How Ranch Hand Steel Bumpers are Made — An Inside Look at Making the Best Bumpers Around
Ranch Hand steel bumpers have become a legendary icon in ranching and on job sites since our start in 1986 in Shiner, Texas. Since then, we've grown quite a lot, and our products have even taken the spotlight in the hit series Yellowstone.
That's because Ranch Hand is known for making quality, American-made, hand-fabricated products for trucks and SUVs that are built to last. When John Dutton III from Yellowstone said, "A brand isn't something you earn, it's something you live up to," we're obliged to agree — making steel bumpers isn't simply a pastime at Ranch Hand, and making quality products that can survive the lifestyle we uphold and live for is something we take seriously.
And, while you may see a Ranch Hand Legend™ bumper on John Dutton’s Ram 3500 on the screen, it's not too often you get to see how Ranch Hand bumpers are actually made — as a matter of fact, it's never been done before.
For those of you interested in knowing how Ranch Hand bumpers are made to be the strongest, most resilient bumpers around for hard work and the ranching lifestyle, well, today is your day as we're going to walk you through our facilities and the process we take in making our legendary products.
Ready? Come on in.
We Start with Quality Mild-Carbon Steel, Which is Strong, Resilient & Relatively Lightweight
When fabricating a bumper, quality steel is paramount, as this is the foundation of the bumper. Inferior-quality steel has the tendency to fracture and rust. It also doesn't have high enough tensile strength to withstand impacts and can be excessively heavy.
This is why Ranch Hand carefully selects and sources all our steel solely from US steel companies — because we truly want to know what kind of steel we're getting and who we're getting it from.
We carefully choose our sources and steel to ensure the steel we use has the exact balance of the right properties necessary for making a bumper that protects your rig and lasts a long time.
We start by ordering diamond-plate steel, schedule-40 pipe and 12-gauge tubing made from mild-carbon steel, which has the perfect strength-to-weight ratio. This ratio is important, because while you want the strongest bumper possible, excessive weight will overload the suspension of your truck and cause "squatting" while also reducing gas mileage.
Compared to other grades of carbon steel, mild carbon steel strikes the right balance with its high tensile strength and reasonable weight. Likewise, mild-carbon steel is more ductile and malleable, which means it forms well and avoids fracturing with impacts and road vibrations.
This is important because we know our bumpers are going to be used for work, and mild-carbon steel holds up to heavy-duty work and daily use.
Our mild-carbon steel is also favorable for its chemical properties as well and has a proprietary blend of chromium, magnesium and other trace metals that give our bumpers superior strength, corrosion resistance and the longevity that has earned them the legendary status they hold.
Bottom line — every Ranch Hand bumper is more than just a bumper. It's the result of years of research and development, along with a very carefully selected and special steel that provides unique characteristics to ensure they're built to withstand the toughest jobs and applications.
Why Steel Instead of Aluminum, You Ask? Let us explain
Short answer — because when steel is cut, sparks fly. Why do sparks fly? Because cutting steel creates a tremendous amount of heat and friction with the carbon in the metal. And, because steel is high in carbon content, it is very hard and strong.
Aluminum, on the other hand, produces no sparks when cut, and this is because it lacks carbon content and is therefore soft. For this reason, we do not make bumpers out of aluminum. An aluminum bumper would shred to pieces if given the same job as a Ranch Hand Sport or Legend for just one day.
Overall, steel is tried and true and is dependable in demanding applications. It's robust, strong and protects your truck and passengers far better than aluminum can. Not only is steel heavier than aluminum, but it also has higher tensile strength while also being more flexible as well.
Are Steel Bumpers Better?
Indeed. Steel bumpers can absorb impacts better without fracturing or splitting. And, while aluminum is lighter, Ranch Hand mild-carbon steel bumpers have the perfect balance of weight and strength, which means you get protection that far surpasses what aluminum can offer.
For hard work, longevity and long-lasting protection, steel is the best bet for your rig, and often times a steel Ranch Hand bumper will outlast the truck itself.
Next, We Begin the Fabrication Process by Cutting & Bending the Raw Steel
Once the raw diamond-plate steel, schedule-40 pipe and 12-gauge tube are in our facilities, we begin the process of shaping individual pieces for each series of our bumpers. This process is important as each individual piece must be cut and shaped in order to fabricate a bumper that is precisely tailored for each make, model and year of truck.
As a part of our diligent engineering process and dedication to quality, all Ranch Hand bumpers are designed for your specific truck. We don't make a single "universal" bumper that's a retro fit. This means each and every bumper we make is made uniquely for your rig.
Next, we laser cut our structural elements from 5/16" plate steel, which is intentionally extra thick and used specifically for the mounting brackets on the Legend, Sport and Summit series bumpers.
