Bendable Metal Rods?

loribee2(CA 9)May 24, 2010

Hi, newbie here who is relishing the discovery of this forum! I'm not sure I've come to the right place, but you all seem extremely creative and I'm hoping someone can help.

I got a vision for some yard art the other day, and when I get these ideas in my head, I've got to pursue them even though I haven't a clue as to what I'm doing! ;-)

I want to create a "bouquet" of metal rods that will stand among my flower beds at about 6' high when finished. I want them to come straight out of the ground like a stake, but somewhere around the 4 foot height, I want to bend the tops into spirals and/or corkscrews. Depending on the material used, I could paint them to keep them all-weather if needed.

My first thought had been rebar, until a thorough search of this forum told me you can't bend rebar like that. But that was about the width of the material I was hoping to use. Copper maybe?

Does anyone have an idea on what kind of bendable metal rods I could shape like that, ideally without the need for any blow torches (I mentioned clueless at the top, right?).

My other thought was to use rebar as my base, then attach some heavy gauge wire at the top if I couldn't achieve this effect with one piece. That might have a fun "springy" effect--especially if the tops swayed in the wind. Can you solder onto rebar? Or maybe copper wire would stay in place as long as I twisted it far enough down the rebar "stem"?

I've been searching "bendable metal rods", "bending rebar", "heavy gauge wire" to no avail. Can't come up with anything that looks like this that I could plagerize, and while I know exactly what I want, I've got no clue as to what would be the best material to use.

I would appreciate any ideas or experience you all have with something like this!

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excessfroufrou(7)

I'm thinking copper will be your best bet. I've use heavy copper wire to make tree sculptures for my garden, but not that tall. Also copper tubing might work, you could use wire to wrap the base, but it would not be very springy. Welcome the forum, you've come to the right place for some great inspiration, people here amaze me. Here is a pic of my wire trees that I made for my Wizard of Oz garden, they are about two feet tall.
Frou

    Bookmark   May 24, 2010 at 4:55PM
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concretenprimroses(4B NH)

I wonder if 1/2 inch copper tubing would slip over rebar? Copper is very expensive these days.
Another thought: Electricians use some kind of bendy metal concuit, but I'm not sure it would hold its shape up in the air. Maybe you could check some out at a local store. Don't know if the box stores have it or not. Heres a pic from a random google search so you will know what to look for. Usually has wires inside so maybe you could put something inside that would help it hold its shape. Just a thought. You would have to examine the stuff.

Here is a link that might be useful: Flexible conduit

    Bookmark   May 24, 2010 at 5:27PM
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Betsy Rheaume

I bought some 10 gauge wire from http://www.ofe-intl.com/ but I don't think it comes in lengths longer than 36 inches. And as you can see from my photo, bending it really shortens it.
From Drop Box

Here is a link that might be useful: OFE-INTL

    Bookmark   May 24, 2010 at 5:32PM
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Marlene Kindred

Welcome to the junkyard loribee! You can weld to rebar, but bending it is pretty hard. Maybe you could find some old heavy duty springs and weld them to the top of the rebar. Other than that, the copper is probably your best bet, but it is expensive as the others have said.

Hope we get to see your project! We love pictures!

    Bookmark   May 24, 2010 at 7:08PM
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dcarch7

Yes, you can bend rebars. Not the really thick ones.

Depending on what shapes you want to make, you may have to make some kind of wood form to do it. Youi may also need to use a long pipe to give you leverage to bend the rebar.

Go to youtube and do a search of bending rebar, pipes, conduits.

dcarch

    Bookmark   May 24, 2010 at 7:26PM
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nandina(8b)

Do a search for 'sculpture wire'. Lots of creative ideas will appear. Flexible, very easy to wind lengths around each other or a piece of rebar for strength and then create marvelous forms with the top pieces. Usually available at art stores.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2010 at 7:41PM
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loribee2(CA 9)

Frou, those are absolutely beautiful! I love the faces on the trunks!

Thanks everyone for the great suggestions. I was getting pretty frustrated coming up with zilch on my forum and internet searches. I will try "sculpture wire", and the electrical conduit is a great idea too!

Now you've got me thinking about the rebar/conduit and copper combination. I'm thinking about using something thicker for the "stem", then using copper for the coils at the top. Like this (pardon my horrible drawing, but I'm sure your imagination can pretty it up LOL):

If I used copper refrigerator tubing, do you think I'd be able to coil it tightly enough around the rebar/conduit that it would stay on it's own? Or would I have to solder or weld it? I'm a little less afraid of soldering than welding (I've done neither). I wonder if epoxy holds to metal.....

And thanks for the welcomes, BTW. I've been lurking for a while, getting so excited about garden projects after seeing yours. We've recently bought a house with a large yard that we're slowly converting to flowers and shrubs, and I'm loving all the wonderful ideas for whimsical garden art. I will definitely post pictures if I can put this thing together!

