methods of work #15: Steam bent horseshoe chair back rail

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Blog entry by Loren posted 09-06-2013 10:49 PM 2132 reads 0 times favorited 5 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 14: Steam bending furniture parts Part 15 of methods of work series Part 16: another steam bending setup »

Previous blog post has a couple of pictures of the steambending table and jig setup, plus the bent part inside jig.

Here’s the bent part. White oak, kiln dried, 2”wide x 3/4” thick.

Bending was way easier and more successful than I was expecting. The lever I used is about 5’ long and I just sort of walked it around pushing with my hip. I used a lot less muscle than expected.

5 comments so far

View shipwright's profile


7980 posts in 2793 days

#1 posted 09-06-2013 11:48 PM

Bending some wood for furniture has always been on my list but I haven’t got around to it yet. Some of my best memories of building big boats come from the times we were bending oak ribs. It will always fascinate me how the character of the material can change so much from a little steam. We ribbed a 60 foot seiner once with 2 1/4” X 3 1/2” Indiana bending oak ….. needed a come-along for some of the tighter bends but it was so fascinating to see them “bend to our will”.
Congrats on your progress.

-- Paul M ..............If God wanted us to have fiberglass boats he would have given us fibreglass trees.

View Loren's profile


10377 posts in 3642 days

#2 posted 09-07-2013 12:24 AM

By far the most tedious part was getting set up for bending in general and for this specific shape. I went overboard and built a 3” thick bending table from Michael Fortune’s article that inspired the Veritas system.

I think I’m going to get real into bending. The instant increase in woodworking vocabulary is pretty cool and of course a jig designed for a specific piece creates a shaped part which has other applications in furniture-sized work.

View BJODay's profile


526 posts in 1938 days

#3 posted 09-07-2013 12:26 AM


How many pieces are you going to bend? Is it one and done or are you bending a series of pieces?

If it is a series, are they all shaped the same or do the shapes change depending on the position of the piece? If you make multiple pieces to match, how well do they hold they shape? Do some “snap back” more than others based on grain direction or density?


View Loren's profile


10377 posts in 3642 days

#4 posted 09-07-2013 12:37 AM

I’m doing a chair prototype, but assuming it will be successful enough. The ends of the horseshoe will be cut off and tenoned, the rear legs let into the “U”, and the tenons inserted into mortises in the front legs.

It doesn’t spring back much at all, not enough to get in the way of perpendicular assembly in the chair. If steam bent parts are left to “wave” in the air they will move around seasonally but where the ends are fixed as they will in the chair the shape should be as stable as one would expect of any wood construct.

In making multiples, you’d build a drying rack and leave all the parts on it for a few weeks.

In bending a shape like this, the cells on the inside are actually crushed and it makes a sound like wood breaking when it’s happening, so the distortion is permanent to a large extent. Michael Fortune discovered a method of rapidly bending steamed stock one way, then the other to break the cells and then the part can be actually twisted 180 degrees or so without a strap and will hold the shape after it dries. Crazy looking effect.

View stefang's profile


15881 posts in 3329 days

#5 posted 09-08-2013 11:05 AM

Your set-up looks good Loren.I have always wanted to try steam bending, but haven’t got around to it yet. Maybe a challenge for the future. Meanwhile it’s good to read other’s experience to get the theory part. Thanks for sharing.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

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