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How to bend Al?


NAXJA Forum User
Abilene, TX
I'm building a bracket to attach the storage pins for my JKS disco's (I'm tired of bungies)...kinda like what Off-Road General Store has: http://www.offroadgs.com/storage_holders.htm

My question though: how do I bend the flat aluminum I have (1/16"x1.5"x4') without breaking it?

I know aluminum has a low melting point, so I thought I might be able to use a regular old heat gun to heat up the area enough that I could bend it over something with just a pair of gloves.

Also, if anyone else has done this... were you able to use the threaded hole right behind the sway bar mount? (or was it even there?) Thanks for any help...
Bending Aluminum

Aluminum needs a pretty good bend radius. For .063" I would start with about a 1/8 bend radius. Heating won't help either. Just get a brake and go for it or clamp it into your vise with some hardwood that has the right radius and use another piece of wood to bend it over with. Don't forget to bend it 90 degrees perpendicular to the grain. With 4' of it you have plenty to see how small of bend you can do before it cracks.
Look up annealing. Heating with a low temp torch. Couldn't find a good site doing a quick search. I haven't done it my self but have seen it done. The AL will bend like butter afterwards.
A heat gun won't develope enough heat. If you use a torch to try to soften it up keep in mind that Al does not change color when it gets hot like steel does. What that means is that you can go from solid to molten without any warning. Personally I would use hosshoffer's suggestion.
I'll second ZPD ... making a mount for my GPS with virtually the same material, just a bit narrower, I found that I could bend the stuff (once!) at >90 deg. with a 1/16" radius easily. I used a vise and a couple of pieces of nylon block that I happened to have around as a makeshift brake. Un-bending or adjusting the angle (re-bending), especially at 90 deg. or better, seriously weakens the material. I went through half of a 4' piece getting it right, 'cause I don't have a lot of experience with metal. But it is really easy to work with, within the limits.
If it happens to be the right alloy and the right heat treat, it will break with a radius as large as 1/2 inch. Just bend it and see what happens. If it's generic aluminum, 1/16 thickness seems a bit thin for what you want to use it for.
You'll notice that the ones you want to copy are made of 3/16 steel. I think you need raw material that is a lot more substantial that 1/16 aluminum.
Thanks for the suggestions!

Why would I need a stronger material? This isn't structual - it's just something to hold it up. I don't have much in the way of equipment or funding - the aluminum was cheaper and easier to work with. My only concern with the strength is if the tires rub against the swaybar it could bend the bracket. The likelihood of my dragging the bracket on a rock is slim to none. So why would steel be advantageous? (Other than it not being more ductile).
bending Aluminum

one other pointer...because of the grain structure in the most common grades of aluminum, it is much better to make your bend in a quick motion, or even using a rubber mallet. That said I agree with these guys, steel would be much better and easier for making these items. It is stronger bends easier and with a coat of paint will last much longer.