|Project by MattD||posted 08-14-2009 04:29 AM||15145 views||42 times favorited||26 comments|
This is my 8 foot steam box that I built for my Wooden Boat Project which is getting me into some new things like steam bending. I’m finding a lot of people happy with boxes built with insulation board. Other people are successful using wallpaper steamers as a steam source with wood, metal and PVC boxes. I came up with my own version combining these two trends. This could be a first! At least the first documented online that I could find. So far so good.
The entire box was made from a single 8×4 sheet of 1 3/8” thick TUFF-R insulation board with foil on both sides (About $22), cut up and joined together into a box with a good amount of aluminum duct tape. Based on good and bad experiences from others, it’s best to use the foil backed rigid foam board and avoid the polystyrene pink/blue insulation boards. 1/4” square cedar strips are placed every 2 feet on the inside so that the piece to be bent will be elevated a bit for the steam to surround it. One end is sealed with a removable block of foam and the business end gets a towel stuffed into it to keep in the steam when in use. The opening is 12” x 6”. I elevate the box a few inches in the back with a few blocks of foam so that the condensation will run out the front and into a bucket on the floor.
The steam source is a Wagner 705 power steamer (wallpaper remover). The unit comes with an 11 foot hose ready to go like it’s made for this thing. I cut a hole on the top of the box to push the hose into. In 15 minutes, the unit starts producing a good amount of steam. In another 10-15 minutes, the inside of the box is over 200 degrees F (according to my wife’s candy thermometer) and ready to load. The foam insulation is obviously a huge help in retaining heat. The outside of the box is warm after an hour. The inside is brutally hot scalding steam. The Wagner is a $50 unit, so it may not be the cheapest steam source, but I think it’s one of the safest and easiest to deal with compared to hotplate/kettle or fuel based boilers. The water level is visible through the side and it has a thermal safety fuse if it runs out of water. The steamer holds 1 gallon and my results show it will produce steam for at least 1.5 hours. For a very big project where I’d be steaming all day, this could be a limitation. I’d have stop and refill with boiling water to avoid any interuption in steam, but this is ok with me. To run it all day, I might work out how to slowly refeed the unit from a larger bucket, or from the recycled condensation from the box, which is often done with small kettles.
Definately fun and easy to build and it was exciting to see how easy it was to bend a 1/2” test piece of white oak by hand after a half hour in the box! I’m not sure if the box will last forever, but it should get through quite a few projects.
-- Matt - Syracuse, NY