LumberJocks

All Replies on Wood for steam bending

  • Advertise with us
View jonlan's profile

Wood for steam bending

by jonlan
posted 12-11-2018 02:54 PM


19 replies so far

View jacww's profile

jacww

36 posts in 1396 days


#1 posted 12-11-2018 03:42 PM

jonlan,

I just did a bit of Google searching and stumbled upon this PDF of a pamphlet on steam bending wood produced by the US Dept. of Agriculture in 1957. I looked through the first few pages and it looks like it may help answer your questions….at least from a theoretical perspective.

https://www.fpl.fs.fed.us/documnts/usda/ah125.pdf

I too am looking at doing some steam bending at some point. This is being added to my list of resources.

I hope this helps.

TonyC

View Jack Lewis's profile

Jack Lewis

440 posts in 1467 days


#2 posted 12-11-2018 03:45 PM

Many, many years ago, 1950, in my wood shop classes, some of my friends built toboggans from oak and I don’t recall their having as much difficulty as you are experiencing. As you bend each slat are you clamping them to the form every several inches? It helps to bend slowly and let the wood fibers stretch. Make sure of grain orientation straight as possible with the bend. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fh_cHb72fOg a you tube link that might help

-- "PLUMBER'S BUTT! Get over it, everybody has one"

View jonlan's profile

jonlan

61 posts in 1276 days


#3 posted 12-11-2018 03:51 PM

Thanks for the comments. I’ve been doing some googling too and have come across two other possible items that may help me.

1 – Many folks use a bending strap. I’ll have to look into making one of these
2 – Folks who are working with kiln dried wood seem to be pre-soaking for 7 days, and in many cases including Downey fabric softener in the water!

Maybe I’ll give both of those options a try and see how I do

View JAAune's profile

JAAune

1864 posts in 2705 days


#4 posted 12-11-2018 04:15 PM

Easiest thing to do is to start searching for local sawmills and get yourself some air-dried wood. The difference is night and day. Also, do get that bending strap whether you buy it or make one. Use tempered steel strapping if you can find it. Mild steel can stretch if the stress is too high.

If you can access it, this Michael Fortune article will help a lot.

Steam Bending

Here’s some of the work I did using his techniques. Every piece of curved solid wood in that was steam-bent.



-- See my work at http://remmertstudios.com and http://altaredesign.com

View DrDirt's profile

DrDirt

4557 posts in 4131 days


#5 posted 12-14-2018 05:28 PM

jajunes pic has your answer…. the bending strap is key.

Wood is very compressible, but not very stretchy.
You need to bend such that you are “compressing the inside of the curve” … instead of tryint to stretch the outside curve

http://www.leevalley.com/en/wood/page.aspx?p=42173&cat=1,45866

-- “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” Mark Twain

View runswithscissors's profile (online now)

runswithscissors

3042 posts in 2414 days


#6 posted 12-16-2018 05:32 AM

DrDirt has it right about how the wood fibers move. Stretching the wood fibers equals breakage. The bending strap is to help force the bend into the fibers inside the bend. You often can see after you’re done how the fibers have sort of folded and crumpled in on themselves.

Second, I think 25 minutes is too short a time. The wood has to be hot all the way through. Thinner wood, of course, heats through more quickly, but also cools off faster. As soon as it’s cool, forget bending. You’ll have to reheat. Soaking the wood may help the heat to penetrate deeply into the wood, but moisture itself has little to do with the bending. I regularly bend wood (oak, mostly) without any moisture at all, using a heat gun or other source of heat.

Also, I think white oak will bend much more readily than red (not sure about this; oak experts can weigh in). However, ash is quite a good bending wood, as is black locust. Also yellow cedar, but probably too soft for your project.

The shelf bracket was just a prototype. Total time involved in bending was less than 10 minutes. Didn’t use a form, just freehanded with one end clamped in the vise, other end with a C clamp (clamping the bending strap and serving as a handle) The bent wood is white oak, about 5/16” thick. The strapping steel used for sling loads of lumber makes an excellent bending strap.

JAAune: that is beautiful work you have done, sir. I’m impressed.

-- I admit to being an adrenaline junky; fortunately, I'm very easily frightened

View Phil Soper's profile

Phil Soper

25 posts in 190 days


#7 posted 12-16-2018 02:32 PM

That is beautiful work JAAune.
My experience has taught me that straight grain, air dried (best about 15%) and a compression strap takes a lot of the frustration out of steam-bending. Also best to prep an extra piece because sometimes it just does not work

Here are some photos of a toboggan I made for my granddaughters

View jonlan's profile

jonlan

61 posts in 1276 days


#8 posted 12-16-2018 03:40 PM

Gorgeous pictures and work by all of you! I’ve settled on trying the steam bending strap – but after a couple of runs to my local home improvement stores, I can’t find a strap that’s thick enough for the length of board Im attempting to bend. Im looking for straps in plumbing that are typically used for hanging pipe.

