Bending Steel

There is a famous saying; “A man must know his limitations.” I am sure it is also appropriate for a woman. So it is with this topic. Some steel grades can be bent fairly easily. And, some steel grades in some conditions should never be bent. Before attempting to bend steel you must fully understand its limitations. If you are one of those who never reads instructions and just charges ahead, then there is another appropriate quote from the same person; “Do you feel lucky, kid? Well, do you…?”

The thing is, bending steel is dangerous, even steel listed as “formable”. Ideally, it should be left to experts. But, if you are going to do it anyway, you must know some things about the metal you are contemplating bending. The grade and internal cleanliness are important. But more important is the hardness and the depth and uniformity of that hardness. Soft malleable (ductile) steel in a very light gage may take a nice bend simply by “hand”. Harder (heat treated) heavier gage steel may require high capacity sophisticated equipment that has built-in protections for the machine operator. Very hard steel may not tolerate even the slightest bend, or even pressure for that matter. To put it in perspective, when you think of very hard steel, think of a pane of glass. You wouldn’t push the center of a large pane of glass to see if it bends. At least I hope not. When hard steel fails during a bending process, it literally explodes! As in, loud noise and a section of the roof leaving the building rather quickly.

Before you attempt to bend a piece of steel say this out loud three times; “This is an angry piece of steel that doesn’t want to be played with, and there is a reason why everyone behind me is stepping back.” Then step into your safety gear, study everything you can about the steel, then call a person who bends steel professionally. If that is just not possible and you are required to bend it yourself, do some serious research before you begin and remember, wear appropriate safety gear. Bending steel is not a job for amateurs. Use certified/qualified expert technicians.

Some key words that may help you discover a bit about bending steel are listed below:

Forming, Press Brake, Rolling, Open Air Die, Bottom Die, Bullnose Die, Arc, Degree of Arc, Knife Die (as in; don’t use this type of die), Degree of Bend, Radius of Bend, Hardness HB, Hardness RC, Decarb Removal, Surface Preparation Steel, Brinell, Rockwell, Plasticity, Plastic Deformation, Spring-Back, Work Hardening, Heat Treating, Surface Hardness, Through Hardness, Gushing Head Wound, Depressed Skull Fracture, Life Insurance

4T, 8T, 12T relate to how many times you multiply the thickness of the steel to determine a suggested minimum bend radius. 4T would require a radius of four times the thickness, 12T would be twelve times the thickness, etc.

And, one more famous quote; “Don’t try this at home!”

-Howard Thomas, June 4th 2019

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