The uprights for our full grille guard bumpers use the same 5/16" thick steel and are made full height to provide extended protection to the truck's grille on bumpers equipped with full grille guards.
The extra-thick schedule-40 pipe, which is a full 4-1/2" in diameter and features 6mm thick walls, is plasma cut at a precise angle to create the shape that fits the front end of the truck and is what makes our Legend series front and rear bumpers such brute work horses.
The 12-gauge tube that is used in our full grille guards is mandrel bent into shape using a hydraulic press and a skilled fabricator. The 12-gauge tube is plenty strong and is shaped to wrap around the front end of the truck and protect the headlights and grille from just about anything that crosses your path.
Once the individual pieces are all cut and shaped, from the diamond-plate steel to the mounting brackets to the uprights and grille guard, we set the pieces together and send them off to kit lane, where they go to be welded into place, ultimately forming the core shape of the bumper.
The Shaped Pieces Make Their Way to Kit Lane, Where They're Staged for Fabrication
Life for Ranch Hand bumpers begins at kit lane, where the bumper starts to take its initial shape. Once the kit, or collection of individual pieces, is put together, they're placed into a jig and carefully spot welded. This is where the initial shape of the bumper is set.
This process typically begins with two skilled fabricators. The first fabricator spot welds the full grille guard and uprights together, while the second fabricator welds the bumper pieces, top plates, skirts and shedule-40 pipe all together.
As they work side by side simultaneously, each bumper is welded together precisely, with each piece fitting together within a tolerance of just 2mm, or about .08". These tight tolerances ensure that the bumper is tailored to fit your truck; however, they also ensure that the bumper has the greatest strength and rigidity.
Inferior-quality bumpers may have sizeable gaps and spaces where the pieces fit together, and this nearly guarantees that the bumper will not hold up to impacts and vibrations. These large gaps also make the welds weaker and more prone to breaking and corroding. It can also result in a bumper that has an odd, peculiar shape and that looks poor-quality.
Large gaps and uneven welds are simply unsightly and prone to cracking and breaking over time and are the hallmark of an inferior quality bumper.
Once the full grille guard and bumper pieces are welded, the grille guard and bumper are joined together and welded as one solid piece. Afterwards, the bumper is flipped around and welded a second time from the opposing side. This guarantees the bumpers have seamless, smooth and strong welds between all joined pieces. After this second process of welding, the surfaces of the entire bumper are grinded, smoothed and perfected.
The Inspection Process Guarantees That the Highest Standards are Met
After the Ranch Hand bumper has finished its fabrication, each bumper is thoroughly inspected to ensure quality and guarantee that the highest standards are met and that each bumper upholds the quality that Ranch Hand customers expect.
The inspector thoroughly grades each bumper on its design elements, proportions and quality of welds while looking for inconsistencies to ensure there is no spatter or uneven welds.
If the bumper has any discrepancies, it is returned to the fabricator for make-ready and then returned for a final inspection.
After Fabrication & Inspection the Bumper is Prepared for Finish & Paint
After the bumper is inspected, it must have all surface contaminants removed. During the fabrication process, dirt, corrosion and mill scale, a textured debris that collects on the surface of the steel, must be removed.
The bumper is hung from a moving rail and sent to blast and clean, where each bumper runs through a blast box for about 30 minutes. Inside the blast box, metal shot, or micro-sized metal balls, are projected at the bumper from 360 degrees in high volumes and at high velocities.
The metal shot blasts away surface contaminants on the bumper from all angles and works to thoroughly remove all mill scale, corrosion and surface contamination from the surfaces of the steel bumper, inside and out.
The result leaves the bumper completely bare and unfinished. The raw, bare metal is clean and rust-free, and this creates the ideal surface for a powder coat finish to bond to.
This process is part of the reason why Ranch Hand bumpers last for many years, often times outlasting the truck itself. By removing all surface contaminants from the bare steel before applying the powder coat finish, the metal is free from rust and contaminants that would otherwise cause the powder coat finish to separate when the steel begins to rust and prematurely degrade.
After the blasting process, the bumper will continue moving its way down the rail line, and within an hour the powder coating process will begin. This expedited process prevents humidity from causing surface rust and prevents dust and dirt from collecting on the bumper before the powder coat finish can be applied.
Next, the Raw Steel Bumper Receives a Thick, Glossy Super-Polyester Powder Coat Finish
A part of Ranch Hand bumpers reputation for durability is owed to the robust, super-polyester powder coat finish that is applied to the bare steel, which protects the metal from impacts, dings and rust.
The super polyester powder coat finish is applied thick and in multiple steps to ensure every inch of the bumper, inside and out, has an even finish and is properly sealed and protected.
The powder coating process starts shortly after the blast and clean process, as the bumper passes into the powder coat staging area on a moving rail system, which advances slowly as an automated powder coating process applies the initial powder coat onto the bumper.
