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I'm curious, from everyone's experience of steam bending different types of wood, what were the easiest and hardest woods to bend, IE.. oak, ash, beech, walnut…..redwood….?

Also, I've tried bending kiln dried with little success and am about to try bend air dried. Any comments on this?

Thanks, Don
 

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As a rule AD bends easier then KD, some KD doesnt bend period

Birch, Ash, White and Red Oaks, Beech, Elm all bend quite well. I've had good luck with cherry too.

Good luck
 

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Building wooden boats involves lots of steam bending. The common woods we used were Oak for ribs ( I've bent up to 2 1/2" x 3 1/4" stock) and Yellow Cedar, Red Cedar and Doug Fir for planking. Gumwood will steam bend if you've got enough clamps and a come-along. I know of other woods that bend well but these are the ones I have experience with. Kiln drying pretty much "Kill Dries" as far as bending is concerned. The wood never seems to regain it's elasticity after kiln drying.
My tips would be:
1) you want wet, white steam. If it gets clear it's too hot.
2) you can help yourself a lot by chamfering the corners before bending.
3) a coat of linseed oil will help hold the heat and keep the material moist and flexible longer
4) be aware that a wide piece will cup quite a bit when bent
5) if you aren't fastening the bent piece hot expect substantial spring-back
It's a lot of fun to see the things you can do with well steamed wood. Have fun!

Paul M
 

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I've had fantastic luck with still green red oak, decent luck with small bends in kiln-dried yellow birch and nothing but failure when I tried trembling aspen (don't ask).
I also experimented a bit with a bending strap but found that for the smaller bends needed for chairs (and especially with green wood) it wasn't needed, although it does seem to allow you to do some pretty amazing stuff.
 

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Most of the domestics will bend if they are air-dried and still above 10% moisture content. Ash is an exceptional wood for bending. Walnut is very good and cherry will bend but is more prone to compression wrinkles when the radius gets tight.
 

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I have not had any problems steam bending kiln-dried maple or kiln-dried cherry-rule of thumb 1 1/4 hours per inch of thickness, use a compression strap and don't relieve the strap until the piece has cooled, usually about an hour.
Natural material Wood Wood stain Chair Hardwood


Wood Hardwood Wood stain Composite material Flooring
 

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Old thread! My dad steam bent the bows for an old pre-war Rolls Royce convertible top out of white oak. I knew it was a tough job, but I didn't realize how tough, until I read about steam bending here on this site. I'd ask him, but he's been dead for almost 30 years. :(
 
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