December 08, 2023 4 min read

How to Bend EMT Conduit Into Circles & Arches


Have you ever dreamt of creating stunning mega tree light shows, practical gardening hoop houses, or beautiful trellis archways and roof structures? Bending EMT Conduit into arches or circles is the key, and it's easier than you think! Don't stress about the complex math usually involved - we've made a free, user-friendly calculator that simplifies the process. Let's dive into how you can leverage this tool and a handheld pipe bender to craft amazing DIY structures.

Understanding EMT Conduit Bending Basics

a man performing a single emt conduit bend

Types of Bends

Bending conduit effectively starts with understanding the two primary types of bends:

  1. Simple Set Radius Bends: This involves bending a piece of conduit to a set angle, like 90 degrees, which produces the same radius every time. We've explained the process for these bends in another tutorial that you can find here.
  2. Incremental Large Radius Bends: Our focus in this tutorial, large radius bends, are achieved by performing multiple small bends that gradually accumulate into an arch or a circle.

    The Handy EMT Conduit Bending Calculator

    a builder bending an arch with emt conduit

    Why the Need for a Calculator?

    As mentioned above, you'll be making  a series of small incremental bends that gradually create a curve. To achieve your desired radius or diameter, you need to know three important things: the segment lengths, the number of bends, and the measurement between each of those bends. The calculator takes your information and figures out these things for you. Below are the questions that you'll be asked along with some helpful info about the output that you will receive.


      Desired Circle Diameter: This determines the total amount of conduit needed to achieve your desired diameter. Based on that amount, the calculator will tell you the number of standard 10-foot conduit sticks that you'll need to pick up from the hardware store.

      a diagram for choosing circle segments

        Desired Number of Segments:Breaking up your arch or circle into segments can be done by choice or can even be necessary in some cases. This is because EMT Conduit can be purchased from big box stores in either 5 or 10 foot sections. If your desired diameter requires more conduit than is available in one stick (120 inches), the calculator will let you know and you'll want to increase the number of desired segments.

        a builder laying out to bend circle segments

        As mentioned above, this can also be done by personal preference. For example, you may want to split your circle into two halves instead of trying to bend one large circle which is pretty challenging. The calculator will then tell you how long each segment needs to be based on the previous two inputs. I learned that you should wait to cut the conduit until after the circle or arch is completed. Otherwise the last few bends will be VERY challenging.

        a diagram for choosing the desired bend angle
        Desired Angle of Bends: This is the last input you will be prompted for. The available angle choices are limited to the options on the bender head. I usually prefer 10 degree bends because it will yield the best results from an aesthetics standpoint. Going with 10 degrees here does mean more total bends though so keep that in mind.

        There are two pieces of information given based on the angle that you input in this step. First, the calculator indicates the total number of bends that you will perform per segment. Secondly, you will receive a measurement. This is the length of conduit between each of the bends that you will be performing.

          How To Make Incremental Bends

          a builder marking emt conduit for bends

          Marking the Conduit

          Before we can bend, we need to mark where on the conduit each bend needs to happen. Use the last two calculator outputs to figure out where each mark needs to go. It's important to make sure that you correctly measure the distance between each bend. All it takes is one incorrectly placed bend to mess up the entire thing!

          a man performing incremental conduit bends for a circle

          Performing the Bends

          With your conduit marked, it's time to start bending. Position the first mark with the arrow on the bender head and use the foot pedal and handle to apply leverage and bend the conduit to the angle that you decided on earlier. Repeat this process on the total number of segments that are needed for your circle.

              Klein handheld conduit bender with angle setter tool

              Optional Tool that I Found Helpful

              You have to be really careful not to over bend the conduit because even one bend being off will cause the rest of the circle or arch to be completely off. This bender from Klein comes with an angle setter that snaps into the bender head and provides a bump stop when performing the bends. I found that it helped prevent over bending.

              a builder holding a finished emt conduit circle

              Finishing Up

                Even with the optional angle setter it is challenging to get a perfect arch or circle every time. If your segments don't align or the diameter is off, tweak the bends slightly and recheck until you are satisfied.

                an electrical coupling with replacement self tapping screws

                To create a circle, you'll join the segments together using electrical couplings from the hardware store or the DIY Structural Couplings that we designed for DIY projects. If you opt for off the shelf couplings, I'd recommend replacing the set screws with self tapping screws for added strength. 

                a maker pipe structural coupling being assembled

                  Conclusion: Unleash Your Creativity

                  With this guide and calculator, bending EMT Conduit for creative projects is not just possible but also fun and rewarding. Whether it's for holiday decorations or practical structures, the possibilities are endless! Special thanks to Raymond from our community for his invaluable insights that inspired this guide and calculator.

                  For My Fellow Visual Learners