Wood Steam Chamber and Test Results

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Project by wuddoc posted 01-16-2009 07:49 PM 3542 views 3 times favorited 4 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Steam Chamber Test #1

My woodshop buddy Rick and I have been asked to make some circular attaché style cases for carrying presentation materials. To create the circular case edge we have in the past used the cross saw kerf method described and illustrated in the Bending And Laminating chapter of Cabinetmaking and Millwork ©1988 by John L. Feirer. We are looking for an easier method to bend the wood.

The chamber test was to determine the longevity if a laminated Medium Density Fiberboard (MDF) used to create a steam chamber would hold up. The laminate was faced to the inside of the chamber.

A simple butt joint was used at the back and along the sides. These were glued with a silicon based adhesive. The door was two layers of MDF with the inside smaller to make a better seal yet not so tight as to create a potential explosion. The door was hinged and held closed with a spring. The spring allows the door to open if the steam pressure gets to high.

Dowels were inserted to allow multiple pieces of wood to be steamed. This also keeps the wood separated so the steam swirls around each piece of wood.

The kettle was purchased from the local Wally-World and four minute J-B Weld was used to secure the copper tube connection fittings in the kettles spout. 1/4” soft copper tubing was used to conduct the steam from the kettle to the chamber. The tube goes over and in through the top of the chamber. This makes sure no condensate gathers in the tube and blocks the steam.

A flexible plastic tube was mounted at the closed end of the chamber on the bottom side to allow the condensate to flow from the chamber. The chamber itself was tilted using ¼” drop for every foot length thus allowing the condensate to move along the bottom of the chamber and out the rear lower tube. The tube is 1/8” ID.

As you will see in the last picture the laminate failed on the door which also occurred inside the chamber. The kettle leaked too much steam from around the lid thus shortening the steam time available inside the chamber.

-- Wuddoc

4 comments so far

View LesB's profile


1683 posts in 3409 days

#1 posted 01-16-2009 08:47 PM

I know Laminate MDF is cheaper than marine grade plywood but why would you go to all that work using MDF which is not known for it’s moisture resistance?
Otherwise it looks like a good design without much expense.

-- Les B, Oregon

View Karson's profile


35111 posts in 4366 days

#2 posted 01-16-2009 08:56 PM

Looks like a great concept but a successful failure. Now new materials for the box. What are you going to try next?

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Southern Delaware soon moving to Virginia †

View BarryW's profile


1015 posts in 3872 days

#3 posted 01-17-2009 01:34 AM

Copper sheeting…galvanized sheet…something that won’t be affected by the moisture…copper would be expensive…but I think would be the best long term is one has the bucks and alot of bending to do…fiberglass?
like a telescope tube

-- /\/\/\ BarryW /\/\/\ Stay so busy you don't have time to die.

View wuddoc's profile


270 posts in 3684 days

#4 posted 01-17-2009 02:23 AM

I have to keep in the back of my mind what a high school wood shop teacher would have at their immediate disposal or available as scrap from a local manufacturer. The MDF idea was based on sink cutouts which most shops will give to a teacher.

I have steered away from exposed metal because of the potential for burns. Eventually the copper tube will be encased in pipe insulation. Kids are curious and you tell them it is to hot to handle so they will try and touch it to see if it really is hot.

Keep the ideas coming and thanks for all your brainstorming.

-- Wuddoc

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