How to use ring bending pliers.
Have you ever had trouble bending wire or flat metal stock into a circle?
One of the first things I show people in my classes is how to use the ring bending pliers. It may seem simple but I have seen a few metalsmithing train wrecks.
Often during the metal bending process the middle part of the wire or stock will be bent fairly well but the ends are still straight. The ends are the hardest part to bend due to the lack of leverage.
Let’s first discuss three methods of bending wire.
One, you can just bend it with your fingers. This is fine for thinner pieces of wire but not so great for larger or thicker pieces.
Two, you could use your ring mandrel and bend the stock around it with your fingers or with a hammer. You will usually have to brace the mandrel in a vise to keep it steady as you form the metal around the curve. This can take a little set up which equals time and time is money.
Three, You could do what I do. I use the ring bending pliers. These pliers are oversized compared to the small half round pliers. (See the photos below) These pliers allow me to bend large and small wire and stock into almost perfect circles. It saves me time and gives me wonderful results without having to hammer on the metal and potentially marring the metal stock.
There is a trick to making this work. It is all in where you start bending.
So what is the trick?
Lets say you have a flat piece of stock and you want to make a ring. You have already figured out how long the piece should measure and now you have to bend it.
Start at one end, it doesn’t matter which you choose. Insert just the very end of the stock so that it can be gripped by the pliers. The less metal you have to use in the pliers the better. The idea is to just pinch the end enough to hold it. If it slips out the first time you are probably doing it right.
Now that you have it clamped into the pliers and you are holding it in your right hand hold the pliers in front of you.
Take your left hand and put it on the other end of the metal. (This is the end that is not in the pliers)
Push the metal away from your body. This will bend the very end into a curve. Do this to both sides of your metal. Bend it just a little bit and try to imagine what the curve of your circle will look like when it’s finished.
What do I mean?
You don’t want to over bend the ends and make the curve smaller than what you need. Try to picture the end of a candy cane. The candy cane shape may be too much of a bend.
You should be shooting for a shape that looks like the horns on a cow. Think about a long horned Texas steer.
So, to recap. You are going for a cow horn shape, not necessarily a candy cane.
Once you have your cow horns made it’s time to work the center. Start at one side of the curve and work towards the other side.
This should be done very slowly using small light squeezes of the pliers. You are shooting for consistency. Don’t be heavy handed with the pliers or you will have a very erratic looking circle.
Use the creepy handshake!
I always tell people to use the creepy handshake. What is that you may ask?
Have you ever had someone shake your hand in a very weak and limp way?
Well, if you have you know what I’m talking about.
That handshake isn’t good for anything other than forming metal with ring bending pliers.
Keep working the metal until the two ends come together.
Once they do it will be time to clean up the ends so the two ends meet flush. Flush means no gaps. You can then solder the seam.