Was working on a project which would require 2 strips of curved walnut so decided I needed a steam box. It had been on my bucket list for awhile so now was the time. I already had an old pressure cooker and a single burner electric stove. Only other things needed was a box and some hose.
Well, I actually made 2. The first one was made out of plywood and was a major fail. I should’ve had enough common sense to know what was wrong. After about 2 hrs of boiling with the burner on high, I put my gloves on, took the end cap off and removed the wood. To my disappointment, there was no burst of steam when I took the cap off and the wood was barely warm. I’m thinking to myself “dang! what a waste of time and electricity”.
One problem was that the box was too big and I had the strips raised only about an inch off the bottom. The other problem was that the hoses were too long and had created a p trap so the steam must have been condensing and settling in the p trap.
Oh well, let’s try again. This time using 4” pvc pipe and shorten the hoses. After 2 1/2 hrs of boiling and steaming I took them out. They were pretty hot but didn’t seem as soft and flexible as I had hoped. I clamped them in the jig and let them sit for a day and a half. When I took them out, they flexed back slightly and still didn’t have the exact curve I wanted. I had to leave it alone for awhile.
A couple days later I thought I’d try the heat gun. I clamped it in the vise, heated the area I needed to curve and to my surprise, bent and flexed with ease. And held its shape.
So my advise to anyone wanting to bend a small strip of wood, try a vise and heat gun before wasting time and energy building a steam box.
-- J.C.Sellers, Norcross, Ga. Just cut it right the first time. The best carpenters make the fewest chips.