The original is still the greatest.
I have been using a hossfeld bender almost daily for over 20 years,
and it is still the best all around bender design you can get. If you
have a production application, or you are only going to be bending a
specific type of section, then there are other machines to consider,
but the hossfeld will do the most different things well.
I recommend a hossfeld no. 2 for a general metalworking shop.
The patents have now expired, so there are currently 3 companies
making hossfeld compatible benders and dies-
They have literally hundreds of different die sets in stock, or at
least the patterns to cast them, and you can bend ANYTHING with a
hossfeld. They are the best for oddball structural shapes- channel,
angle, tee, square on the diagonal, etc.
These guys are a cnc machine shop who took over a business started by
an ex-hossfeld employee. They make nice, accurate, finely finished
100% hossfeld interchangeable benders and dies. Their intro package is
quite reasonably priced at $775. They are kind of cherry picking the
more common hossfeld applications, so they only have a few dies, but
what they have is very nice.
These guys are more oriented towards the hot rod and auto shop- so
they are concentrating on tubing dies. Their benders are designed to
do lots of roll bars and they are really good for that, not so good
for every oddball application under the sun. Also 100% hossfeld
Then, there are the knockoffs- first came shop outfitters, who
developed a smaller, cheaper hossfeld copy with much less capability.
They got knocked off by the chinese, who started selling a shop
outfitters clone for about what it cost shop outfitters to buy
materials. Shop Outfitters responded by upgrading their bender, and it
is a decent tool, but no comparison to a real hossfeld. They make
only a very limited array of tooling, and it just doesnt have the
strength or mass to do what a real hossfeld can dol.
The clones are what you see at Harbor Freight. They are ok for very
occasional use on very light materials. But real benders, even shop
outfitters, have features like higher carbon steel, heat treated
parts. The chinese ones dont- you can snap em by overloading them.
The other possibility is a Di-acro bender.
These are very nicely made, relatively expensive, and good for
smaller, more precise bends. They do not have the brute force or
larger size capabilities as a hossfeld style, but they are very
accurate and elegant at what they will do. Di-acro is still in
business, but new benders are not cheap- $975 to $2600 new. Very
rarely found used, and usually the sellers want close to new prices
for benders with no tooling.
A Diacro, or a hossfeld or clone will bend anything you need to bend,
and last your lifetime, if not longer. Personally, I would rather buy
a tool once. I have bent 1" x 4" flat bar (hot) into driveline loops
for a tractor, 2" pipe, 1 1/2" square tube into 20 foot radius roof
beams, angle, flat bar the hard way, round bar into perfect circles,
and literally hundreds of thousands of pieces of round, square, rebar
and flat bar with my hossfeld.
As far as scrolls go, there are no small, affordable scroll benders
that make very nice looking scrolls, in my opinion, but I am a snob
about scrolls. Hossfeld does make a scroll die, and I have it, but I
have used it once- it only fits small flat bar the easy way. I think
scrolls made from that look like home depot screen doors. So I bend
scrolls by eye on the hossfeld, from everything from welding rods to
1" square. Or, you could buy one of these-
A german cnc scroll bender, with over 30 different multipart scroll
dies- or any design you want custom made. Figure about $12,000 to
$18,000 landed at a port in the US. Worth every penny, as far as I am
concerned- mine has 7 1/2hp geared down to 14 rpm, and that is enough
torque to cold twist 1 1/2" bar without even making a groan. But most
people probably think its a little bit of overkill.