Steam Box

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Project by Terry O posted 01-15-2019 03:11 AM 1322 views 6 times favorited 10 comments Add to Favorites Watch

This steam box was built using 1×8 cedar for the box and 1/2 birch dowels to suspend the wood being steamed.
The steam generator is a propane fired turkey deep fryer. I added a water reservoir to replenish the deep fryer without removing the lid and the lid is held in place with spring clamps. I also tilted the steam box so that any condensate would drain back into the deep fryer.
The only wood I have steamed has been kiln dried 8/4 hard maple and cherry, with an hour and a quarter per inch of thickness. The results have been consistent and predictable with very few failures (less the one in twenty).
The video shows the bending sequence using a bending table, a Lee Valley compression strap and a boat winch to supply the force required to pull the wood into place. Its vital to get the wood into the compression strap ASAP and keep the compression on the wood until the wood cools which takes about an hour.

Thanks for browsing.

-- Terry O, Stonewall, MB, Canada

10 comments so far

View awsum55's profile (online now)


716 posts in 1071 days

#1 posted 01-15-2019 06:01 AM

Fantastic, thanks for the info. I really like the design of that table.

-- John D, OP, KS

View PPK's profile


1580 posts in 1372 days

#2 posted 01-15-2019 02:48 PM

Great job! I like the challenge of steam bending. Glad the kiln dried lumber worked for you! I’ve had luck with the same. I’m sure the turkey fryer helps to keep it hot enough. THanks for sharing.

-- Pete

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7056 posts in 1547 days

#3 posted 01-15-2019 03:45 PM

great idea and your results show it works quite you put that once a year turkey frier to good use.

-- sawdust the bigger the pile the bigger my smile-larry,so cal.

View Andre's profile


2887 posts in 2369 days

#4 posted 01-15-2019 05:10 PM

Another project on my to do list, great job!

-- Lifting one end of the plank.

View therealSteveN's profile


4328 posts in 1137 days

#5 posted 01-15-2019 06:07 PM

Seriously impressed with a 2” piece of stock being bent like a laminate strip. Very nice looking table frame, had I just seen that, I would have thought sawn from a large billet on a band saw.

Great presentation both with pics, and that video, thanks for the heads up ending. I was wondering while watching if that draw piece was the weakest area.

I’m only concerned to get to steam 212* for my little wall paper heat source in my 4’ PVC tube. I hardly need a thermometer because the few leaks it has telegraphs I have steam pretty well. What temp are you shooting for with the Turkey fryer? For those bends you are at 2 1/2 hours , based on your text.

Also surprised your said HARD Maple, and Cherry. Would Soft be easier or harder to bend, it and Cherry have identical Janka numbers. I can easily bend either in the thin strips I use, wondering at 2” of the choice for hard over soft. Possibly just color?

Also at 2” how much do you overbend expecting a release when the clamps come off? I would expect a lot more than I see with 1/8” to 1/4” strips.

Great post, surprised there aren’t more questions.

-- Think safe, be safe

View shipwright's profile


8413 posts in 3361 days

#6 posted 01-15-2019 07:16 PM

Good looking rig!
It’s a small thing but you might consider cutting an angle on the open end of the box. That way (if the door hinges at the top) you can lift the door enough to grab your piece and let it ride on the piece until the piece clears it at which time gravity will re-close the door.
Like I said, a small thing but it is the way all the boxes I have used were built. Of course boat planking and ribs are much longer ….
Anyway, very nice rig and good video.

-- Paul M ..............the early bird may get the worm but it’s the second mouse that gets the cheese!

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Terry O

159 posts in 1827 days

#7 posted 01-15-2019 07:51 PM

Thank you for all the comments.

In my view the most important things:

#1. keep the stock in full hot steam for the duration in the steam box #2. orient the grain properly (arrows on the bent pieces in photos) #3. get the stock into the compression strap asap and bend it with a controlled steady force #4. do not relieve the compression until the piece has cooled #5. experiment to determine spring back—if each piece of stock is treated the same the spring back will be consistent

In the video the bending lever broke because I was trying to bend these pieces without help, the piece cooled and I tried to force it. There is no time to waste when bending, make sure everything is in place before starting including help.

Good idea to have the hinge on top.

-- Terry O, Stonewall, MB, Canada

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7056 posts in 1547 days

#8 posted 01-15-2019 08:29 PM

just watched that vid,when i was watching you bend the first piece i was thinking what if the strap or wood broke,then the second one did,a little scarey.i dont think id want to stand in front of the wood no matter about a spanking-oucchhhh!

-- sawdust the bigger the pile the bigger my smile-larry,so cal.

View Pat's profile


24 posts in 331 days

#9 posted 01-18-2019 05:16 AM

Good looking box,you can take the top off your box and put a warped bored on top with some wait on top and it will take the warp out,,,,,,Not to steal your post witch is very good

-- Pat Elk Ridge Wild Woods

View Grumpy's profile


25847 posts in 4414 days

#10 posted 01-19-2019 06:16 AM

Terry , nice job and congratulations on your ‘Daily Top 3’ award.

-- Grumpy - "Always look on the bright side of life"- Monty Python

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