Note: if you are interested in the construction of this gantry, please let me know. I can send you the parts at cost price (around €300, which can of course vary). You can also consult the making instructions available in PDF (3.7 MB). There will however be small differences with the description which follows, which concerns the prototype since then improved.
These tools should not be seen as essential. Many experts do without a bending tool and use, for example, angle brackets caught in a vice. However, this tool is not overpriced and is fairly practical to use.
The chisel is used to cut the part tabs on the photo-etched plate. It’s only useful for fragile parts that could be deformed by the Xuron scissors. The hammer is used to hit the chisel… or the fingers. The blades are used to lift the parts placed in the bending tool. The file is used to level off the already cut tab rests.
The main difficulty for very long pieces is to bend them evenly. The blade (8) delivered with the bending tool is far too short. So I used a big cutter blade (9), on the back of which I stuck an electrician’s tape not to ensure safety, because the edge is not protected, but only to warn me if I hold the blade on the wrong side. A distraction could be very damaging.
However, for pieces larger than 10 cm, this is still insufficient. I tried like on this photo a large spatula. It works, but the edge should be sharpened and, above all, the blade as well as the handle of this bulky tool should be shortened.
I found some of this advice on model building websites. Others come from my own experience.
First question: how should the workpiece be positioned under the bending tool ruler? Answer: the fold half engraving must be completely and just visible along the ruler. Reminder: the fold engraving must, except in rare and specified exceptions, be inside the fold.
Second question: if a part has a wide wing and a narrow wing, which should be put under the bending tool ruler? Answer: the narrow one. Indeed, we will raise the wide wing, so with more leverage. It will be easier and there will be less risk of deforming the part. Below, the part is already out of the bending tool.
Exception: if the wide wing has a weakness, such as a cutout, then the opposite must be done. In the example below, the wide wing will be pinched in the tool, to secure the area weakened by the cut.
Little reminder: a leg set — it may have a specific technical name, but I don’t know it — consists of two legs, one end girder which holds the bridge girders, and a spacer beam which connects the legs at their bottom. We’ll build in this order, then we’ll assemble these different parts.
This construction is one of this project’s most delicate, because we must hold together four independent walls, of non-rectangular shape, and to solder them while having very little access to the inside.
So, we’ll start by assembling two contiguous walls, positioning them using the spacers. Here is the adopted provision. A heavy ruler is clamped on the workbench. Note that an epoxy plate (waste circuit board) has been inserted for thermal insulation. One of the parts is held vertically on the ruler with two clamps; the second is pressed horizontally with a spring clip.
Two small solder spots are made. We can then check the perpendicularity before going on.
Then let’s put the inside spacers whose purpose is to ensure the correct geometry of the leg. Here it’s the middle one — there are three. It is held in its positioning grooves by two pairs of tweezers.
Soldering is made in the corner. Here, is the top spacer.
After a final perpendicularity check, we make a solder fillet along the corner. Here is the external appearance obtained. The slight protrusion of a sheet is on purpose, because it conforms to reality. The tin has overflowed a bit, it is unavoidable, a cleaning job must always be done after soldering.
Installation of the third side. This time, metal spring clips will provide holding. Same process: making light solder points…
… Check the position, then complete soldering.
For the outside wall which will close the box beam, things are different. Tinning of the edges, addition of a good solder pack on the fourth wall, trying not to put too much on the edges …
…… Positioning of the parts. Presence of a plumbing flame arrester because…
… soldering is carried out with a torch; if all goes well, the solder will flow inside the parts. It shows when the tin starts forming in droplets in the corners. It would be difficult to achieve this result with a soldering iron.
Leg finished, cleaned.
It’s a little easier than for the legs, because here there is only one main U-shaped part, which of course must first be formed.
I have provided pins for positioning the beams on the end girders, in the form of sections of ø 2 brass tube soldered in the appropriate holes. Soldering is done on a template in which the pieces of tube are inserted, so as to keep them vertical.
Soldering of the pins and of M2 nuts which will be used to fix the girders on the end girders. Here, these are steel nuts (not stainless steel which could not be soldered), but brass nuts would be preferable.
Result. The etched arrow indicates the orientation of the part, which is not obvious, but which must be observed. Note the presence of mortises which will receive the upper footwalk supports.
Let’s move on to the end girder closing parts, which must be bent. For this I use drills of suitable diameter, by pressing on a cork support, flexible but resilient.
Result of bending.
For soldering, the same problem arises as for legs, namely that access to the inside is limited, and that parts of particular shape must be held together. I tried the technique of tying up with galvanized iron wire, which I checked that it can’t be soldered. Its advantage is that it allows the parts to be held over their entire length. The downside is that it is not elastic like spring clips, and it expands under the effect of heat, thus tightening the parts less effectively. The ideal would be a non-solderable, elastic, supporting about 400 °C wire. Does that exist ?
Aluminium spacers, therefore also non-solderable, are placed inside the end girder to keep the closing part in good position.
Here is the uninviting appearance after soldering with the torch.
But a simple pass of solder sucking wick improves things well.
It is impossible to tie up end parts, so the soldering will be manual, with iron. As before, I introduce a good amount of lead solder through the openings, while keeping the part stuck with a piece of cork.
Soldered end part.
Here are the two finished end girders.
These parts are a little easier to assemble. Only the bending of the ends is a bit tricky.
I start by soldering the web on the lower flange, with an assembly based on spring clips. Notice the part positioning precision thanks to the etched grooves and their reflection.
Soldering of the ribs.
Bending of the upper flange, using drill bits and round nose pliers for adjustment.
Several trials are necessary.
Blank assembly showing a small gap.
Soldering end caps
Soldering of the upper flange by pressing the assembly with a cork plate.
The leg sets must be geometrically correct. An assembly template is therefore essential. Here it is with an installed leg set, awaiting soldering. The small parts visible at the bottom right, the spacer beam connectors, are also fitted at this time.
The 2.0 mm and 1.2 mm dia. rods perfectly position the parts in relation to each other.
Then, soldering of the legs on the end girder. The picture was taken after cleaning.
Arrived here, we can say that the hardest part is — almost — done!!