Wrenchin’ Wednesday: Craft your own bead crimping pliers

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Phillip Thomas

Wander deep enough down a project rabbit hole, and you’re likely to wind up requiring custom plumbing of some sort. There’s a New York Subway’s worth of piping and tubing under the hood of just about everything nowadays, and whether you’re replacing bad hard lines or just relocating components during a build, that piping will often involve a connection between tube and hose, usually secured by some sort of screw clamp.

Even with the mightiest of hose clamps, pressure and time can cause the hose to eventually walk off its hard line if there’s a particular feature missing: a simple bead around the circumference of the metal tube. This raised bead acts like a wheel chock, wedging against the hose and clamp, preventing it from sliding past that bead and securing the hose under pressure. There are a number of bead rollers and ready-made pliers for this role, but Wrenchin’ Wednesday is about low-buck, DIY solutions with things that can be find locally, and a quick trip to Harbor Freight for a pair of electrical pliers will be the foundation for this new tool.

Phillip Thomas

These wire crimpers already have a feature that will work perfect as our forming tool, this concave and convex pin used for butt connectors and the like will also shape metal into a bead. First, a cut-off wheel was used to nip them down before taking them to the grinder to finish off the shape.

Phillip Thomas
Phillip Thomas

The idea is to use the crimping tool to form a bead, walking it around the pipe. As you clamp down, the lip of the hard line will tend to pull towards the center, but a gentle tug to straighten that edge while the pliers are still clamped will sort that out.

Phillip Thomas

This works great with thinner tubing; typical exhaust, coolant, and intake piping are easy to manipulate. Thicker wall materials will need a true bead roller to apply enough force, but for quick projects, this will get the job done for less than a cheeseburger.

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