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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I want to build a front end loader for my garden tractor. Has anyone ever bent 12 gauge sheet metal into a curve for a front bucket? I was thinking about making a 44" wide bucket. Starting with a piece 60" long and bending it around a wooden form, maybe using ratchet straps wrapped around it, to pull the ends toward each other, into a U shape (then trim off the excess). Then weld the sides on. If 44" wide would be too tough to bend, I could instead start with 21" x 60" strips, make 2 and then weld them down the middle. Anyone know if it is possible to do this?
 

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12 gauge is close to 1/8" thick... That is non-trivial to do, manually, for a 44" wide piece of steel. Even 1/2 the width will be very hard to do.

I would suggest:
1. buying an old, beat up bucket and fixing it up. Might even be cheaper than making a new bucket w the current price of steel
2. making the bucket from flat pieces. Sure a curved bucket looks cool, but it doesn't really improve the buckets functionality. It might be slightly more bend resistant vs making it from multiple flat pieces, but not by a lot.
3. paying a machine shop to do the curve. They'll have the machine to do it, and likely the hourly rate you would have to pay yourself to do the same curve manually, would be really low (as in, you will be working a long time really cheaply compared to that cost)
 

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Bite the bullet! Pay a fabricating shop to rough in the bucket. It will save hours of welding over using alternate methods, and you end up with a professional looking bucket.

I and a buddy took a 4'x8' sheet of 1/8" plate to a local fabricating shop and 45 minutes later had the body of the bucket sheared and shaped, the end plates roughed in, and a couple of decent sized pieces left over, all loaded back into the van. It still took a day and a half (18 hours of work) to cut and grind to fit and then weld everything else on the bucket.

I built the tall, narrow bucket on the left using clamps and tack welds to shape it to the end plates, and the big yellow bucket as described above several years earlier. After the physical effort required for bending the 12" bucket, I can say that there is no way that you are going to shape a 44" bucket by hand without doing a lot of engineering for the 'how to do it' first.

Note the angle bend at the top of the bucket and the lifting points added. The lifting point in the middle has lifted a 2000 lb load with no deformation of the bucket.

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The yellow 54" bucket is a scaled up 9 cu-ft copy of the original 40" 4 cu-ft bucket that came with the loader. It was built in 1984 and saw service for 22 years moving thousands of tons of material and hasn't been used since 2006. The interior has been repainted once and the cutting edge has been dressed once since new. The pics were taken about 7 years ago after sitting unused for 9 years.

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For comparison, the black 47" bucket is the original for my SCUT. The yellow bucket goes on my GT which is better able to handle it.
 

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I made the rounded part of a bucket put of a piece of a propane that just happened to be the right diameter
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Thanks, Tudor, I just recently was kicking myself for "cheaping out" on something, so I don't really feel like doing any more self-kicking. But I will hurt a little if I have to spend more than $500. Yeah, it sure would be nice to find a fab shop to curl the metal. I'm going to see if I can find a shop. Just have to work up the courage. I don't want to walk into a place and have them throw me out because its a small job. The places I'm finding on an internet search show pictures of fancy iron gates they make for rich people. I already found an easy to deal with (new) steel supplier.

I just today thought about cutting up a propane tank. But I think I would need 2 120 gallon tanks (30" dia) to get enough width for the bucket after cutting off the top and bottom. I was thinking of stopping at a propane place to ask if they had old uncertifiable tanks, but then I read somewhere that the propane tanks never expire?
 

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I think it would be easier to add the necessary flat sections to an existing curved piece, IF you could get one from some kind of tank. My 60 gal air compressor in my shop looks about right.. maybe watch the local listings for some kind of large defunct air compressor that still has (most of) a 40+ gal tank.

What about.. water heaters?

I have a scrap water heater tank sitting in an old trailer full of scrap metal. Now that I've said this i'm tempted to dig it out and peel away the outer shell and have a look..

Which also brings to mind (things in my pile of scrap metal..) if you did need a strong 'form' for a 15-20" diameter.. steel wheels! Heck, you can even tack the plate to the wheels to keep everything in alignment.

I hope i don't get any more ideas for that scrap pile.. the stuff is just supposed to go away, not get roped into a million project ideas i might follow through on one or two of.. 😅 :unsure:
 

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I want to build a front end loader for my garden tractor. Has anyone ever bent 12 gauge sheet metal into a curve for a front bucket? I was thinking about making a 44" wide bucket. Starting with a piece 60" long and bending it around a wooden form, maybe using ratchet straps wrapped around it, to pull the ends toward each other, into a U shape (then trim off the excess). Then weld the sides on. If 44" wide would be too tough to bend, I could instead start with 21" x 60" strips, make 2 and then weld them down the middle. Anyone know if it is possible to do this?
Have you thought about finding a used Swisher ATV bucket? That's what I built mine out of. It is 44 inches wide. They are rear hinged trip dump but I converted mine to front side hydraulic dump.

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Wow Steve! that was an excellent idea. I checked craigslist and further away using searchtempest, and about half of the surrounding areas show a swisher bucket or plow for sale.
I'm going to keep that in mind in case I fail during this week's search of local fab shops and local scrap yard (going to be disposing of old car parts and scrap metal bits).
 

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Thanks, Tudor, I just recently was kicking myself for "cheaping out" on something, so I don't really feel like doing any more self-kicking. But I will hurt a little if I have to spend more than $500. Yeah, it sure would be nice to find a fab shop to curl the metal. I'm going to see if I can find a shop. Just have to work up the courage. I don't want to walk into a place and have them throw me out because its a small job. The places I'm finding on an internet search show pictures of fancy iron gates they make for rich people. I already found an easy to deal with (new) steel supplier.

