Steam box

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Project by tenontim posted 02-28-2008 06:48 PM 13407 views 24 times favorited 16 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Cojo asked about steamboxes and here’s my version. This is a simple steam box for bending wood. I’ve built several of these. Depending on how much you use it, once they start warping and cracking, just throw it away and build another. Pine works very well, and it’s cheap. Plywood may delaminate on you. Make the box a little larger than the pieces that you think you will be steaming. It doesn’t have to be air tight, in fact you want it to leak to pressure doesn’t build up. Make a loose fitting door and a drain hole on one end and put a catch bucket under it, so you don’t stain your shop floor. Put a couple of rows of dowels through it, to set the wood on. Don’t worry about internal temperatures or any of that other rocket science that you read about steam boxes. If you have a good flow of steam coming out of the can, it’s hot enough. There are different schools of thought on how long to steam. I’ve found that 1 hour per inch of wood thickness works well. About 2” of water in this can will last almost 2 hours. If you let it go dry, you have to let it cool and start the clock over, you can’t take up where you left off. I’ve used this to steam oak, maple, walnut, purpleheart, and cedar and pine. Don’t get carried away with real sharp bends and you should have good luck with your bending.

16 comments so far

View Robb's profile


660 posts in 5172 days

#1 posted 02-28-2008 07:03 PM

Very cool, or should I say hot? I’ll keep this in mind; I’m sure I’ll need it someday! Thanks for posting.

-- Robb

View DavidH's profile


519 posts in 4981 days

#2 posted 02-28-2008 07:07 PM

Thanks for this tenontim. Good to know it’s possible to have luck bending wood with a quick and easy solution like this.

-- David - Houston, Texas. (

View John Gray's profile

John Gray

2370 posts in 5123 days

#3 posted 02-28-2008 07:29 PM

Very nice I added it to my favorites.

-- Only the Shadow knows....................

View Thuan's profile


203 posts in 5056 days

#4 posted 02-28-2008 08:27 PM

I like your instruction, it’s a quick read with lots of relevant info. I’m using this to learn to bend.

-- Thuan

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27249 posts in 5060 days

#5 posted 02-28-2008 08:46 PM

Very nice. I have always wondered how to do this. I will keep it in mind.

Thanksf or the post.

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

View rpmurphy509's profile


288 posts in 5092 days

#6 posted 02-29-2008 12:40 AM

The simpler the better.
A note of caution, metal gas cans are great for heating the water, but it is vital that you use
a never-been-used to store gas or any other flammable liquid can. Buy it new for that extra safety margin.

-- Still learning everything

View RobH's profile


465 posts in 5287 days

#7 posted 02-29-2008 01:23 AM

Great. I might have to do this in a couple of weeks. I just need quick and dirty right now, but I am thinking in the future I need to look into something more substantial.

Thanks for the post, really good information.

I have seen one steam box used for long (4-6 hour steaming) that ran a line back to the can from the drain hole. This recycles the HOT condensed water back into the can so it can be boiled and used again. Not something you need to do unless you are bending stuff to go in a ship, or you just want to have a little fun. If you make this addition, I suggest you put a pressure relief valve somewhere in the system just in case.

-- -- Rob Hix, King George, VA

View Karson's profile


35278 posts in 5638 days

#8 posted 03-01-2008 01:11 AM

Thanks for the pictures. I’ve got a Turkey Cooker that looks about right for the heat source.

A great idea,

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Appomattox Virginia [email protected]

View Calgirl's profile


188 posts in 5133 days

#9 posted 03-01-2008 05:08 PM

I can’t wait to get my shop up and running so that I can use your bending info….....looks like great fun! Thanks tenontim. Can you post some pics of your projects using this method?

-- Forget the health food, I need all the preservatives I can get !

View tenontim's profile


2131 posts in 4982 days

#10 posted 03-01-2008 05:22 PM

Calgirl, the Bow Arm Morris recliner, listed on my projects, is the one I use it for the most.

View cajunpen's profile


14578 posts in 5304 days

#11 posted 03-17-2008 11:30 AM

Thanks for an interesting post.

-- Bill - "Suit yourself and let the rest be pleased."

View rikkor's profile


11295 posts in 5112 days

#12 posted 03-17-2008 12:46 PM

Thanks for the mini-tutorial.

View RusticElements's profile


167 posts in 4963 days

#13 posted 03-18-2008 04:23 PM

Thanks for the ideas. I’ve been wanting to do this for a long time. I have a can I can use, now I just have to figure out a heater.

-- Michael R. Harvey - Brewster, NY - - -

View xylosapiens's profile


198 posts in 4852 days

#14 posted 10-26-2008 03:58 PM

What about reconducing the drain water to the can: just a pipe and one more hole in the can? I think it will make a difference. Thank you for your comment.

-- Alejandro Moreno alias xylosapiens, CANARY ISLANDS

View tenontim's profile


2131 posts in 4982 days

#15 posted 10-26-2008 04:51 PM

I had thought of that, Alejandro. Sometimes, for me, less engineering is better. I didn’t think the amount of water that would be returned to the can would be worth the extra effort to do the plumbing. If I had the steamer going for several hours a day, it would be a good option to have water boil off slowed down. Thanks for the suggestion.

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