How can I roll 1/8" steel, without spending thousands on a machine?

I need to roll 1/8" steel into cylindrical bands ranging from 3" to 18" wide, and 6" to 24" diameter. I've done it many times by manually bending it around a piece of pipe, but I am looking to get away from that approach. I've also had it done by big metal shops, but that is a pretty rigid process that requires a lot of planning and doesn't allow me to design on the fly and experiment.

Would a 50"/16G slip roll be capable of rolling smaller pieces of 1/8", if I did it at the end of the rollers?

Ries's picture

I have a variety of machines

I have a variety of machines that do this in my shop.
My favorite, and the most flexible, is the Hossfeld bender.
I have the angle iron leg out dieset, and a pretty complete range of dies for it- I have them from 3" to 36" radius, so the circles it makes are twice that.
Its easy enough to make circles smaller and bigger with it as well. I have done curves up to ten and twenty feet in radius, and circles as small as 1", using other dies.
A hossfeld is repeatable and accurate, much less work than bending around pipe. Its all about controlled leverage.
I bend circles frequently in in material up to 4" wide, the hossfeld maximum width, but I do a lot of solid round and square, which is one area where it shines.

I also have two sets of slip rolls- one, smaller, 22x 36" gage manual tennsmith
which definitely would NOT roll 1/8" steel, and then I have a bigger set of 12 gage x 48" power rolls.
This is what you need to roll 1/8". It will do it just fine.
But it cost more.
Mine are Turkish, and were around 5 grand, almost ten years ago-
Amazingly enough, they still sell, new, for around that amount.

The problem with trying to roll 1/8" on a set of rolls designed for 16 gage is that the force required goes up with the square of the increase in thickness- 1/8" is 2 times as thick as 16 gage, which means you need 4 times the machine to do the job, in terms of weight, mass, and ability to transmit force.
It is possible that if you found a really beefy set of older, american made rolls, they might work- but I have found that quality hand cranked, as opposed to power, 16 gage rolls, are pretty rare- in the old days, they made almost all 16 gage rolls power.
Tennsmith and Roper Whitney both still make a hand cranked 16 gage, which is geared down, but my guess is that they cost as much, new, as the powered Turkish 12 gage rolls. I think the list price on a 3 foot roper whitney is around $4700.

Cheaper "16 gage" rolls, like the chinese ones, are usually underbuilt and overpromised- they are barely capable of rolling full width of 16 gage, much less double that thickness. Often they will have cast iron gears, which are a failure point when using them on too thick of material.
They are usually too light, and too flimsy in many areas.
A decent 16 gage x 48" hand roll should weigh at least 1000 lbs.

Really, I would be looking for a used power roll that was at least 14 gage or 12 gage.
Check or

jackevorkian's picture

Ries - Is it the BSR-3-90

Ries - Is it the BSR-3-90 that you have? Their BSR-3-100 is the one actually rated for 10G, but you're comfortable rolling 1/8"on their 12G rated machine?

Ries's picture

I think mine is basically

I think mine is basically the BSR-4-100, with 3.93" diameter rolls.
Its older, the model number is slightly different, but its 2hp, 48" wide, and the roll size is right.
I dont roll 4 feet of 1/8" in it, but I have rolled 2 foot wide pieces of 1/8" stainless in it, with no damage to the machine.
I have had it for at least ten years now- think I bought it in 1999. It has rolled a lot of stuff, routinely rolls mild steel the sizes you describe, 12", or 18" wide, in 1/8".
I use it a lot to roll 3/8" round stainless bar, works great for that, too.
Its a tough machine, not built to the quality level of something like a Webb, which costs triple the price, but it has been trouble free and reliable for me.

Rich Waugh's picture

A 16 gauge slip roll will do

A 16 gauge slip roll will do 1/8" mild steel up to about 4" wide if you do it hot. Not just hot like your coffee, either - I mean glowing orange hot.

Now, you need to know going into this that rolling that steel hot is going to wear out the rolls pretty quickly , too. You'll have scale, plus some possible softening of the surface of the rolls if you do several pieces in a row. Cooling the rolls between pieces saves the rolls, but also cools the work so you can't do as much in one pass. Juggling the hot steel and opening and closing the roll ends is going to get interesting, but it can be done.