I just today thought about cutting up a propane tank. But I think I would need 2 120 gallon tanks (30" dia) to get enough width for the bucket after cutting off the top and bottom. I was thinking of stopping at a propane place to ask if they had old uncertifiable tanks, but then I read somewhere that the propane tanks never expire?
Shop charges are in the $100 per hour range with a one hour minimum and small jobs like shaping a bucket body are more of a bonus item than bread and butter items like making iron gates. While some shops may make you wait for a day or so until manpower is available to do your job, others will take a man off of a longer term project just to get the faster cash flow from yours and to keep the parts from cluttering up the floor.

Water tanks and other pressure vessels are made from material thick enough to withstand certain pressures. Water tanks are usually rated for 175 psi and are suitable for extra compressor air storage, and not much else. Propane tanks are under up to 250 psi when liquid propane is contained, unless heated, and are also not really thick enough to be suitable for a loader bucket subject to abrasion and point loading. While fuel oil tanks use slightly thicker metal, the same abrasion and point loading over the long term are also a concern. Such a bucket may last several years for moving mulch with corrosion being the biggest concern, but picking up boulders that are heavier than V-8s is likely to trash it in short order.

A loader bucket should be made of metal thick enough to handle all of the abuse thrown at it over at least a couple of decades, and light enough to not penalize the payload capabilities of the loader hydraulics or tractor front end in the process. One-eighth inch thick steel appears to be the ideal thickness when a 3/8" or (preferably) a 1/2" thick cutting edge is added.

It all depends on what you plan to use the bucket for, but bear in mind that when you have hydraulic muscle available, plans can change at any time.

I have two piles of steel, the scrap pile consists of pieces too small to be considered for any use that includes using a welder to attach, and the other pile is for pieces that can actually be useful, although I do stiffen my resolve periodically and cull the second pile if I'm about to make a scrap run.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 · (Edited)
the black 47" bucket is the original for my SCUT. The yellow bucket goes on my GT
Tudor- in your photo with the 4 buckets lined up side to side- is the yellow bucket for a larger tractor, or do all of them go on the red tractor? I'm trying to decide how big I should design my bucket. You said the yellow one is 23" tall?

Edit:
I reread your post.

I guess I should design for the size of your black one on the red tractor. How tall is the black bucket?
 

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The yellow bucket goes on my MF1655 GT. I don't think that the red SCUT pictured could handle it. It will hold over 800 lb of dirt and weighs over 200 lb. That is pushing the limit of how much weight the SCUT can lift off of the ground to transport height. The GT will lift it to 6' above grade. Only the black bucket fits the MF GC 2310 SCUT in the picture. The rest of them are for the GT.

You didn't mention what tractor you are outfitting for a loader or what you will be using it for. While I built that bucket primarily for snow removal, My GT has the weight and transmission to handle it in dirt and gravel as well. It just won't fill the bucket with 54" of cutting edge resistance.

The round back of the bucket is an 11" radius with a further 11" of flat bottom. The lip on top is 1.5" or so tall. The cutting edge is 1/2" x 4" bar stock.
 

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A straight back bucket would be easier and faster for a machine shop to bend, and easier to fabricate brackets for. I had this one bent to shape at a welding shop years ago. I just brought a piece of plywood the size I wanted the sideplate. They were even able to roll a small u-channel into the upper edge for strength.

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Thanks. I wish I had seen that sooner. I found a steel supplier/fabricator and brought him a drawing I made of a C shaped bucket. Just waiting to hear back if he can/wants to do it. Yeah, that backside is a lot easier to mount brackets on, than my design.

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That's basically the shape of mine; it came with the tractor, I didn't make it.
I did remake it though, replacing 2/3 of the metal because it was rotten.
I used straight plate, flame cut and stick welded.
The edge strip is a hard strip made for the purpose, and was expensive.
Bottom plate is 8mm (5/16") and the back is 6mm (1/4").
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I want to build a front end loader for my garden tractor. Has anyone ever bent 12 gauge sheet metal into a curve for a front bucket? I was thinking about making a 44" wide bucket. Starting with a piece 60" long and bending it around a wooden form, maybe using ratchet straps wrapped around it, to pull the ends toward each other, into a U shape (then trim off the excess). Then weld the sides on. If 44" wide would be too tough to bend, I could instead start with 21" x 60" strips, make 2 and then weld them down the middle. Anyone know if it is possible to do this?
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
So the metal shop called today and told me my bucket is done! They also cut the side panels to shape. I will weld it all together. I took a photo of the parts standing in my garage. It is sitting on a foam floor mat, it does not have teeth on the front edge. I put a piece of wood on it to keep it from toppling over backwards.

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Yes, of course. I am thinking about a 1" x 1" square tube across the inside of the top edge. And a 1/4 x 4" strip under the bottom edge.
Weld a 1.5" angle with gussets to the top of the bucket so you have a place for hooking a chain to lift awkward objects rather than a 1" square tube to the inside that serves only the one purpose (stiffening) besides adding weight.

Cutting edges are usually 3/8" x 3" bar stock. I prefer 1/2" x 4" for a longer service life before redressing the edge. If you can find abrasion resistant bar stock in 3/8 x 3 at a reasonable price, that would be good. Another name for abrasion resistant steel is armor plate which can't be drilled with conventional methods.

Another point that you may want to consider is the end plates should be inside of the bucket body, not as a cap on the outside.

All of these recommendations are visible on the yellow bucket pics in post #3, including 22 years of wear at the corners of the cutting edge. Compare the wear at the corners to the same on the black bucket (3/8" x 3" cutting edge) that has had half of the service life.
 
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