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PostPosted: Sat Mar 09, 2019 1:54 pm 

Joined: Sun Sep 09, 2018 12:23 pm
Posts: 22
Hi, Can anyone offer advice or pros/cons for purchasing a bending set up please? I am starting a uke, will do guitars in the future. An iron seems more versatile? Blankets I assume are more reliable because you are bending to a form, but then you need a variety of sizes and forms for each different instrument. I also see the Stewma and LMI irons are price quite differently the LMI is quite a bit cheaper, not sure why? Either way with a thermometer, the aluminium sheets, etc. it's a big investment. Any advice would be appreciated!! Thank you.

PostPosted: Sat Mar 09, 2019 8:41 pm 

Joined: Mon Jul 28, 2014 7:50 am
Posts: 678
Location: Chadds Ford, PA
I started in early 1970's with a blow torch and a copper pipe. Cracked the sides on my very first try. After a while, torch bending worked and I remain perfectly comfortable with it today, too. I moved up to an electrical aluminum pipe (LMI ?) 25 years later and that still works just fine. But you need to practice with manual bending. After visiting the Martin factory and then attending John Hall's class, I bought his 'Fox' form and the heating blanket. Man o man that is an easy set up. I still fire up the pipe occasionally, but I will never look back. The form bending process is superior from an ease of mind perspective and it is fast, too. Knowing what I know today, I would kick myself like a dog on a dance floor if i ever thought of giving that up. You can make your own side forms, but John and others sell them for about the same as home-built cost and if you go this route get stainless sheets and good thermocouples, too. After a while you'll never miss the money.

PostPosted: Sun Mar 10, 2019 3:33 pm 

Joined: Sun Mar 09, 2014 8:13 pm
Posts: 2248
I have an iron and a bending machine with blankets. I'm going to sell the iron, because I'm concentrating on guitars. The iron does a nice job, but there is a small learning curve to bending the right shape to fit your mold.

The advantage of a iron is that you can bend wood for any instrument, without buying additional equipment, so your cost is minimal. My iron is shaped so that it will bend small curves and large, so I can bend wood for violins, dulcimers, guitars, or cellos if I desire. However, for the bending machine, you need to buy shoes for different sizes of guitars; I'm not sure that I could bed the sides for a mandolin in the bender that I own.

The advantage of a bender with shoes is that the shoes are extremely accurate, and using it cuts down on the time that it takes to bend sides. As long as you put the sides in straight, your bends will be straight. They fit the molds very nicely.

There is a learning curve for all bending, whether you use an iron or bender. There is a certain amount of pride in bending sides by hand though. Although it's not pictured, I added an extended table around the bender. I learned to bend quickly and I could do both sides in about an hour. I also learned that I didn't need those silicone mitts that you see me wearing. The mitts were hindering me, because I had a hard time feeling the wood. Surprisingly, even when the wood was damp, it wasn't hot on the outside.

If you're interested in a bending iron with a temperature control, send me a private message. I have one that has a very accurate with a built-in control. I was getting ready to list it here on the forum.

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