March 6, 2023

Modifying tooling for custom-made tube profiles

How we make or modify tooling to create new tube shapes and sizes

Timeless make over 250 sizes of oval tube alone.

Most of the sizes across our range of unique profiles have been developed in response to requests for a bespoke size to fit the client’s application. When a new size is required, we achieve this by either modifying our existing tooling or creating new tooling altogether.

Refining the shape of the oval tube

Occasionally a client needs the vertex of the ellipsis (the end points on the major axis) to be more pointed than the more rounded vertex that our rollers form. This was the case with one client, who needed a more pointed ellipsis to fit existing cast parts for their 47x25x1.5mm stainless steel push bar door handle. In this instance we made new hardened steel rollers to form this more pronounced, slightly pointed vertex.

An exit push bar handle featuring Timeless Tube's 47x25x1.5mm stainless steel oval tubing
An exit push bar handle featuring Timeless Tube's 47x25x1.5mm stainless steel oval tubing, but with modified vertex to fit existing cast parts

D-shaped press tool - an alternative means of cold-forming

In the case of our smallest D-shaped tube, developed specifically for Osprey Measurements’ IPX sensor, our usual ‘drawing’ method created a surprising effect – the super-slender profile bowed when we tried to form it in long lengths.

We abandoned the drawing method altogether, and instead counteracted this unwanted springiness by creating a tool that applies a compressive force onto smaller cut sections of tube. This alternative pressing method transforms round tube into Osprey’s slimline 20x12.5x1.6mm D-shaped profile.


MD Tom McMillan inspects a newly formed 20x12.5x1.5mm D-shaped tube
A compressive force is applied during the forming process of the 20x12.5x1.5mm D-shaped tube

Teardrop tooling to make new shapes

Occasionally a client requests a completely new shape, which will always require new tooling. When investing in new tooling, we often use either aluminium or nylon tooling in forming trials before committing to using the more expensive D2 hardened steel tooling needed for production. This allows us to make any required modifications during these earlier stages of development.

Custom-made handrail formed in a unique teardrop design
Custom-made handrail formed in a unique teardrop design

A renowned railings specialist came to Timeless Tube for a bespoke teardrop-shaped railing for their client. The railing was custom-designed for the Thames embankment of a high-end residential development in London’s prestigious Chelsea Waterfront.

Initially aluminium tools were made to prove that the wing-shaped asymmetrical profile was achievable.

Once we were all happy with the teardrop shape, we made the final forming tools from D2 hardened steel. This harder, more substantial tooling allowed us to put greater pressure on the tube during production, creating smoother, flatter sides. We also experimented with various wall thicknesses to see which formed best.

Working with copper to form ‘the hex’

Timeless Tube were tasked with recreating an ornate copper tube design for an iconic shop front in central London. The tube needed to be an exact match of the existing window trim. Making what Timeless refers to as ‘the hex’ was a challenge; especially because it was made from copper, which is a particularly soft metal.

A piece of twisted copper tube that has sheared during the forming process
An unsuccessful attempt at forming the copper 'hex', which tore away from the chuck that it was attached to

This prolonged development process saw this relatively delicate metal shear and buckle on numerous occasions. We therefore needed to provide internal support for the tube during forming. We trialled wax and resin, eventually finding the support we needed from wood dowel which sat in the centre of the tube during forming.

We finally created a successful match to the original - an intricate design unlike any other profiles that we have formed before.

Twisted copper tubing - with several attempts to form the required shape
Several attempts to make the optimal hexagon tube shape from copper: careful experimentation using various metal forming techniques