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How to Work Alone: Using Leverage



As the video begins, Kevin is holding a big pipe. He explains that sometimes you do things, especially in his work as a sculptor, where you're working with metal, trying to push metal around, trying to bend metal, trying to do things metal really doesn't want to do, so you have to persuade it.

Kevin wants to bend a railroad spike in his stock bender, which is also known as a Chinese pipe bender, or Chinese stock bender. He puts the spike into the bender, but he just doesn't have "enough lead in his pocket," or enough weight, to bend it.

That's where the Persuader comes in.

The Chinese stock bender does have an extension in the handle to give more leverage to bend something heavier, but the metal in the extension is so thin and the handle is such a tiny diameter that there isn't enough strength to do the work Kevin needs it to do.

That's why he uses a long section of 3/8" wall, 2" diameter pipe. It has a heavy, heavy wall and does not bend. But it does give him enough leverage to bend something like a railroad spike, which is a heavy piece of steel that is either high carbon or high tensile strength. It doesn't want to bend easily.

Kevin then shows how the bender does the job just fine. It'll put a bend in a spike pretty much wherever you want, except at the edge, where it doesn't fit into the bender's mechanism correctly. But when Kevin is, say, making one of his ocotillos, the bender allows him to bend a bunch of spikes individually, then assemble them.

He also uses the Persuader metal pipe on his plate shear, too, because the handle is too short to get much leverage to do the kind of work he needs, and he knows the machine can do it. Using the heavier pipe extension makes cuts easier and is easier for him - he's not struggling. When the Voice wants to cut a piece on the plate shear it's funny to watch because she has to lift her feet off the floor to cut.

There is, of course, the flip side to using something for extra leverage. How do you know when it's too much? How do you know when you're about to break the machine? How do you know when the handle is about to snap off? There's always that fine line between "I'm getting work done," and "I'm going to the hospital."

DON'T OVERSTRESS THE MACHINE. Kevin keeps the bolts tight on the pipe bender, because when he's bending railroad spikes, he can see the square tubing of the bender itself bending. There's a lot of force, and you don't want to get hurt.

Kevin is ready to bend some more spikes, but you might want to stick around for another moment to see something that understandably didn't make it into the video ....

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