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I imagine a lot of you do smaller metal bending projects and some of you have DIY brakes but I thought I’d share my experiences with the 18” Harbor Freight bending brake that I’ve had for over a year now.

 

https://www.harborfreight.com/18-inch-bending-brake-39103.html

 

This is the brake in use last night. It’s rated for up to 16 gauge aluminum (I think) and I’ve had no problem bending that gauge at 8” to 10” of width. As a matter a fact this photo shows me bending 1/8” thick by 1” wide aluminum. It bent like butter!

 

attachment.php?attachmentid=3639&stc=1&d=1523150955

 

The brake, as designed, is supposed to be clamped to your work surface. I made up a couple mounts so I could bolt it thru the front apron on my bench.

 

The one modification I made that really makes this brake worth using was the addition of an 1/8 roll pin to each end of the clamp bar.

 

attachment.php?attachmentid=3640&stc=1&d=1523151641

 

I drilled the appropriate sized hole (thanks Machinery’s handbook) in the clamp bar to retain an 1/8” roll pin. The bar was positioned back from the bed of the brake approximately the thickness of the material (+1/16”) that I intended to use. This was a guess, but it’s worked out fine so far. If anyone wants me to measure the exact distance PM me and I’ll check mine. It’s stowed in the shed as I write this and I’m not feeling ambitious enough at the moment to check it.

 

These pins make it sooooo much easier to position the clamp bar when you line up your material and tighten down your C clamps. You lose a couple inches of capacity but if I ever had to use the full width these pins are easily removed. The location where I drilled the pin holes limits you to a fixed, (tight), radius but since the material the brake is rated for is rather thin this hasn’t been a problem so far. Most of my work has been in aluminum so your results may vary.

 

The background of the picture above does show the rather tight C channel that I bent out of 16 gauge steel as an experiment. The brake struggled a bit with this. I’m not surprised since it’s not rated to handle that gauge material in steel.

 

I looked into possibly adding a truss to strengthen the clamp bar but so far that hasn’t been necessary. I just add a couple additional clamps if I feel they are needed.

 

I was used to using much more convenient, and way more expensive brakes, before I retired. This one took some getting used to in the beginning. Ok, I’ll admit it, I was spoiled. :D.

 

The C clamps can be a bit of a pain but all in all this brake was worth the $. I get way nicer results than I did with a bench vise, or with two blocks of wood and a mallet.

 

Note: The roll pins were not my idea. I think I read about these first on the Harbor Freight review page for this brake.

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thank you for posting this Jim... i've looked at this brake several times because i still use the vise and hammer method and never get a straight bend!

 

i was worried this would be just a waste of money, mainly because it was so inexpensive and also due to the specs on material thickness. but, it sounds like it could handle some 1/8" aluminum in say 2" or 3" widths? if so, it would certainly be useful to me.

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Kris,

Maybe we can set up a “try before you buy” arrangement. You could try the brake on the wider 1/8” material and I would try your nutsert tool on an M8 insert. ???

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sure Jim, as long as you aren't in any hurry! my schedule for the next 2 to 3 weeks is overly full already.

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I’m in no hurry at all. If you’re interested let me know and we can set something up around your schedule.

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