I own an inexpensive MIG welder that I use to make the occasional small metal project or repair. Until recently, I’ve been using bar, or angle stock for my projects, and my work usually ends up with a fairly crude and heavy look.
Recently, I needed to make a set of motorcycle pannier racks, and wanted them be lightweight with a more professional appearance, so I decided to make them out of 1/2″ steel tubing.
To bend steel tubing without kinking it, you’ll need to use a tubing bender. These benders are basically a pair of matching dies with long handles attached to them, which allow you to gain leverage. Each die has index marks on it, which allow you to make very accurate bends, to specific angles.
You can buy hand bender sets that have interchangeable dies to allow you to bend different sizes of tubing, but the inexpensive ones only do a single tube diameter and bend radius. I found a 1/2″ bender on eBay for $36. The one that I bought was marketed as an “Imperial Eastman” brand, but there are many to choose from.
My pannier racks turned out great. But beware, I found it difficult to bend steel tubing with a wall thickness over .035″. Steel tubing this thin is challenging for me to weld withought blowing through, but I managed.
See photos of finished project.