There's something mesmerizing about The Discovery Channel's How It's Made series. While we couldn't care less about the intricacies of paperclip production, watching the various machines and processes interact is the stuff lazy Saturday afternoons are made of.

Hedman Headers has cribbed that successful formula with a new video that lets you follow a set of headers as they make their way from plain tube steel to performance hardware. The company uses computer-controlled machinery to precisely bend the pipes before handing them over to master welders, and those guys hand-stitch the various pieces into the work of art you see above.

Each part is test fitted against existing jigs to maintain quality control throughout the assembly process, and the final pieces are either sprayed black for shipping or doused in a special ceramic coating to resist oxidization. Very cool. Check out the video below to see what we mean.



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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 26 Comments
      scott3
      • 2 Years Ago
      As I like to say lets let some of the facts get in the way here. I work in the performance after market and work with all the name brand header MFG. They all face the same challanges and all do pretty well with their products. With that said Hedman makes a very good product for the money paid. They seldom leak and their coatings are as good or better than most. The trick to a mild steek header is it is a low cost way to increase performance vs going high grade stainless. Most mild steel headers are $500 or less when many of your better stainelss can go well over $1000. Most companies would make more stainless headers but for the most people don't want to pay more than $200 most headers. The coatings are for heat as it does work and it also will prolong header life. It will not stop rust all together but it will make it last often as long as the car or truck will. Many vehicles sit in damp garages and often the rust and damage is from lack of use. No coated headers need painted as the paint on them from the factory is to just prevent rust. Too many customers never paint them and rust will appear with in days of the protective shipping coat burning off. If you want them to last and look better paint them. As for equal lenght headers. It does as a little more performance but often at the trade off of room and space. These headers do not always fit easily and often leave plugs that are damn near impossible to replace. Most MFG have offerings with equal length tubes but they are normally only for the hard core guys looking the that last few HP. I hope what people will take from this is we do make products in this country yet that are labor intensive. The sad fact is few people want to work these jobs or pay the price it leaves on products. It is time for many to start to understand that China is far from make just inferior products or making them in sweat shops. China today can make products as well as anyone in most cases and in plants more modern than what we have. It is time for more people here to find there are good paying jobs in many of these plants and skills like welding and metal fabrication are nearly an art form that is being lost here. I know many customer who have metal skills and welding skill who have incomes that would challange many doctors. I may send my son to collage but he will also know how to weld as it might just feed his family someday. Thanks Hedman for you good products and keep it up. Note too on many of the Performance aftermarket MFG. These companies may be well know old names but they are still are not large corperations. Many only have a small staff and small facilities to MFG parts. Many fo a lot of work with few people in small shops. I have visited many of the bigger names and found they are bery small. Also working with them I have gotten to know many who work at these companies and many are like small families vs corperations.
        PiCASSO
        • 2 Years Ago
        @scott3
        Well said, Scott...
        AP1_S2K
        • 2 Years Ago
        @scott3
        very nice write-up Scott. It should be pointed out that often times a lot of these companies hire a ton of illegals to work in fabrication because as an employer you're not held liable to authenticate paperwork, so you'll get a lot of people who are able to work really cheap which drives down the hourly rates. While the owner has their multi-million dollar yachts and 40' MTI's (if you're in the industry you know these companies).
      dkahnjob
      • 2 Years Ago
      Very interesting video. A+++
      moe6
      • 2 Years Ago
      Underwhelming if you've ever sat in on any fab forum but always an interesting video if you don't know how they're made.
      tinted up
      • 2 Years Ago
      I always thought that the ceramic coatings applied to headers was to keep exhaust gas heat from contributing to a higher engine bay temperature. Maybe anti-corrosion properties are a plus, but I never thought of that as a major decision maker in choosing between ceramic and non-ceramic headers.
        recharged95
        • 2 Years Ago
        @tinted up
        You need to realize that there is a incredible amount of moisture that is produced in a header/exhaust system. That's why OEMs go with Stainless Steel nowadays in exhaust pipes. Ceramic offers even better resistance and a performance gain.
        XT6Wagon
        • 2 Years Ago
        @tinted up
        uncoated mild steel pretty much evaporates when exposed to combustion products. Its why even the cheap stainless steels that can rust are far better for exhaust. Cost is a tradeoff on the better metal leaving many to use coated mild steel which has better mechanical properties than cheap stainless, and the coating keeps it from rusting out in a couple of years.
        moe6
        • 2 Years Ago
        @tinted up
        People who market them market them for heat management when they're actually much better preventing corrosion. Especially great if you wrap a header, keeps moisture from settling on the metal.
      Davey Hiltz
      • 1 Month Ago

