What bending tools do you find most useful?

I’m supplying my small work shop and looking at benders and brakes. Since I don’t have as much room as I’d like (who doesn’t?), I need to limit what I buy. I’m curious as to what tool (bending wise) you find yourself using the most? I was considering a small box & pan break, benchtop under 36" since I’m only doing smaller stuff on a Crossfire.

How thick and material do you want to bend?

A 4 ft 16 gauge box and pan break would be fine for thin stuff so would a MAG brake

Anything thicker you’re going to need a press brake.


I have a 20 ton press brake from Harbor Freight with a SWAG Offroad’s finger brake. I have both the straight fingers and gooseneck ones. I also got the compressor connected 20 ton hydraulic jack so I can just press a button to activate the brake vs having to use the jack handle.

It’s only 24" though so shorter than the 36" you’re thinking of. Larger sizes weren’t needed for my use case and the extra dollars to go bigger “just because” weren’t worth it to me.


James, how do you like this setup? I have used some of the Swag Off-road mods before and find them to be of good quality. This was something I have been considering but haven’t seen any reviews from people that have used it.

I believe @TinWhisperer also has the Swag off-road press break. I ordered mine Thursday. Been wanting one for quite a while. I have a home made bending break also. It’s not great. I would love to have a MAG break some day!


I think most people like them as long as you’re not trying to be real persise on the bend.
Cant go wrong for the price.

Any time I am thinking of something I would like but don’t have a lot of call for, I set up searches on Ebay, Craig’s list etc. Sometimes people are selling almost new stuff for 1/2 price

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It’s perfect for my stuff (aux fuel tanks for motorcycles). I do use a digital angle gauge to get my bends correct and one of the reasons I got the compressor driven jack - I use a foot pedal to actuate the compressor leaving my hands free for holding the material and watching the angle gauge.

I also plan for the bends using Freecad’s sheetmetal capabilities with the k-factor accounted for when I unfold the model so when I get to the table I’m cutting the appropriate oversize and then it’s easy peasy on the brake.


That’s probably what I’ll end up doing @jamesdhatch when you bought your kit from them to you pay the extra $150 for the welding or did you weld it yourself? My welding is just mediocre since I don’t do it that much (yet) so wasn’t sure how critical the welds need to be.

I know you asked James but i ordered mine welded up. Mostly because of time I already have to many projects backed up in the queue. I want to be able to use it when I get it.


Let me know if you think the welding is worth it. I have the time just not sure if I have the skills.

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If I had the time I think it would be a fun project. Lots of YouTube videos out there of guys welding them up. Check them out. If it’s in your wheelhouse you should do it. :+1:t2:


I ordered it welded. They’re not terribly fussy welds and they don’t have to be pretty but it’s a time thing. For me being able to just slide it in and go was worth the money.

For the gooseneck dies (fingers) I bought them raw and then cut them out (they’re tabbed together) and welded up the combos I wanted.

I did need some 1" plate under the press base so I could get maximum vertical capacity. Otherwise I’d have had to raise the HF’s cross member beam that the press sits on up and that only moves up and down in several inch increments. I could have drilled new mounting holes in the vertical side beams to provide finer adjustments but I had some spare scrap so that was faster.


I have a 4’ brake and the SWAG brake. I bought them at separate times the latter was the 4’ brake. Since buying the bigger brake I seldom use the SWAG one. It just isn’t precise enough for me especially if the bend is on the small side. Not bashing it, just offering a differing opinion. I do you use the SWAG more as a bender than a brake.

My 4’ will do 1/8 if I cut relief slots in the bend radius.

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I wish I had the room for a 4’ brake so that will limit my options. I think I’ll wait to see what kinds of things I end up making the most of and determining the tools I need from there.

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I don’t do much bending but I was looking for an abrasive tool at Eastwood company and noticed a reasonably priced brake. Might be worth checking out.

@p40whk Maybe you have already ordered… but I got my Swagg brake today. Looking at it I am glad I got the pre welded one. A couple of things about the pre welded one.

If you have the HF press they include centering tabs but you have to weld them on.

Instead of welding the carriage bolts in that hold the gauge on there are laser cut slots thst accept the carriage bolts which I think is a plus.

Instead of the vertical guide rods being pressed in and welded, they are threaded and the holes tapped so you can take them off and on. Not sure it’s a plus or a minus unless you want to take it apart to store it.

The inner diameter of the ring welded to the top of the break is 1-11/16” I assume this matches the harbor freight press. Mine is not a HF press and it has the ram mounted upside down and the shaft is 2” diameter so I will have to make some type of coupler to receive the larger shaft on my brake. That information may have been available and I didn’t see it. I would have liked to have ordered a larger ring and welded it on instead of having to turn a coupler. I could have ordered a larger ring had I chosen the option to weld it myself. I am a little dispirited I won’t be able to use it right out of the box but… I was made to work with the HF press so I knew there was a chance my ram wouldn’t be comparable.