Homemade Tubing Roller

With this homemade tubing roller you can beat the cost of custom shaped conduit. Originally published as "Mother's Homemade Tubing Roller" in the September/October 1980 issue of MOTHER EARTH NEWS.

  • 065 tubing roller - diagram
    Diagram shows the material and assembly relationships for the tubing roller. 
  • 065 tubing roller - main
    The completed homemade tubing roller looks like this.
  • 065 tubing roller - photo
    Man using the device to bend a length of tubing.

  • 065 tubing roller - diagram
  • 065 tubing roller - main
  • 065 tubing roller - photo

If you've looked into building a backyard greenhouse, you know that one of the tools required to build the little "sun shed" is a tubing roller. Now such a device—if purchased—could cost you several hundreds of dollars, because it's normally a motor-driven "professionals only" machine.

A roller is used to shape lengths of standard conduit or electrical metallic tubing (EMT) into arcs (rather than merely to form a corner, as is the case with the far more common tube bender) for use in framing, toolmaking, and other kinds of fabrication. On several occasions MOTHER EARTH NEWS' shop crew has felt a sore need for one of the handy implements ... so finally they just up and built their own "North Carolina copy," which fills the bill perfectly!

Here's How It Works

Most store-bought tube-shapers run on electricity. Our version, though, uses a hand crank that not only feeds the conduit through swiftly and easily, but costs nothing to operate. The tool works like this: The bender itself is simply a pair of crosses—each made of two 18-inch long 2 X 4's—that "sandwich" a set of three grooved pulleys and a pair of support blocks. Two of the wheels (those that are in line along the same crosspiece) serve as idlers ... and the third pulley (positioned at one end of the other crosspiece) is the driver.

When the straight conduit is placed between the driver and the left idler, and the crank is turned, the tubing moves along until it contacts the right idler, which forces the pipe to bend slightly and to continue to bend till the entire section is arced. (This happens, of course, because the driver is positioned close enough to the idlers to force the conduit to bow.)

And It's Easy to Build!

The only tools you'll need in order to make this inexpensive device are a drill with an assortment of bits, a couple of wrenches, and a table saw with adjustable fence and blade height. Start by locating a good piece of 3/4" seasoned oak that's at least 5" wide and 30" in length. (While you're at it, find—or plan to cut from the first board, if it's large enough—another section measuring 3/4-inch  X 1 1/2-inch X 12 inches ... which will become the arm of the turning handle.)

Next, cut the plank in half and glue the two sections together so that—when it dries—you'll have a single piece of wood about 1 1/2 inches thick ... from which you'll cut three 5" X 5" pulley blanks. To do so, set your saw fence 5 inches from the blade and—beginning with a shallow cut and working progressively deeper—pass each blank through the saw, rotating the wood slightly at every pass, until the disks are perfectly round.

2/9/2011 10:32:21 PM

It would be nice, even better, if a dim. drawing was added

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