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How to Bend Aluminium Angle

Published by Lucy Thurston on

Aluminium is an incredibly versatile metal, and for this reason, it’s commonly used across all manner of industries and applications. If you’re needing to do some metalwork, there’s a high chance that at some stage or another, you’ll come across aluminium that needs to be bent into shape to suit a certain curve. 

You will most likely need to bend an aluminium angle, but due to the alloying elements within the metal, it’s not quite as straightforward as simple forcing the metal to bend. If you do this, the metal will become stressed and snap. 

With this in mind, there is much debate around how to bend aluminium angle sections. To help you avoid damaging your metal, we’ve put together a guide on bending aluminium angles. 

Using Heat to Bend Aluminium Angles 

Many metals can be bent by heating them up and then bending them into shape. This can be done on large scale projects or at home using a blowtorch and a vice, with many people opting to do the home method with the support of wood. Whilst this works for things like iron, there are a few things to consider before choosing to use heat to bend aluminium. 

Firstly, you need to know the alloying elements in the aluminium. This is because different alloys react differently when they’re heated, with some losing a lot of strength, resulting in a brittle finish. It is possible to regain some strength through heat treatment, but if you’re bending aluminium angles at home or using basic equipment for a small-scale job, it’s likely you don’t have access to the correct tools to do this. 

Another thing to consider when heating aluminium is the fact that it doesn’t glow when it gets hot. This makes it difficult to tell when the aluminium is nearing its melting point. It’s not uncommon for people to find that they burn holes through the aluminium when heating it to bend it. 

To avoid this, you’ll need a temperature tool. It is possible to bend certain grades safely with heat by annealing the metal first, but you need to know the alloys to avoid any fractures or the potential for holes.

Shrinker/Stretcher Tool

The best way to bend aluminium angles is by using a shrinker/stretcher tool. Depending on how often you work with metal, it may be worth buying your own. You can pick them up for a relatively decent price, but if you only need to bend a few pieces or don’t work with metal on a regular basis, metalwork shops will usually bend your metal using their shrinker/stretcher for a small fee. 

The way a shrinker/stretcher works is to – as the name suggests – either shrink or stretch the metal into a bend. The way you want to bend the aluminium angle will dictate whether it needs to be shrunk or stretched.

The machine uses clamping jaws which are compressed when a lever is pulled. You will need to work to find the most effective position for the bend to take shape and move the metal through the jaws as you go. Depending on how big the angle is that you’re working with, you may need an additional pair of hands to help hold the metal and push it through the machine. 

You will find that when you remove the metal from the clamp, the teeth of the jaws will have left some surface imperfections, but overall, the finish is much neater than if you were to try and hammer the aluminium into shape. 

Though this is often the best way to bend aluminium, it isn’t completely free from potential problems. As mentioned earlier, aluminium isn’t the easiest metal to work with when it comes to bending, with the potential for stress fractures to appear as a result of its hardness. 

Using the stretcher can leave the metal vulnerable to tearing on the edge that has been stretched. This risk is increased if you intend to weld the metal later, but it’s still a smaller risk compared to if you were to heat or hammer the metal yourself. This is because shrinker/stretcher machines leave the metal with a relatively even thickness after it has been worked. It’s far more precise than other bending methods, creating smoother results with less margin for error. 

What’s the Best Way to Bend Aluminium Angles?

There is much debate surrounding the best method to bend aluminium, and ultimately, there is no clear right or wrong answer – it wholly depends on the thickness of the aluminium you’re working with, the tools available to you, and the angle you need to bend at. If you’re confident in the alloying elements your aluminium is comprised off, heating is entirely possible and plausible, but in the same breath, using a shrinker/stretcher tool is also a viable option – especially if you don’t know the alloys.

Buy Aluminium Angles 

If you need to buy aluminium angles, Rapid Metals can help. We stock a wide range of angles cut to size and we deliver nationwide. To find out more, please contact us

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