Bending Wood

Two Basic Techniques:

1st:  Steam Bending.  Put wood in a steam bath, average 1 hour per inch of thickness.  What I have found is that unless you can pressurize the steam, it doesn’t get much hotter than boiling water, but is sufficient to bend most woods.  However, soaking it a bit (15 minutes on 3/8 – 1/2 thick and an hour on 1″ or more), then submerging it or better pour hard boiling water on it to get it as hot as you can, it bends alot better.

2nd:  Laminate bending.  Using the strips clamped or pressed into a form, glued together works super well on long flowing or light radius work.  Hard, tight radiuses, giving the wood a quick hot bath, then prebending and allowing to dry before gluing works best.  Less breakage and far less spring back.   Once bent, let dry in the form overnight, then remove and let dry.  If you are still getting alot of spring back, put some double layer paper towels between the strips and reclamp for a day or so.  You may have to change the paper towels once.  When it’s dry enough to hold most of the form (let it dry well), it doesn’t take long.  On 1/8″ thick strips then glue into position and it will hold the form.  Another way is to simply increase the number of strips and use thinner ones.  If you use the prewet and bend method, try a polyurethene glue.  It uses moisture to cure and will negate any moisture remaining in the wood.

The above is based on a knock-down mad (cussing) experiment I did.

Later, Charles

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5 Responses to Bending Wood

  1. Ken Weinert says:

    3rd: When Charles Neil glares at wood, it bends itself into the proper shape without any spring back.

  2. bob says:

    When I use to do windsor chairs, we found better luck steaming then boiling. The old chair maker told me it was hotter. All I knew was both burned my hands just as good. bob

  3. charles neil says:

    bob, he is correct it is somewhat hotter, but enough to build steam boxes and all that im not sure…when i say boiling i mean really boiling…(be careful)…windsor chairs use pretty thin material as well, and usually it is green ..split oak ash or hickory, green steamed bends like butter..super nice, and Ken, im ugly , but am i really that bad…i guess its the scowl..and i got a pretty good one of those…around here is simply called “the look”, i havent seen it, but usually i make me madder than anyone else

  4. Ken Weinert says:

    No, that was not related to your looks – it was a play off the “Chuck Norris”isms.

    For example:

    When Chuck Norris does pushups, it’s not him going up and down, it’s the earth that moves.

    More of the like can be found at

  5. Denis Rezendes says:

    i havent tried either of these ways yet but im really looking forward to trying some bent work. ill probably start off with the lamination first. its seems a little easier unless im working with pretty small pieces.

    and ken those chuck noris jokes are crazy. its seems like everyone at my school loves them also

    chuck norris doesnt cut the grass… he dares it to grow

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