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Steam bending is kind of a science. You need to loosen the bonds that adhere the wood fibers together with steam and then force one face of the wood into compression and the opposite one into expansion by using a bending caul, usually made of iron banding with a stop on each end to keep the compression and expansion forces in the right areas to keep from collapsing the inner face or tearing the outer.

Smaller pieces may not need it, just bend it around a form or attach it to the project, like a boat knee or something.

Steam boxes and steam bending have been around for a long time. Google has lots of results.
 

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I recently taught a class on building Norwegian Tine boxes. There is one in my project list. Think Shaker box getting pillaged by Vikings. The bending pieces were 3" x 28" x 3/32" cherry and birch.

My steam box was a piece of 4" abs sewer pipe with rubber caps. The steam source was my wife's floor model clothes steamer. I connected it to the steam box with a piece of 5/8" heater hose. I steamed the wood for at least an hour. I could get 4-5 bending pieces in the steam box at a time, along with some spacers to allow steam circulation.

A guy in the class brought his "steam" box. His had the same general dimensions as the one posted last week by Hallmark. This box was custom bent out of sheet copper. He filled it with water and sat it on one or two hot plates and boiled his bending parts.

One might think if steam is good, boiling water is better. I think the steam worked better. I believe it penetrates deeper and has more heat.
 

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TheDane,

Take a look at the one Norm built on the Hat Rack Episode (#2110). PVC, New/Clean can, radiator hose. His looks the simplest, safest, and easiest to build. Only change I might suggest is a wet rag door, although Norm's has vent holes all along the bottom, so it's probably a moot point. The wet rag might be easier access though.

Rance
 
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