View Full Version : General Metalworking Bending 1/4" aluminum or stainless rod

Larry Cronin
01-29-2015, 7:45 PM

I am not a metal worker so please excuse my ignorance. I ammaking some pull out pantry shelves. On the side of each shelf I was going touse a section of rod to hold the items on the shelf. As I start to investigate this I am gettingconfused. Should I use aluminum orstainless, and can I bend the sections myself. Again I am not a metal worker so I would be setting up some sort of ajig and bending them by hand.
So my questions are: Do I use aluminum or stainless? Can I do this myself?
I attached a photo from the web of what I am thinking ofdoing and a pdf of a sketchup of the part.
If I am an idiot for trying this tell me that as wellplease.
Thank you very much for your help and suggestions.

Charles Lent
01-29-2015, 11:56 PM
You will be able to bend aluminum by hand, but not stainless. The stainless will require much more force than you can apply by hand. Getting tight 90 deg bends with aluminum can be done with some effort using a soft jaw vise and a large dead blow hammer. The stainless is going to require a press brake or the construction of a jig with a long handle to apply the bending force needed to get tight bends.


Larry Cronin
01-30-2015, 10:50 AM

I think I just may pay someone to make these, or come up with another way to do it?

I think I am heading down a rat hole here and unlike wood, I will not be able to use my mistakes in the fireplace.


'Jacques Malan'
01-30-2015, 1:15 PM
We bend 303 stainless like that in the workshop with a pneumatic bender. Doing it by hand is almost impossible. Straightening mistakes and re-bending are almost guaranteed to break.

Dennis Ford
01-30-2015, 2:39 PM
1/4" stainless should not be too difficult with a jig, a GOOD quality tubing bender would work. 1/4" aluminum would be easier; either will work harden and break if bent at too small a radius.

David G Baker
01-31-2015, 2:03 PM
Paint on cold roll steel will work and is easier to work with than aluminum or stainless as well may be cheaper.

Larry Cronin
01-31-2015, 5:32 PM
Thank you for all the suggestions. I may purchase some 1/4 steel rod and see if I can figure out how to bend it with some consistency and relative ease. I have a stupid question, is cold roll steel the stuff they sell at Home Depot or is that different.


Larry C

Dennis Ford
01-31-2015, 10:15 PM
The stuff at big box stores is NOT cold rolled. It is usually hot rolled; the hardness will vary a lot within each piece making even bends more difficult.

Scott Shepherd
02-01-2015, 10:15 AM
I believe the stuff at box stores is a mixture of cold and hot rolled. I have seen both. The hot rolled will be black and have a scale on it, where the cold rolled will be grayish and have a smooth finish. There seems to be a mixture of the two in the box stores around here. A lot of the flat bar seems to be hot rolled and the round stock seems to be cold rolled, so just check it before buying, as well as know you're paying an insane price for that. I think they must mark up the prices of their metal more than most anything else I've ever seen in their stores.

Whatever you decide, head to a metal supplier, they all offer counter, cash sales, and you won't pay much more for an entire length of material there as you will for 4' at the box store.

Larry Cronin
02-01-2015, 12:19 PM
Per your suggestion I am planning on going to a metal supply place this week.

Thank you to all for the replies. It has been very helpful.

I will let you know how I make out.

Larry C

Keith Outten
02-01-2015, 4:12 PM

Take your bolt cutters with you to the metal supply shop they will charge you to cut the round bar, mine charges one dollar per cut. The bar will probably come in a twenty foot length.
I bend metal frequently in my shop and I have never found quarter inch solid bar to be a problem to bend no matter whether its stainless or mild steel.

Larry Cronin
03-05-2015, 9:31 AM

I just wanted to follow up and let the thread know what I did. I ended up having a local sheet metal shop make them for me. They were $6 a piece using 1/4" stainless rod. I just never got to the point were I felt I could make them myself and have them at all consistent.

Didn't mind the price and I had them in a couple days.

Thanks for all the suggestions and guidance.


Al Launier
03-05-2015, 9:53 AM
Depending on the rod dia. (in your case this should work) applying heat to the bend area using a torch (Mapps, etc.) will help a lot when bending steel rod stock. However, heating changes the material properties as you would basically be annealing the metal in the localized area. You could use a metal plate with dowel pins as a jig to form the bend. Using HD duty gloves, i.e. welder's gloves. After bending clean up/polish the discoloration as desired. This should work for your application.

You could also try this with aluminum, but it is more susceptable to cracking while bending, especially on sharper bends. Annealing it first is needed, but then you've made the the matertial softer & weaker. Re-tempering aluminum would be tricky, whereas steel would still be stronger after anneal/bending.