Cherry Basket with steam bent Ash handle

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Project by DaleMaley posted 12-26-2016 08:33 PM 1915 views 3 times favorited 2 comments Add to Favorites Watch

On Rockler’s web site, where they sell a steam generator, for free… you can download a PDF file plan for a small basket with a steam bent handle.

I recently had my 1st success in steam bending making a clock with steam bent white oak. It is posted on Lumberjocks here.

For the Rockler basket project, I read all the instructions in the PDF file. The guy that did the project, failed on his 1st attempt to steam bend the Ash handle. His process was:

-kiln dried Ash, 3/8×29” blank
-steam chamber did not get up to 212F
-no bending clamp
-no water soak before steaming

He attributed his failure to using kiln versus air-dried Ash. Failure to get the steam chamber up to proper temp was probably also a main contributor to his failure. With the steam chamber up to temp, with air-dried Ash, he was able to bend at least one piece with no bending strap clamp.

For my project, I wanted as robust a process as possible. Here is my process:

-kiln dried Ash from Rockler (I can’t find a source for air-dried Ash or white oak)
-soak Ash blanks in water and Downy fabric softener at least 7 days before steaming
-use a bending strap home-made from 2 lengths of heavy duty Plumber’s strap
-steam at 212F for at least 30 minutes

I was successful on my 1st attempt in terms of bending the Ash. My only issue was that I did not get the start point correct for the Ash piece in the bending fixture. I was able to easily correct my fixture for subsequent bends. I bent the 2nd piece this morning with no problems.

On this design, at the bend radii, the inner radius is compressed 12.7%, while the outer radius is virtually unchanged using a bending strap. It is amazing to me how much the wood compresses on the inside!

The four 3/8×3/8” accent pieces are red padauk. They hide 1/4” dowels that attach the handle to the ends of the box. I made the box joints on my table saw using the standard box making jig.

I decided to let the cherry basket change color over time with exposure to sunlight… I just did 2 rounds of 220 grit sanding and clear gloss polyurethane. I might try a mineral oil finish on some of the future baskets I build. Mineral oil works well on the cherry toys I built using David Wakefield’s designs.

I plan on making maybe 6 of these for Christmas 2017 gifts to family members.

You can see the details of my Trials & Tribulations on my woodworking web site here.

Be safe, and remember to wear gloves when handling wood out of the steaming box :)

I made a YouTube video showing what I learned about steam bending kiln-dried woods…..


-- Dale, Illinois,

2 comments so far

View Redoak49's profile


4867 posts in 2834 days

#1 posted 12-26-2016 09:45 PM

Very nice project and great explanation and suggestions for someone who wants to try it.

View 489tad's profile


3883 posts in 3857 days

#2 posted 12-27-2016 04:22 AM

I second what Redoak said. I currently have some red oak soaking for a circle bend.

-- Dan, Naperville IL, I.G.N.

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