Author Topic: Steam bending hardwood for curved furniture?  (Read 694 times)

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Offline Steven Owen

  • Posts: 266
Steam bending hardwood for curved furniture?
« on: November 10, 2017, 05:59 PM »
Has anyone tried steam bending hardwoods for any of their projects?  How difficult was the process of steam bending the wood for your project?

You see kits from Rockler and several other vendors showing people steam bending wood.  Some of the videos make steam bending look relatively like a straight forward process.  I would think it would really depend on the type of hardwood you’re trying to bend. 

Like everything on the internet, you never really know how hard it will be until you try yourself.

 

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Offline lwoirhaye

  • Posts: 78
Re: Steam bending hardwood for curved furniture?
« Reply #1 on: November 10, 2017, 06:21 PM »
It's not difficult to do it but setting up the equipment and making forms is a time commitment.   I have steam bent kiln dried oak and walnut successfully for furniture parts.  I have no doubt that air dried is better if you're pushing the process and doing extreme bends, but for the parts I've wanted to make kiln dried has worked fine.

271207-0
« Last Edit: November 10, 2017, 06:32 PM by lwoirhaye »

Offline Rob-GB

  • Posts: 1045
Re: Steam bending hardwood for curved furniture?
« Reply #2 on: November 11, 2017, 11:50 AM »
As Iwoirhaye's post and try to use quarter sawn timber, breakages generally happen when the bend meets short grain, from my limited experience.
Ash, Beech and Pine are the only timbers I have steam bent/bent by pouring kettles of hot water over. The latter method is improved by wrapping in an old bath towel (with the other half's permission of course [big grin]).
Have any formers or clamping systems laid out ready to go and be prepared to put the piece back into the steamer or towel if it is being a bit stubborn.
Traditionally the bent parts for Windsor or similar chairs was riven wood not saw cut and steamed while green. Riven wood follows the grain ensuring no short grain.

Rob.

Problem? No such thing! Only a solution waiting to be found:- RJ

"A $2 guppy swims......" Deke

Offline Jesse Cloud

  • Posts: 1704
  • Festooling at the end of a dirt road in New Mexico
Re: Steam bending hardwood for curved furniture?
« Reply #3 on: November 11, 2017, 12:01 PM »
If you have access to Fine Woodworking online archive, look for Michael Fortune's articles on steam bending.  He has some great techniques.

I have done a few pieces with some success, but as others have said, it is an investment and a learning curve.

Be prepared for some rejects.  Even the best benders get occasional cracks.  Start with a gentle curve.

The other potential problem is that the amount of spring-back when it dries can vary from one piece to the next.  If uniformity is
important (e.g., a set of dining chairs) bent laminations might be better (again, see Michael Fortune).

Online Oldwood

  • Posts: 316
  • Alberta, Canada
Re: Steam bending hardwood for curved furniture?
« Reply #4 on: November 11, 2017, 03:47 PM »
A few of the things I learned.
The shallower the bend the more it springs back (lots of trial and error)
Very tight bends need a back band and end blocks
dry lumber does not bend well (soak the lumber in a water bath to get the moisture content up)
Your room mates will think you have lost it when they find the tub full of 1X6 birch with concrete blocks holding them down ;)
Air dried is better if you can find it.

The process lends itself to production more than one or two pieces. I tend to strip lam for most bends
Real knowledge is to know the extent of one's ignorance.
Confucius

Offline Steven Owen

  • Posts: 266
Re: Steam bending hardwood for curved furniture?
« Reply #5 on: November 22, 2017, 01:11 AM »
A few of the things I learned.
The shallower the bend the more it springs back (lots of trial and error)
Very tight bends need a back band and end blocks
dry lumber does not bend well (soak the lumber in a water bath to get the moisture content up)
Your room mates will think you have lost it when they find the tub full of 1X6 birch with concrete blocks holding them down ;)
Air dried is better if you can find it.

The process lends itself to production more than one or two pieces. I tend to strip lam for most bends

Eventually I might also have to look at getting a decent bandsaw to try my hand at bending veneers as an alternative.