For my third course at the “Centre for Fine Woodworking” here in New Zealand, I decided to try “Bending Solid Wood” – a two week course with the project being a stool designed for the course by the instructor, local furniture maker David Haig. David also teaches in Maine and a few other places around the US and Australia. The school is in Nelson – a truely awesome little city at the north end of the South Island.
A winter morning in Nelson.
Going into the course all I knew about bending wood was laminating thin stock around a former but I wanted to try something different and this course offered exactly that. I decided to try and get two finished to keep my two girls happy.
Day one – we got straight into stock preparation for the steam bent legs – these started out as 50×75 (2” x 3”) blanks which were milled down to almost final dimensions. The stretchers were also prepared for steaming – these were milled to final dimensions (12mmx20mm). Once the 12 students had all prepared the leg stock we were introduced to the steamer. Due to the number of students there were 2 steamers available – one an easy to build plywood one (more on that later) and one was purpose built for David out of stainless steel.
The guideline was steam your timber at 100 degrees celcius for at least one hour for every inch thick (width of stock is not important during the steaming process).
Whilst the legs were steaming we split into teams and made a accurate leg template and 3 sets of formers plus 3 drying racks as we needed to have all the legs bent on day one (they take 3-4 days to dry out again).
Drying Rack for Legs
Drying rack for Stretchers
Former for Legs (with leg bent around it).
I think we left the legs in for around 2 hours to be safe, after that we started bending the legs, speed is important during the bending as the stock cools remarkable fast – we had about 1 minute to get each leg bent and clamped to a former. Fans were then applied to assist the cooling process and after about 30 minutes the legs were transferred to the drying frame and clamped in place. The next leg was then bent.
Bending a leg
End of day one – everyone happy, all legs bent and drying, and David pleased with our progress.