Do most folks just buy the one sold by Veritas? (http://www.leevalley.com/us/HARDWARE/page.aspx?p=42173&cat=1,45866)

Or have folks had luck making their own? I’d prefer to try and make my own first to see if it helps before I invest in a tool.

View Phil Soper's profile

Phil Soper

25 posts in 190 days


#9 posted 12-16-2018 03:53 PM

HVAC hanging strap works well It is about 1 1/2 wide and much stronger than plumbing strap It comes in 100 foot rolls. I cut it about a foot long and then add wood or metal stop blocks

View jonlan's profile

jonlan

61 posts in 1276 days


#10 posted 12-16-2018 06:32 PM

So Im sort of struggling to find a detailed process for bending with the straps. The example I have found are mostly for hot pipe steam bending. I’ll keep googling, but can someone explain the basics to me? I assume its more than just holding the strap on the board while bending it.

View runswithscissors's profile (online now)

runswithscissors

3042 posts in 2414 days


#11 posted 12-16-2018 09:42 PM

Yes, both ends have to be held. I hold one end in my bench vise, the other with a C clamp. Needs to be clamped pretty tightly as a lot of force is imparted as you bend the wood. Bending quickly seems to work well with steam, but with dry heat bending, I do it gradually, increasing the pressure as I feel the wood yield to the heat. I usually over bend, as there will be a little spring-back. If you bend too far, you will need to reheat to reverse some of the bend.

You can see how he has clamped the strap in post #4. Practice on scrap wood before you commit your good stuff to the steam box (or however you want to do it).

If you want to try the hot pipe method, I’d suggest a hot stove pipe rather than water pipe, because you are going for a large radius bend. By the way, wear leather gloves.

-- I admit to being an adrenaline junky; fortunately, I'm very easily frightened

View AlaskaGuy's profile

AlaskaGuy

5278 posts in 2698 days


#12 posted 12-16-2018 10:04 PM

There’s also a whole bunch of YouTube video on making toboggan that cover the bending process. Some are better that others.

-- Alaskan's for Global warming!

View bold1's profile

bold1

322 posts in 2236 days


#13 posted 12-17-2018 01:36 AM

I have never steam bent any wood myself. But my father was involved in supplying wood for submarine keels during WW2. He told me they used Slippery Elm and placed the pieces into steam chambers where they could raise the pressure to force the steam into the wood before bending. I remember him saying they wanted the center of the piece to get to 160 degrees Fahrenheit or higher to change the polymer in the wood into a plastic state before they started to bend it so that the finished keel still had strength. I would say without knowing your core temp it would just be trail and error.

View runswithscissors's profile (online now)

runswithscissors

3042 posts in 2414 days


#14 posted 12-17-2018 01:44 AM

I suspect the real reason for raising the pressure was to raise the temperature. Billy Atkin (old time naval architect) said one time that steaming green white oak actually had the side effect of seasoning the wood. Except for surface moisture, the wood was no longer “green.”

-- I admit to being an adrenaline junky; fortunately, I'm very easily frightened

View bold1's profile

bold1

322 posts in 2236 days


#15 posted 12-17-2018 11:55 AM

I don’t know about that. I do know they still pressure treat lumber to force the chemicals throughout the wood.

View runswithscissors's profile (online now)

runswithscissors

3042 posts in 2414 days


#16 posted 12-17-2018 07:37 PM

True about pressure treated wood. They also puncture the wood with many little holes to let the chemicals penetrate.

-- I admit to being an adrenaline junky; fortunately, I'm very easily frightened

View jdh122's profile

jdh122

1073 posts in 3206 days


#17 posted 12-17-2018 08:00 PM

The USDA handbook suggests that there is no advantage to adding pressure: https://www.fpl.fs.fed.us/documnts/usda/ah125.pdf
That said, I know that quite a few people do use pressure (Engels Coachshop on YT, for example, who steambend very thick ash regularly).

-- Jeremy, in the Acadian forests

View pontic's profile

pontic

693 posts in 997 days


#18 posted 12-18-2018 01:54 AM

Type of wood can also help.I find that Ash bends the best for me; and yes air dried bents better.

-- Illigitimii non carburundum sum

View steve104c's profile

steve104c

52 posts in 1627 days


#19 posted 12-18-2018 10:52 PM

Only steam the amount of you can bend right out of the steamer. You only have a few seconds to bend the steamed wood. The rules is to steam 20 minutes for every 1” of thickness. Take out the pieces one at a time and bend that piece before taking out the next piece. Steam bending is a little tricky. Also have steamer and your jig close to each other. The wood will cool faster than think. Always use heavy gloves even if you use tongs to remove wood from steamer. Skin will burn at. 130 -145 degrees and the steam will be 212 degrees. Have fun but be careful.

Have your say...

You must be signed in to reply.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics

HomeRefurbers.com