Graceful arcs in 1/4" steel rod

Hello! I am an amateur sculptor (beginner) that is using 1/4" mild
steel rods as my medium to practice with. Eventually I want to
re-create my works in stainlees steel. Presently, I use an oxy/acet
torch to heat the metal then bend it, twist it or put hard bends in it
while applying heat and holding it in the vise. Occasionally I'll get a
flat area or bump in my longer arcs/curves that is difficult to
compensate for if it happens in the wrong spot. I also want to retain
the inegrity of the rod without deforming it.
I've tried a Harbor Freight Hossfeld style bender that was too complex
and couldn't perform the long graceful arcs I desired without causing
flat spots. I know it takes practice, and I'm not adverse to that. (No
Kung Fu "Grasshopper" jokes please.) I am just looking to shorten my
learning curve by gaining knowledge of resources, books, methods, etc.
I also realize that stainless steel rods are likely to have different
bending properties than mild steel.
My workshop is quite austere with only a vise, hand tools, and a gas
torch. Any suggestions on bending these arcs or resources to help me
self inform? Thanks, Mike in St. louis
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A small bending-rolls is what you need - its a bit like a small, old fashioned, clothes mangle. Basically there are usually 3 rollers - the rod or bar is placed between them, like so (but the rollers touch the bar)...
O ======= O O
and pressure is applied to the top roller by means of a screw. One, or better, two of the rollers are rotated by means of a crank handle to move the bar to and fro - this makes a nice curve. Screw the roller in further and repeat to reduce the bending radius until you get the desired curve.
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I assume you are working with hot roll. I have had good luck on several projects by bending and clamping to the shape I want and then heating to red heat with a torch. When I pop the clamps loose, the rod or strap holds the shape. The form to which you clamp needs to be able to take the heat.
Hope this helps.
(top posted for your convenience) ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ Keep the whole world singing . . . . DanG (remove the sevens)
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It may seem primitive but I use car, truck and tractor rims to form steel rod into arcs. I weld a piece of angle iron to the center of the rim in order to clamp it in a vice. Another piece of angle welded to the outside dia. provides a place to insert the rod to began the bending process. With this fixture you can rotate the rod to bend arcs on different planes. Steve Peterson
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Steve Peterson
I would agree with Gary Wooding that what you need is the HF ring roller.
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$55, will work on your rod, on stainless, or whatever. With this and your bender, you will be all set.
Practice welding your rod end to end until you are comfortable with it - this will allow you to build up your work as a collection of pieces rather than trying to do the whole sculpture as one single thing. Kind of analogous to trying to draw a whole sketch without lifting your pencil from the paper - it adds unnecessary effort. Good luck! BTW, where are you located?
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Emmo, I am in the Creve Coeur, Ladue area of St. Louis. Please elaborate on the end to end thing. Not sure I understand what you mean.
Emmo wrote:
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pencil from
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Check out the wings on my butterfly which are 3/8" Dia. and in the 2000 drop box under ma-BF. I did those by hand and foot without any heat. Before I started thought there is no way I'm going to be satisfied and to my amazement they came out perfect.
Maybe it is from all those curves in swimming pools. Whatever is cheaper cold vs. hot rolled is what they are. Sorry for the night picture, that thing is really hard to get on film.
One of these days I need to make some more for fun. The BF was the last one , I guess I stopped cause they started getting too big and I might end up like those people with acres of them.
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If you are not doing tight radius bends in the small rod, skip the torch. It's costing you money to run and you can spend that better on a ring roller and a couple mandrels to bend your stock around. You might just as well get used to dealing with the spring back you will get from cold bending now, as you will have a hell of a time trying to polish stainless back to anything that looks half decent after hot forming it. If you are bent on getting into stainless, start thinking about a tig welder, too, for pretty welds with less of a heat affected area.
A good idea is to do some trials and record the results in a notebook. For example, if you wrapped three turns of rod around a 10 inch diameter form, and got a 14 inch diameter smooth loop, that would be useful to know at some time that you wished to form that particular radius. With a collection of forms and a suitable table or bench to work of, you could do a lot. Compound curves can be formed of several sections of different radius curves welded together end to end, as referred to by a previous poster.
Jewelry makers, silver and gold smiths use a board with a series of holes for pegs in it to wrap wire around to for various types of filigree work, some blacksmiths have similar setups on a larger scale for larger metal. That is one route you could explore, as it would allow setup for producing several of a particular shape, then be knocked down or re-arranged as required.
Anyway, just some ideas.
Cheers Trevor Jones
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Trevor Jones
Imagine that you want to make a sculpture in the form of a question mark. I am saying that I would do this in three pieces, the curve, the right angle, and the stem, and then weld those three pieces together end-to-end. If you make those welds look nice, then this is a lot easier than trying to make the whole piece at once, with a smooth curve, a right angle, and a straight section...
As someone else pointed out, don't use heat except for welding. You don't need it and it will discolor stainless, anneal copper, and eventually you'll burn your hand (don't ask me how I know this...)
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Thanks Emmo, that makes a lot of sense. I looked at the HF ring roller today. The mandrels are knarled. Does that mark that stock? I wouldn't want to have 60" of curved 1/4" stock marked to the extent I'd have to grind it back to get a smooth appearence. Anyone had experience with that device? Thanks everyone for all the help so far. -Mike
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I have it and haven't had any problem with it marking the surface. The rod actually goes in the groove, not on the knurled face. Get it, you need it...
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You can easily put a gentle curve in rod or square stock by simply pounding on it lightly over a flat piece of wood.
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