    Bookmark   May 24, 2010 at 8:46PM
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moore4fam_al(zn7AL)

I have an old lightning rod that is made from some sort of very heavy gauge wire (thicker than my thumb and very sturdy) that is composed of many smaller wires all twisted together. I think it must be some sort of heavy industrial electrical wire. The 'top' of the rod has the first 5-6" 'untwisted' and spread out into a very unique 'cork-screw' curled 'head' that is really cool looking..your description sounded similiar to this. Perhaps you could find this thick wire and play w/ untwisting it in varying ways.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2010 at 9:12PM
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loribee2(CA 9)

Ooh, I love that idea. I wish there was a good "wire store" around here. It's hard to tell from the internet sites exactly how big things are (though Passionknit, the photo you included helped a lot to put a perspective on 10 gauge). Maybe I'll have to start with Lowes/HD and go from there.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2010 at 9:23PM
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randallpink

Try some #9 wire, it's sold at farm and building stores for brace wire on fences. You can get like a 100 ft for less than 10 bucks. You might also use aluminum clothesline wire it's about the same size and super easy to bend, but might not hold it's shape as well. The #9 wire is availablein black annealed which is eassier to bend and will rust or galvanized which is not annealed and harder to bend, but won' rust easily except at the cuts.t

    Bookmark   May 24, 2010 at 9:47PM
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the-light-lady(Michigan 4)

Hi there & welcome. Copper refrigerator tubing will get kinks in it & so will any copper tubing when trying to bend or curve it too far. Unless you have some of those expensive tools. And it has gotten very expensive. What ever you use for the top of your creation, it will need to be attached to the main rod or pipe some how or else it will just slide down & end up on the ground. :( If you use a hollow pipe (copper or conduit) you could hook a few inches of your copper wire down inside the top of the pipe & then pull it straight down a few inches & then start curling it up & around the pipe to secure it.Then wind it around how you want it to look. I hope you understand what I mean. I have a hard time explaining what I picture in my mind. The hardware stores that you mentioned should have what ever you need.
Do you have a name for what you are wanting to make?
Good luck & have fun!! And don't forget to share your pictures!!!

    Bookmark   May 24, 2010 at 11:39PM
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dcarch7

"--Copper refrigerator tubing will get kinks in it & so will any copper tubing when trying to bend or curve it too far. Unless you have some of those expensive tools. And it has gotten very expensive. -----"

Not really. Try these:

http://cgi.ebay.com/6-PC-EXTERNAL-SPRING-PIPE-TUBING-TUBE-BENDING-TOOL-SET-/280388379487?cmd=ViewItem&pt=BI_Pipe_Benders&hash=item414873235f

http://cgi.ebay.com/Flaring-tool-Tubing-cutter-and-bending-tubes-/280511020826?cmd=ViewItem&pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0amp;hash=item414fc27f1a

dcarch

    Bookmark   May 25, 2010 at 8:43AM
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loribee2(CA 9)

Thanks for the tips! I very much appreciate it!

Do you have a name for what you are wanting to make?

LOL, I never considered it. They will probably go onto the long list of things in my house I refer to as "thingys".

    Bookmark   May 25, 2010 at 9:15AM
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spedigrees z4VT

Try threaded rods. Most hardwar*e stores have them in a variety of diameters and lengths. They also sell non-threaded rod the same way.

These steel rods do not bend easily by hand, but can be bent without much trouble using a vice and pair of sturdy pliers or vice-grips. I've used smaller diameter threaded and non-threaded rods for gard*en stakes, bending the tops into swirly shapes to hold ornaments of various types.

Rebar, ie reinforcement bar, is used to reinforce concre*te, so by definition I believe it is very rigid and not easy to bend.

Good luck with the project and let us know how it turns out.

    Bookmark   May 25, 2010 at 12:47PM
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lindasewandsew(So Cal 9)

I don't know how close you are, but I take any welding jobs over to Rush St. in El Monte (CA). There are a lot of small welding places there and the prices are always good. The link below has photos of a scrap metal yard, also in El Monte, where you might find the parts. They have some tools there to work with metal and may be able to bend it for you. Linda

Here is a link that might be useful: Scrap metal yard

    Bookmark   May 25, 2010 at 2:52PM
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loribee2(CA 9)

Oh man, I am thoroughly jealous of that scrap yard. No, I'm up in the Bay Area, but those pictures leave me aching to go on a road trip! LOL But thanks for the idea. I'll look around and see if there's something here in my area. I hadn't even thought about scrap yards.

And Spedigrees, thanks for the tip about threaded rods. That's another great idea!

    Bookmark   May 25, 2010 at 10:44PM
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dcarch7

You can bend thick steel rods to very sharp curves fairly easily if you heat up the rod to red hot with a blow torch first.

dcarch

    Bookmark   May 25, 2010 at 11:04PM
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TwoMonths(So Calif)

do not forget the green spiral tomato stakes....they might be good to use for the bottom and then add to the top of that.

    Bookmark   May 26, 2010 at 12:02AM
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nonacook(8bFL)

Loribee, I love your idea!
I have a set of the bending tubes and a pipe cutter.
I Just bought a grinder to cut rebar with.
I remember one post a loooong time ago where someone (2 people bending) used a telephone or electrical pole to bend rebar on.

    Bookmark   May 26, 2010 at 12:57PM
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