Dose any one have good advice on steam bending?????

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Forum topic by Drewskie posted 06-02-2010 05:00 AM 2002 views 0 times favorited 12 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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53 posts in 3377 days

06-02-2010 05:00 AM

Topic tags/keywords: question

Hey out there, I’m a 16 year veteran in the woodworking industry and this is my first go at steam bending. I have a couple of small moldings I need to bend to a radius. I think i have the whole steam box thing figured out, but i am unsure of the whole processing portion.
I think my two biggest questions are how long do you steam the pieces for, and how long do you clamp them on a form for. Your wisdom is greatly appreciated!



-- I cut it three times and its still to short?

12 replies so far

View a1Jim's profile


117204 posts in 3699 days

#1 posted 06-02-2010 05:07 AM

Hey Andrew
It depends what kind of wood your trying to bend.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View Drewskie's profile


53 posts in 3377 days

#2 posted 06-02-2010 05:32 AM


Its European Beech. The largest molding is 3/4” X 1 1/4”

-- I cut it three times and its still to short?

View a1Jim's profile


117204 posts in 3699 days

#3 posted 06-02-2010 05:36 AM

I would give it a test run but I’m not that sure about beach because I’ve never tried bend it.
So take some scrape the same size and steam it for an hour or so and see what happens.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View Drewskie's profile


53 posts in 3377 days

#4 posted 06-02-2010 02:36 PM


Sounds like a plan. Thanks for the advice.

-- I cut it three times and its still to short?

View Dennisgrosen's profile


10880 posts in 3237 days

#5 posted 06-02-2010 03:00 PM

beech is steambend a lot in Danish design furniture we see it all the time here in Denmark
but I don´t know much about it
except that I have heare anything betwiin ½ – 2 hours steaming so my gess is
it most depent of the thickness of the wood
and you have to work fairly fast after you get out it of the steamer
the opening time isn´t that long after what I have heart
so you most have the form and clamps ready where you are going to use them


View Ben Martin's profile

Ben Martin

34 posts in 3330 days

#6 posted 06-02-2010 04:00 PM

I’m sure you’ll get better answers around here, but a general rule I learned was to steam 1 hour per inch of thickness. I’m far from an expert bender, but I’ve made several ox bows over that last few years.

Steaming isn’t a real science, it’s the bending that takes work. Be prepared to scrap a few pieces as you learn how much you have to steam, and how fast or slow you have to bend the wood. I usually make the my parts thicker where the radius will be, since I know I’m going to have some cracking on the outside, then carve/sand that away.

If the parts are small, or you have a good setup, you could also try soaking the part in boiling water. I tend to go with boiling, since I make maple syrup. I cut a small log at the begging of the syrup season, split and carge the bows while I’m boiling, then when i finish the season, I’ll fill the main pan with water while running the finishing pan, and throw the sticks in the boiling water for 4-5 hours.

Good luck, try with scaps first, and make sure your bending jig is ready so that you can get the piece on it fast when you get it out of the steam, and apply a slow constant pressure while bending. Leave the piece clamped in the jig for as long as possible after, since the wood will try to straighten out. I’d also aim to have the radius a little bit tighter that you want.

Last note I can offer on bending is that green wood steams easier, too bad we need to wood to dry first!

View tbone's profile


276 posts in 3806 days

#7 posted 06-02-2010 04:24 PM

I can say from experience that Ben’s “1 hour per inch of thickness” method works well on kiln-dried white oak.
I always leave the material clamped overnight and there IS a significant amount of springback involved, so plan for it.
We would all be interested in how the beech bending turns out.
Good luck.

-- Kinky Friedman: "The first thing I'll do if I'm elected is demand a recount."

View juanabee's profile


109 posts in 3130 days

#8 posted 06-02-2010 04:28 PM

One hour of steaming per inch of thickness.

-- "Life's nonsense pierces us with strange relation." Wallace Stevens

View fussy's profile


980 posts in 3172 days

#9 posted 06-03-2010 08:51 AM


GO to Fine Woodworking Magazine, search out articles on steam bending by Michael Fortune, and you’ll have the greatest resource known to man.


-- Steve in KY. 44 years so far with my lovely bride. Think I'll keep her.

View CharlesNeil's profile


2434 posts in 3992 days

#10 posted 06-03-2010 01:18 PM

an hour per inch is a good rule of thumb, on beech be sure its as straight grained as possible, beech likes to and can twist when steamed, another thing be sure you have plenty of steam, and while there are numerous methods , I got 2 of the Earlex wallpaper steamers, ( 1 1/2 chair backs at 40 inches long), and used them to make the steam, man oh man, these babies put out some steam, honestly, they get the job done, but are about 50 a piece. just google earlex wall paper steamer, i think they even have a little video on it… but again, be sure its wet and hot

View Gene Howe's profile

Gene Howe

10841 posts in 3550 days

#11 posted 06-03-2010 02:51 PM

Can only offer my experience with a poor man’s method.
I needed to to bend 5/8 X 1 1/2 white oak around a 54” dia. table top.
I had some 20’ lengths of 4” black DWV and some caps. I capped one end and filled it to about 3/4 full with hot household water that had been through a conditioner. Then I added about 1/2 pint of Downy and stuck the strips in. Capped the other end and let it set for a full day in the hot AZ sun.
That evening the strips were almost spaghetti. Had no problem fitting the piece. Put on a home made inner tube band clamp and let it set for two days. then unclamped and glued it. I got no splintering.
It’s still in use today, 22 years later.
The shop smelled like a laundry room for a few days.

-- Gene 'The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.' G. K. Chesterton

View Tony Strupulis's profile

Tony Strupulis

260 posts in 3245 days

#12 posted 06-03-2010 08:48 PM

I’ve also heard that soaking wood in ammonia will make it bend much easier. If you can get your hands on something stronger than household ammonia, it will work better.

-- Tony -

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