LumberJocks Woodworking Forum banner

Steam Bending Cherry

7724 Views 8 Replies 5 Participants Last post by  mark4345
I am trying to make a step for my mom to get into her bed and match her current furniture. The bottom has a U shape each side being 10 inches, and the front is 20 inches, on the corners is a 3 7/16 radius. i cut a piece of straight grain cherry 6 1/2 inches wide and 48 inches long and 1/2 inch thick.

The reading i have done suggests a one hour per inch of thickness once the temperature inside the steam box has reached 200 degrees. So i put the piece in temp got to 200 degrees half hour later i took it out, immediately started clamping around my form….and nothing really happened it was as if i didn't even steam it.

So…..what do you think…should i leave it in longer? Am i a bit ambitious trying to bend 1/2 inch stock? Does cherry not bend easily?

I am looking for suggestions here, this is my first go at steam bending.

1 - 9 of 9 Posts
Are you sure it is air dried? If it is Kiln dried it won't work as well, you may add some clothes softener to the steam water, but usually kiln dried wood is hard to steam bend.
No i am not sure, i got the wood from owl hardwood a local supplier. It is probably a safe bet that it is kiln dried i will have to give them a call and see.
Yes, you need air-dried wood. Also, you won't be able to do serious steam-bending without a backing strap and end stops. If you are using one, I couldn't tell from reading the post.

Cherry isn't the easiest wood to bend but 1/2" around 3 7/16" radius should be doable.
Try soaking in HOT water with clothes softener. A guy here in Berea uses this method to bend 1 1/2" maple for rocking chairs and it works well. Just let it dry in the bending form. Also consider a comptrssion strap ( see Lee Valley) or a two piece form.

I agree with Steve, I have soaked wood in the tub, (wife not too thrilled with that) for sometimes up to a full day, the into the steam while it in the steam , if it's just one curve I will bend it a little every hour. Unlike Steve, I never used a clothes softener, but I would be willing to try anything ;-)

I have bent maple and cherry this way. You can always use pine, not as nice but bends very easy.

The fabric softener (Downey is their choice) doesn't affect finishing. It does soften the wood and makes it much more pliable; plus it smells good. The water needs to be pretty hot and stay that way. Try using a piece of aluminum gutter on a hot plate. I have seen them bend some pretty big stuff with no problem. They heat the water to nearly boiling and keep it going. Sometimes for four or five hours deoending in the wood and size.

Thanks for all the help. I would never have thought of fabric softener…very interesting idea.

Again great input, i am learning a lot very quickly on this site. The project is coming along very nicely, i should be finishing up tomorrow, then a few coats of finish. I will be sure to post pics here when i get it done.
1 - 9 of 9 Posts
This is an older thread, you may not receive a response, and could be reviving an old thread. Please consider creating a new thread.