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The $75 Eight Foot Steam Box

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Project by MattD posted 1810 days ago 9673 views 37 times favorited 23 comments Add to Favorites Watch

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 (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





23 comments so far

View Sean's profile

Sean

156 posts in 2218 days


#1 posted 1810 days ago

Rocks!

-- "Democracy is by far the worst system of government. Except all the others that have been tried." ~ Winston Churchill

View patron's profile

patron

12973 posts in 1944 days


#2 posted 1810 days ago

just in time my man !
i was asked today if i knew steam bending ,
and this box looks good .
at first glance , it looked like angle iron welded .
but its quit simple .
thanks .
is there a place to check out the steam bending qualities of various woods ?

-- david - only thru kindness can this world be whole . If we don't succeed we run the risk of failure. Dan Quayle

View FirehouseWoodworking's profile (online now)

FirehouseWoodworking

622 posts in 1876 days


#3 posted 1810 days ago

ABSOLUTELY BRILLIANT in its utility and simplicity! You have done well.

And now, I will engage in intellectual thievery and steal the idea to make one of my own!

YOU DA MAN!

(I, too, would agree with Sean and say that it “Rocks” but at my age, saying something like that would probably throw my back out of joint! So you’ll have to settle for BRILLIANT!)

Cheers!

-- Dave; Lansing, Kansas

View Karson's profile

Karson

34861 posts in 3003 days


#4 posted 1810 days ago

Patron: The dept of forestry. A federal agency has a book called the wood handbook. You can download it on the web for free. You can also download each chapter. One of them has the wood bending charactitics.

The steam box looks great. I assume the water from inside the tube is not recycled back to the steamer. So how long does the steamer put out steem?

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Southern Delaware karson_morrison@bigfoot.com †

View patron's profile

patron

12973 posts in 1944 days


#5 posted 1810 days ago

thank you karson ,
im on it .

-- david - only thru kindness can this world be whole . If we don't succeed we run the risk of failure. Dan Quayle

View Karson's profile

Karson

34861 posts in 3003 days


#6 posted 1810 days ago

Patron: The dept of forestry. A federal agency has a book called the wood handbook. You can download it on the web for free. You can also download each chapter. One of them has the wood bending charactitics.

It looks like chapter 3 on working properties has a table table 3-8 Do a search for “wood handbook” it will probasbly be the first link

The steam box looks great. I assume the water from inside the tube is not recycled back to the steamer. So how long does the steamer put out steam?

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Southern Delaware karson_morrison@bigfoot.com †

View MattD's profile

MattD

149 posts in 2547 days


#7 posted 1810 days ago

Karson – The steamer holds 1 gallon. It used around a half gallon in an hour, so I figure at least 80-90 minutes is safe to count on. The box is elevated in the back slightly so the condensation runs into a bucket right now. It should be easy to put a hole in the steamer and recycle with a tube from the bucket back into the steamer or do a siphon type rig with a larger bucket of water. I might do that when I get into steaming boat ribs. It’s not good to run out of steam.

-- Matt - Syracuse, NY

View kolwdwrkr's profile

kolwdwrkr

2821 posts in 2193 days


#8 posted 1810 days ago

very cool.

-- ~ Inspiring those who inspire me ~

View Ben Kahmann's profile

Ben Kahmann

231 posts in 1875 days


#9 posted 1810 days ago

$75 for a steam box, that’s great. Now I need a project so I can build one of these. I’ll fave this for later reference. Thanks

-- Ben Kahmann Dayton, OH

View SPalm's profile

SPalm

4760 posts in 2485 days


#10 posted 1810 days ago

That is sweet, good job. Bending is something I always wanted to try.
This looks like one of the most affordable, clean, and simple setups I have seen.

Thanks for sharing.
Steve

-- -- I'm no rocket surgeon

View jockmike2's profile

jockmike2

10635 posts in 2849 days


#11 posted 1810 days ago

Why does’nt the styrafoam insulation melt inside?

-- (You just have to please the man in the Mirror) Mike from Michigan -

View MattD's profile

MattD

149 posts in 2547 days


#12 posted 1810 days ago

Mike – TUFF-R is made from polyisocyanurate which has a melting point of 300F. TUFF-R is rated for use up to 190F, so I’m pushing a little on the tolerances. Steam is around 212F. From what I could find, it’s important to use rigid foil faced insulation like TUFF-R and avoid the polystyrene types (the pink and blue boards) which can melt or deform like you point out.

Time will tell though. I think that the steam could eventually degrade the material, but it’s still rock solid after several hours.

-- Matt - Syracuse, NY

View ChrisN's profile

ChrisN

259 posts in 2376 days


#13 posted 1810 days ago

That’s awsome.

-- Chris N, Westford, MA - "If you won't eat something from your fridge that turned green...why would you eat something that started out that way?"

View a1Jim's profile

a1Jim

112001 posts in 2180 days


#14 posted 1810 days ago

great job

-- http://artisticwoodstudio.com Custom furniture

View glynn's profile

glynn

296 posts in 1923 days


#15 posted 1810 days ago

thank you Ive thought of building a steam box but none of my own ideas to add steam were that reasonable. great job ,I,ll do it .since I think all the LJ s are a bit bent there should be a few of these out there soon.thanks

-- jim nevada

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