I'd strongly recommend that yo get a set of rolls that are designed to roll 10 gauge stock at 24". That's going to be a powered roll, probably, but it could be manual. It will probably feature rolls that are about 4" diameter and it won't be cheap. But if you're going to do much of this, the initial investment will come back several times in time saved and safety.

One thing you might consider seriously is building your own rolls. You can use cold-rolled round bar for the rolls and the gears are available as stock items from Boston Gear, MSC Industrial or McMaster-Carr. As is the Acme thread rod and nuts for the adjusters. Some 1" plate for the frame and you're all set. Two or three hard days work could save you a few thousand bucks, I'd think.


Rich Waugh's picture

I see Ries was posting while

I see Ries was posting while I was typing. Pay close attention to anything Ries says - he's been there and done that.


jackevorkian's picture

Thanks for the suggestions.

Thanks for the suggestions. At least now I have some direction...and the dream of spending less than $1000 clearly isn't possible.

Do you think this one could handle 1/8" steel?

Rich Waugh's picture

I looked at that one and it

I looked at that one and it says it has 3" diameter rolls - that generally means it's a 16 gauge machine. Not really quite stout enough for what you want to do and over priced, too.Look for ones with 4" diameter rolls - that should put you in the 10 to 12 gauge bracket, I'd think.

If you can find a manual roll with 3-1/2 to 4" rolls, then three grand *might* be okay, but keep in mind you could buy a new Cole-Tuve BSR-3-90 3' by 12 gauge powered rolls for $4600 right now.  (

I wouldn't personally pay over two grand for used manual rolls, but I'm cheap. Generally speaking, I've found Ebay to be not the best place to find used machinery at good prices.  Surplus Record is better and if you live in or near an industrial area of the country check Craig's List.


jackevorkian's picture

What's the difference

What's the difference between initial pinch, double and pyramid? I see all types available, and I vaguely recall reading somewhere that it had an effect on how flat the beginning and end of the roll was.

visitor's picture

Rolling Sheet Metal

Hello Jackevorkian,
When I was in the market for a roller, five or so years ago. I search the web and found a company called Wholesale Tools in Tampa, Flordia (They also have outlets in other places like Charlotte, NC). My roller has 3- 3" x 50" rolls and a hand crank, and it works well. It cost $600.00 brand new and it weights 600 lbs. It probably cost a bit more today.

onerichartist's picture

cool home made bender for light metal

Came across this interesting home made bender on you tube. I think it could be improved upon to do heavier stuff.

Rich Brown

"The object isn't to make art, it is to be in that wonderful state which makes
art inevitable." -Robert Henri

"Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes.

Rich Waugh's picture

Gonna be tough to scale up

Gonna be tough to scale up the human that powers it though, Rich. Maybe a huge dose of anabolic steroids? (grin)

It takes a lot of force to roll 1/8" stock - powered slip rolls designed to do production rolling of 12 gauge, which is a bit under 1/8", generally use 2hp motors.

His simple system for forming that sheet is well worth noting, since it can be applied to thinner sheet very easily and produce very satisfactory results.

Thanks for posting it.


jackevorkian's picture

Thanks for posting that. I

Thanks for posting that. I like that bending technique for thinner material...maybe up to 1/16"?

How do you suppose he cut the two caps for the offset wheel? Band saw or plasma?

jackevorkian's picture

I'm looking at a Durma plate

I'm looking at a Durma plate roller. Does anybody have experience with this company?

Ries's picture

Durma is the largest

Durma is the largest manufacturer of sheet and plate machinery on the planet. They specialize in shears, press brakes, and ironworkers.

They are Turkish, with a 2000 plus year old tradition of fine metalworking, particularly sheet- the Turks still make the finest cymbals in the world.

Durma is a state of the art, high tech, CNC factory, making good machines.

They strike a balance between high quality and value- certainly, there are better rolls out there, but at double or triple the price- Roundo, the swedish company I mentioned before, is a good example of that- but Durma has a good reputation, worldwide, and is a good value for the money.