A tube bender will allow you to make the perfect arc out of your pipe every time. The large surface area allows you to make perfect, smooth bends which will function well and reduce the risk of you damaging the materials you’re working with.
There’s quite a few different varieties of benders out there, each with their own strength and weaknesses, but let’s see some of the best tubing benders before we help you decide what exactly you’re looking for. (Also, we use tube benders and pipe benders interchangeably here, and we tell you why after our recommendations.)
OTC 6515 3-in-1 180 Degree Heavy Duty Tubing Bender
For taking care of non-ferrous metal or light steel pipe a three in one hand bender is absolutely perfect. This is a high-quality, budget priced bender which will allow you to make short work of piping in ¼”, 5/16” and 3/8” up to 180 degrees.
It’s a steal for the price, but if you’re looking to work with heavier steel piping this one isn’t going to serve you all that well. For copper and aluminum, however, you won’t have to worry about kinks ever again. This is one of the best tube benders period.
Advanced Tool Design ATD-54723-in-1 180 Degree Tube Bender
This is another great hand bender, offering pretty much the same functionality as the OTC 3-in-1 at a slightly lower price and a bit of sacrifice to build quality. Again, it’ll make short work of most non-ferrous piping and you’ll be able to adjust the bend wherever you need to. One of these should be in the tool bag of anyone who regularly works with copper or brass piping, and that’s a fact. This is a cheap pipe bender—but cheap in price only, not quality.
General Tools S106 Tubing Bender Set
While not quite as robust in their bending power as most types of benders, spring benders make up for it in sheer convenience. While you’re not going to be bending steel with this one, it’s absolutely fantastic for complex plumbing or HVAC projects where a tube can require multiple bends within a relatively short distance.
This set will cover a wide variety of sizes from ¼” to 5/8”, and it might just be one of the top investments you can make if you find yourself with a complicated project in front of you. Needless to say, we think this is one of the best tube benders you can buy period.
Torin T31202/TA1202 Pipe Bender – 12 Ton
A high-quality hydraulic bender is a great purchase for those who need to bend some serious piping. At a relatively low price for this type of tool, you’ll be able to handle a wide variety of complex, large projects with this hydraulic bender and it’s easily adjustable for a huge variety of different angles. It will cover tubes from ½” to 2”, making it good even for structural bending like home-made roll cages for vehicles. If you’re willing to shell out the dough, this is likely the best pipe bender you could want.
What Kind of Bender?
Depending on what you’re looking to do, each of these tools serves the same use but will end up being used in wildly different projects.
Like we’ve said in the intro, don’t worry about the difference between a tube bender and a pipe bender, because there is none. They’re the same thing at the end of the day, and more often than not they’ll be referred to as “tube benders” by anyone who works with them on a regular basis.
The difference between tubes and pipes is actually minimal. It actually refers to the final use of a round piece of material with a hollow center. Tubing is used for structural purposes, as a general rule, and pipes are used to carry materials. Now, with that out of the way, let’s look at different types of benders:
Hand benders are among the best pipe benders when you want something field expedient. As soon as you pull the handles, you’re pretty much guaranteed to get the bend you’re looking for and they’ll serve you well as long as you can slot the pipe in.
They’re not really suitable for truly large pipes or even thick-walled iron or steel and will have a tendency to either kink them or just not work at all without applying excessive outside force. As long as you have the tubing selected properly, though, you’ll be in good hands.
Some problems with them arise, however, when it comes time to get truly complicated projects done where multiple bends within a short area are needed. This is due to the relatively large amount of room on the tube you’ll require and the fact that you’ll need to set them for the proper angle before you begin.
Spring benders are probably the weakest type and the most limited in their choice of materials,but they more than makeup for it when the time comes for precision and multiple bends within a short area.
The spring will put surface tension over the whole surface of the pipe while allowing you to bend it to exactly the angle you wish. They also require quite a bit more manual force than any other kind of bender, and you’ll find yourself with sore hands if you’re just planning on using them to make 180° arcs all day.
For HVAC and tight plumbing jobs with relatively small and thin materials, however, they’re a great tool and might be the best tubing bender for you. They simply have no peer in this area.
Hydraulic benders are for the big stuff. They’re less useful around the house and job site for most purposes, and they take a lot more time to use, but when it comes to bending heavy steel piping that you’ll never be able to even get to budge by hand there’s simply no substitute.
They’re great for large projects using serious pipes and tubes, and they’ll make an artisan out of almost anyone once you realize just how much you’ve always wanted to shape some 2” steel pipe. They’re commonly used for constructing roll cages and semi-structural pieces of steel.
Do I Need One Around the House?
Pretty much everyone will benefit from keeping one around the house if they have a DIY attitude. Sooner or later you’ll need to bend something without causing any damage to the outside of the tube, and there’s simply no easier way to do it.
We strongly recommend keeping a hand bender around no matter what you commonly find yourself doing around the house. Sooner or later, you’ll be glad you don’t have to wait for one to arrive so get the best manual tube bender you can afford ahead of time (besides, they’re not all that pricey in the first place).
If you plan on doing any kind of heavy metalworking in your shop, a hydraulic bender like the Torin (see full specs) is absolutely a good investment as well. You might just find yourself looking for excuses to use it after a while!