The wrong bender can really crimp your style.
Whether you need to bend a metal pipe, tube or conduit, a bender is the tool for the job. But what type of bender do you need? The answer, of course, depends on what you’re bending and how you want to bend it.
Let’s start with some definitions.
- Pipe bender: A pipe bender bends pipe and also tubes. What’s a pipe, technically speaking? According to conventional wisdom, a pipe is measured by its inside diameter vs. its outside diameter and by its wall thickness, measured in schedules. A pipe is round and typically features thicker walls than a tube.
- Tube bender: A tube bender bends tubes, and it’s often the same tool as a pipe bender. What’s a tube vs. a pipe? According to the same conventional wisdom, a tube is measured by its outer diameter and usually is smaller and less rigid than a pipe. It may or may not be round.
- Conduit bender: A conduit bender, used with a long lever, is designed to bend angles in conduit, a tube through which electrical wiring is run.
Understanding the difference between a pipe and a tube is important to choosing a compatible bender and the right size die, former or bender roller.
Hydraulic, electric, manual and mechanical
The four main types of pipe and tube benders are hydraulic, electric, manual and mechanical.
Extremely sturdy and high powered, a hydraulic bender can create precise angles in larger pipes (as large as 4 inches in diameter) with thicker walls. Electric pipe benders feature an electric gear drive and are often programmable, making them ideal for producing many iterations of the same bends.
A manual or hand bender is cheap, easy to transport and maneuver and can get many bending jobs done, given enough elbow grease. Manual tube or pipe bending is a bit of an art form; it requires some skill, but it lets you fabricate custom shapes. A mechanical bender is somewhere in between a hydraulic bender and a manual bender in terms of what it can bend. A deluxe mechanical pipe bender such as this one has a wheel-mounted chassis and can bend ½-inch to 2-inch pipe or tubing.
Conduit benders are more often hand-held or mechanical, but a powered conduit bender like this one can handle 1¼-inch to 5-inch tubing and is useful for making makes elbows, offsets and saddles.
Rotary-draw benders and more
Different styles of benders will give you different angles or curves. Rotary-draw benders, which bend the metal through a series of die sets with fixed radii, are among the most common. Mandrel benders are inserted into the pipe or tube to support the walls and help avoid a flattened bend. Roll benders have three rotating rollers and are useful for creating circular shapes. Ram benders, as the name implies, use a ram to bend a pipe or tube in between two die.
Not sure what type of tube, pipe or conduit bender you need? Visit a local United Rentals branch for advice.