harbor freight bead roller

I am looking for a bead roller, to roll flanges and beads into sheet metal for auto restoration and hopefully for some sculpture or furniture design. I do this strictly as a hobby, but it is one I take seriously. I am trying to choose between a good quality US made (Proformer) roller for $330, or a harbor freight bead roller, on sale for $89. While the US made machine is definately of higher quality, I am wondering if the HF model would meet my needs and hold up for awhile. I avoid throw-away tools, but try not to spend more money than I have to. If the HF model actually works and is of decent quality, I would be happy to spend less money. Does anyone have experience with this particular tool? Is it still working away in your shop, or did it end up at the curb? BTW, the HF model comes with a full set of dies, while the US made model comes with one. Dies are $60 each.

Thanks for your help,


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I have the HF version. I haven't used it all that much but it's worked fine when I have. The only minor complaint I have with it is that the edges on the dies seem to be too sharp but since it's the only one I've ever used there may be a reason for it that I'm not aware of.

The only other gotchas are that it's tough to keep the work straight so the optional fence (I think it's about $30) would be a great help, plus it's really tough to use by yourself. There's enough distance between the crank and the rollers that it's a fight to work the crank while steering the metal. Of course a motorized version would be even better so that's a project on my todo list. :-)

Best Regards, Keith Marshall snipped-for-privacy@progressivelogic.com

"I'm not grown up enough to be so old!"

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Keith Marshall

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JR North

I have one too. I mostly use it to put beads on the ends of 2.5 and 3" OD tubing to keep hoses from sliding off, using the 1/4" bead die set. Keith is right, it is really a two man tool. I'm 5'9" and can't hold a tube and turn the crank by the handle in a full circle by myself. I can cheat and run my hand down the handle and make do, but that gives up lots of leverage. I didn't get the guide, which would really make flat sheet work easier. I don't recall what HF rates it at, thickness wise, but to put full depth beads in 18 ga steel I need about three or four passes, tightening down on the die each pass. If you try to go full depth in one pass the dies/throat deflects sideways (surprised me that ~1/2" plate would flex like that). I added a 1/4" thick 2" wide steel strap across the throat at the axle pillow blocks next to the dies, which stiffened it up nicely but cut the throat to about 2" - my tubing beads are right at the end anyway. That let me bead a piece of 2.5" OD

16 ga stainless tubing for a friend in about three passes. Oh, the 1/4" bead die is just under 2.25" OD if you need to slip that into a piece of tubing :-). I've only played with the flanging dies on some leftover galvanized ductwork scraps, about 22 or 24 ga, but it worked just fine. The cutoff dies didn't work too well but again, could be my inexperiece showing through. I did have to spend an hour or so playing and tweaking with the thrust settings and axle spacings, but lots of that was because this was the first tool like this I've ever used. For $90 I say get it and use it some, and if nothing else you will know what to look for in your next one and can probably get your money back on ebay. For $190, well, maybe not ...

-- Regards, Carl Ijames snipped-for-privacy@verizon.net

----- Original Message ----- From: "Keith Marshall" Newsgroups: rec.crafts.metalworking Sent: Saturday, December 06, 2003 11:17 AM Subject: Re: harbor freight bead roller

Reply to
Carl Ijames

I have one. I definitely second the motiont hat the guide is worth the money. Overall, I'm happy with mine, but haven't had a chance to use it a bunch. A fellow I talked to before I bought mine said the difference between the HF unit and a more expensive US model, (I don't recall what he had for sure - Roper Whitney I think) was that the HF unit wouldn't stand up to every day use. I even saw a pic once of a guy that reinforced the heck out of his hase HF unit by adding extra steel all over the place.

I've used mine 6-8 times now (not much in other words) on sheet metal ranging from 18-22ga and it's worked fine. The dies show no signs of wear at all and neither does the machine.


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I have the HF unit. One note, the fence is not optional if you want to do sheet stock. It is nearly impossible to roll a straight bead without it. The machine itself is surprisingly hefty, and works quite well once you get everything adjusted. You do need a *heavy* bench vise to hold it. This is a two man machine. It is very difficult to handle the stock and turn the crank at the same time.


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Gary Coffman

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