Metal art is a technique that is seeing a rise in popularity and is moving away from lawn ornaments and barn decorations to the most elite art exhibits in the world.  With that said, it’s a great hobby for anyone with even a basic working knowledge of welding equipment.  The tools are simple, and at the heart of it, so is the technique.

Most of the tools can be purchased at any neighborhood hardware store, and metal distributors like Vortex Metals can help you choose the right metal for your project.  But at the heart of metal bending is a tool that you’ll want to make yourself, and you’ll use it often: The metal brake.

The brake is a simple design that incorporates a sheet of metal with a few small pieces of pipe.  It’s fashioned in a way that allows you to insert a metal rod between the pipes and bend it into the shape that you are looking to produce for your art.  It’s simple to make, and you’ll need it to let your imagination run wild.

Of course, sizes vary by the kind of rod you’re looking to bend, but for our example, we’re looking at bending a 3/8” rod.

What you’ll need to make a brake:

  • 4 ½” angle grinder
  • Tube snips
  • 18 gauge electric sheet metal shears
  • Bench vice
  • Vice grips
  • Pliers
  • Welder
  • Small steel plate
  • Small sections of pipe you can cut with grinder

The Process. Start by smoothing the edges of your materials.  You can use your bench grinder or your angle grinder.  Get the edges of the plate smooth, and round out a groove on the end of the pipe sections so you have more surface area to weld your pipe to the sheet for your brake.

Weld pipes to plate. The sections don’t need to be more than a few inches high.  In our example, we are bending 3/8” rod, so you want to position the pipes about 3/8” apart.  There is no right or wrong placement, as long as the spacing is where you want it to be to make your shape. Start with a tack weld to position the plate.  This is a technique where you space small support welds around the base of the pipe before making your permanent welds.  Once the tack weld is complete, you can finish securing the pipe.  Move around the pipe slowly in a continuous circular motion with your welder.  Allow the welded material to pool slightly at the base to secure it.

Create a base that will fit in vice. Weld another piece of metal tubing to the bottom of your plate that is sturdy enough and wide enough for the vice to hold it in place as you bend your rods.

Bend Away. With your brake secured in the vice, you can easily bend the rods in any shape you’d like without using heat. If you want to connect rods together to make more complex shapes, start by cleaning up and rounding the edges to create surface area, and connect as many of the bend rods together as you’d like to make your design.

Looking for cold rolled sheet metal to complete your next masterpiece?  Vortex Metals has everything from rolls of aluminum to small mosaic pieces to help you bring your creation to life. Call us today and get started on your dream project.