New experiences #1: Steam Box

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Blog entry by albachippie posted 09-30-2010 11:52 PM 15643 reads 0 times favorited 2 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of New experiences series Part 2: Cutting curves with a router »

In a recent forum topic I asked for help on curving a desk front. A suggestion came from Kent Shepherd to try water or steam bending. I have to say that I instantly dismissed this idea, more through fear of the unknown than anything else!
Well, I tried laminating 4mm strips of oak, but just couldn’t get the finish I wanted, so, I decided to at least look into steam bending. Well, yet again, my Lumberjocks family has come through!
I didn’t have to look very hard to find lots of entries on steaming timber, and lots of pictures on steam boxes. I was surprised to find that many were made from timber. So, I decided to bite the bullet and give it a go.

I had some 1/2” ply and some smooth softwood taking up space in my shop, so that is what went into this project.

From Steam Box

I fitted some dowling that I had left over from another job to keep the timber off the floor. I then fitted the top, and a loose fitting end cap with a notch cut out to take the steamer hose in, and let the water out.

From Steam Box

The steamer is just a domestic wall paper steamer I already had.

Dimensions for this are 4 foot long by about 8 inches square. This was plenty for what i needed, which was strips of oak at about 3 foot by 2 inches

From Steam Box

On the trial run it appears to have worked pretty well

My advice is, if you are afraid to try something new, try it anyway. What have you got to lose!!

-- Garry fae Bonnie Scotland

2 comments so far

View RonPeters's profile


713 posts in 4092 days

#1 posted 10-01-2010 03:11 AM

Heat is what instrument makers use to bend the sides. Steam heat is more efficient. We actually wet the wood before applying dry heat. Once you heat the lignan in the wood to about 212 F it plasticizes and will cool to the shape you leave it.

Sometimes you can cut thin pieces of wood and then bend them to shape as you glue it up. Banjo pots are made that way, but a guitar or violin is only a couple millimeters thick so heat is the way to go.

Nice job!

-- “Once more unto the breach, dear friends...” Henry V - Act III, Scene I

View Dan Lyke's profile

Dan Lyke

1530 posts in 5337 days

#2 posted 10-01-2010 05:11 PM

Thank you for the inspiration! Gonna have to build me one of those shortly.

-- Dan Lyke, Petaluma California,

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