Posted on April 1st, 2008 in Driving Emotion,tools by Julian Edgar

I loved buying tools and relish for years afterwards their effectiveness. I am not talking tools like spanners and screwdrivers, but things that are much less common.

One example is my tube bender. Small benders for tube and pipe come in two complexions: those that use a hydraulic jack and inside formers, and those that use hand power and inside and outside dies. The hydraulic benders are designed to be used with thick-walled pipe and the latter, hand-operated, designs are for smaller diameter, thin-wall tube.

Primarily to help build my recumbent pedal trike, about 9 months ago I bought one of the hand machines. It has dies for 3/8 – 7/8 inch round tube and ¾ – 1 inch square tube.

And, for a cheap machine, it works very well. When bending high tensile 7/8 inch chrome-moly tube (something it’s not meant to do!), I place an extension on its handle to apply greater leverage. However, for smaller tube sizes, the standard handle is sufficient.

In building the recumbent trike the tube bender has proved invaluable, but I also think it’s a worthy tool for general purpose use. There are plenty of times when you want to nicely bend small diameter tube – whether that’s making a bracket, organising plumbing or even putting up shelves.

Cost for the bender was AUD$169 from a machinery tool supplier and at that price, I think it’s a bargain.

But I am not so sure about my sand blaster. It’s a small cabinet design and uses an external compressor. Since I already had a decent size compressor (bought cheaply secondhand), and I needed to do some blasting, I went looking for a blasting cabinet. And at a knock-down price of a hundred bucks, I bought the store demonstrator. It was missing a feed tube and a transformer for the light but at that price it was a bargain. So I thought.

I added two buckets of ilmenite blasting media and away I went.

And is it good? Well, kind of.

The first thing to realise is that the size of the cabinet must be much bigger than the largest object you can easily fit inside and sandblast. That’s because you need to room to manipulate the gloves and gun and the object inside the cabinet. So with this small cabinet, I am limited to objects less than about 300mm long.

Secondly, despite the sealed cabinet (but it can’t be sealed because the air has to escape), plenty of dust still gets out – it’s a dirty job.

Finally, compared with commercial sandblasting (beadblasting, almond shell blasting, etc), the results aren’t nearly as good. Whether that’s because of a lower pressure, or less abrasive medium, or some other factor, the stripping and cutting ability is clearly less than is achieved by a commercial company specialising in blasting.

However, for small objects that need a light blasting, it works very well. Perhaps the best example I can give is of my 3 year old son’s Matchbox toys. An old and scratched prime mover comes up like new (except in a grey/silver colour!) when it’s been blasted…

2 Responses to 'Tools…'

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  1. Howard said,

    on April 2nd, 2008 at 10:40 am

    Couldn’t agree more!
    My favourite tool is my Henrob 2000 Oxy/Accetylene welder. About a thousand times better than a standard oxy torch, I’ve welded all sorts of things from custom made exhausts and intercooler plumbing, a custom turbo manifold, oil and coolant tubes, aluminium airconditioner tube, hollow copper bus bars and stainless steel hydraulic pipe. Great for adjusting an angle on a spanner or loosening a stuck nut/bolt.
    I love it and it’s paid for itself many times over.

  2. Julian Edgar said,

    on April 2nd, 2008 at 10:54 am

    That’s interesting Howard. So those welding handpieces really are as good as they’re cracked up to be?

  3. Howard said,

    on April 2nd, 2008 at 1:28 pm

    In short, yes. Like all things, practice makes perfect. I’d liken it more to using a TIG welder, than anything else. One of the best aspects of the Henrob is the soft, ductile weld. It doesn’t make the parent metal brittle either side of the weld material like a MIG tends to.
    There are some good online video’s out there.