at a diagonal so the two halves can slide along each other and change height at the widest point. sand the diagonal flats so they slide nicely then grease the crap or the wood where it slides on each other and around the outside so it can move along the inside of the pipe.

you place the wedges into your pipe from opposite ends and begin to hammer them past each other to stretch the pipe into an oval. the less you can manage to have to beat the outsides of the pipe to shape it, the less sanding and grinding you will need to flatten it up later.
you can wrap it in rags and put it in a vice and tap both pieces of wood at the same time, tweaking the vice as the ball of rag begins to get loose in the vice.
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hardlec
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« Reply #19 on: July 24, 2010, 03:39:42 pm »

First:  remember Pi * Diameter gives the circumference of the tube.  Be sure you get the right size tube. Also remember there is a difference between inside diameter and outside diameter.

What you are doing in not usually considered "bending" pipe.  Many techniques are available to bend tube into elaborate shapes.  Quite punky but not for this thread.

Slow cooling is preferable to soften metal in the anneal process.  As said before, this can be rather technical, and it usually takes practice to get it right.  Fast cooling or quenching does more than save time.  Fast quenching ferrous metal will harden it.  There is also a chemical reaction with a quench.  Slow cooling involves reducing heat slowly, but air cooling is usually slow enough for copper.

I would recommend:

Soften the metal to dead soft.  Anneal and cool slowly. 

Clamps or vice grips should be powerful enough to shape the tube, but a vice would be better. 
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« Reply #20 on: September 24, 2010, 01:57:46 pm »

How do I bend 5/32 brass and copper tube?

I have tried using pliers, but squished it flat! Sad

I purchased some K&S pipe bending springs, but alas they are too big for the current project.
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« Reply #21 on: September 24, 2010, 02:54:25 pm »

One way of bending thin tubes is to:

Solder a blank on to one end, then pack wet sand, gently heat tube and bent into shape.
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« Reply #22 on: September 24, 2010, 03:01:18 pm »

One way of bending thin tubes is to:

Solder a blank on to one end, then pack wet sand, gently heat tube and bent into shape.

Many thanks - I may give that a try when I have some time.

Any other ideas people?
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sidecar_jon
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« Reply #23 on: September 24, 2010, 04:59:48 pm »

I'd fill it with solder and bend, melt it out if weight is a problem...
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« Reply #24 on: September 24, 2010, 06:04:03 pm »

One way of bending thin tubes is to:

Solder a blank on to one end, then pack wet sand, gently heat tube and bent into shape.

Many thanks - I may give that a try when I have some time.

Any other ideas people?

I think this is the best idea.But you don't have to solder it,tape would do too(anneal it,let it cool down,fill with sand and bend).
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