      That looks like a long process and would require great skill, both of which I don't posses right now. I am interested in building a better exhaust manifold, but like I said, I don't have time or skill. Maybe when I retire I'll look into it more. I would also assume you would need very different models for different cars, that would take a lot of good auto knowledge. Again, that would take more 'know how' than I have right now.

       http://www.suburbanweldingandsteel.com/about.htm 

      Soccer Mom
      • 2 Years Ago
      And why are there still humans doing welding, hammering and other tasks? Should we trust the mood of Bob from Kentucky to make a good job or is it better if it all these steps can be done by a robot with much higher accuracy?
        zubiaur
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Soccer Mom
        Because of cost, this is a simple process, there is little to gain quality and economically wise by laying a fully automated line, plus, given the variety of models manufactured, model changes will require considerable tooling times, performed by humans, so instead of spending millions of dollars laying down an automatic production line and having to keep a considerable (and expensive) workforce in charge of the tooling changes and manteinance, better have them welding, hitting and bending pipes. Probably their most expensive plant worker is the welder... and thats not thaaaat expensive. Some process (given the nature of the work performed and how the demand behaves) are best suited for human based workshops.
          • 2 Years Ago
          @zubiaur
          [blocked]
        Suzq044
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Soccer Mom
        .. so, you want the jobs of humans to be taken by machines.. Would you like to be fired because some machine can do your job for cheaper? People like you need to look at the big picture; there's a reason there are TONS of people that no longer have jobs. Machines are part of that reason..
          jameshouk
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Suzq044
          This product is still built by people because some people don't mind paying a little more for a hand built top quality product. This is a great thing
          chasegarcia
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Suzq044
          Yes, I would gladly like to be fired if a machine can do it better.
          jammyjo
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Suzq044
          Another oversimplification - should we go back to the dark ages? Welding is actually a complex task. Where dexterity and skill are required, humans have the flexibility to do the job. Otherwise, let the machines do the simpler, repetitive tasks. It's easy to think replacing humans with machines will solve unemployment, but the reality is it will result in products that cost too much, products that no one buys, and ultimately the failure of the companies that make the uncompetitive products.
        hoceepuk
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Soccer Mom
        Keeping human beings on the job trumps eliminating jobs any day for me.
      zubiaur
      • 2 Years Ago
      Nice, the process seems simple enough and it looks like they are using non chinese steel which is a must given how unreliable most chinese providers are (unless you are willing to further treat their steel). The thing is that the workshop looks very disorganized, lots of WIP inventory everywhere which is a bad bad symptom. Also workspaces seem to be far apart and cluttered. I would like to take a look at their master production schedule and their historical demand. Probably lots of room for improvements. Please Headman Headers, carefully inspect your production process, given how much you are charging and the margins you are getting this might not look as a priority, however, this is no rocket science industry, competition can and will get fierce. At least get an ISO 9001 for gods sake! that will at least "require" continual process improvement.
        Gorgenapper
        • 2 Years Ago
        @zubiaur
        This is the first time I've seen a strawman argument used this way.
      • 2 Years Ago
      [blocked]
      newsboyny
      • 2 Years Ago
      They couldn't make the pipes equal length? Seems like an inefficient header design to me.
      Dwight Bynum Jr.
      • 2 Years Ago
      Ahem! Sorry to nitpick, but it's Hedman HeDders, not Hedman Headers. Yes, I'm aware of the correct spelling of the word "header" but we're talking about a proper name. It even SHOWS this in the video...
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