Once the initial coat of powder is applied, two experienced and highly skilled powder coaters apply a second coat to the bumper from opposing sides, thoroughly coating the bumper inside and out. Each powder coat technician ensures that each inch of the bumper is evenly coated and that all surfaces are coated thoroughly.
While it may sound like a simple process, the skilled powder coaters must ensure that every surface of the bumper has an even, consistent coat in order to guarantee that the powder coat is strong and consistent once it is baked.
The process of dry coating the bumper lasts about a half hour, which gives the technicians ample time to inspect all surfaces and apply powder where necessary.
Once the bumper has its dry powder coat, it travels along the rail into the bake room, where it will be baked at high temperatures for an hour and a half. During the bake time, the bumper is constantly moving, which ensures that equal temperatures are applied across all surfaces of the bumper.
What Makes Ranch Hand Bumpers Truly Superior? They're Made for the Ranching Lifestyle & Not Just "Styled" To Look Like It
Truth is, our bumpers are engineered for work. They're built tough and made to perform, whether that be on the ranch or on the jobsite. The result of this engineering and design is a distinguished, tough look that cannot be emulated, just as hard work can't be imitated.
Ranch Hand bumpers have a style that signals dependability and punctuality. They're built for those who punch in early and work late. For those who work tough jobs and long hours, and depend on their trucks just as much as their family and friends depend on them, they'll be there no matter the time of day or the task at hand.
Ranch Hand is the original ranch-style bumper. They're often imitated, yet never duplicated.
They're made for the ranching lifestyle — not just styled to look like it.
The Legend™ Series
The Legend series is fabricated for those who work hard and is designed around a large 4-1/2" diameter schedule-40 steel pipe that has unparalleled strength.
Forged by skilled hands in the heart of Shiner, Texas, this Legend series epitomizes unyielding strength and unapologetic boldness.
Many "knockoff" bumpers may feature a tubular shape that's visible in the front of the bumper; however, only Ranch Hand bumpers use a full-length, heavy-duty 4-1/2" schedule-40 pipe, which features 6mm thick walls.
Others may simply shape the bumper to appear like a Legend, but only the Legend is designed around the schedule-40 pipe itself, and this makes for an unstoppable bumper.
Shop Ranch Hand Legend Series
The Sport™ Series
Likewise, the Sport series substitutes the schedule-40 pipe in the Legend for a 1/4" thick piece of formed C-channel steel and is intended for heavy use with 1-ton and 2-ton trucks, as well as with select model 3/4-ton trucks.
The Sport is truly a brute work horse that is made for the most demanding of jobs and is also designed to house a Warn 16,000 lb. winch. This bumper is made for the toughest, most demanding of job sites and ranch duties, and the C-channel steel provides indomitable strength for whatever the task at hand may be.
Ranch Hand bumpers are the original ranch-style bumpers. Often imitated, yet never duplicated. They're made for the ranching lifestyle, not just styled to look like it.
Shop Ranch Hand Sport Series
The Midnight™ Series
The Midnight series is built for those who go hard at everything they do, from the jobsite to the late night and everything in between. It's made for those who live bold, adventurous lifestyles, who are up long before dawn for work and out long after dusk for play.
Midnight features a sophisticated, sporty style that provides front end protection with a tailored fit and is Ranch Hand’s most customizable bumper yet. The front bumper is made to house a lightbar up to 32" wide and can house two 2" LED cube lights on each side.
The raw steel of the Midnight series is treated with a special, rust-resistant liquid A-coat, which chemically treats the steel and protects it from rust and corrosion for a dependable bumper that'll withstand the elements.
Shop Ranch Hand Midnight Series
The Summit™ Series
The SUMMIT SERIES is built for those who desire the bold Ranch Hand style and robust strength with reduced weight. The Summit will stand up to unforeseen obstacles and get you to your destination while protecting you along the way and saving weight.
Featuring a rugged, ranch-style look, the Summit front truck bumper has a bold and adventurous design and is built with high-strength yet lightweight 12-gauge diamond-plate steel.
Like the Legend and Sport, it's constructed with 5/16" uprights for high-tensile strength and durability and is offered with a full grille guard made from 12-gauge steel tube.
Overall, the Summit provides lightweight yet robust protection and has the Ranch Hand look to match.
Shop Ranch Hand Summit Series
Read more about Ranch Hand series bumpers
Disclaimer: These photographs, recommendations, and approximations are intended for demonstration purposes only and do not reflect the specifications of any particular vehicle or truck. Always consult the manufacturer’s Owner’s Manual. All non-Ranch Hand product names, logos, brands, and other trademarks shown are the property of their respective trademark holders, and use of them does not imply any affiliation with or endorsement by them.
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