?Question? Bending and dying thin wood strips

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Forum topic by davidroberts posted 10-06-2016 08:34 PM 1098 views 0 times favorited 6 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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1027 posts in 3686 days

10-06-2016 08:34 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question bending dying wood selection

Howdy from over yonder,

I have a project in mind that requires bending short, thin strips of wood, say 50 strips up to 3 feet long, around 1 inch wide, and 3/16 inch thick, at the very most. The length mentioned is prior to bending. The strips will be formed into loops, curly cues, spirals, and other twisted shapes. The diameter of spirals and such will be 1 to 3 inches. I may even use some hand plane curlies.

I plan to soak them in hot water and bend and twist over a heated pipe, and a couple of homade jigs. Nothing fancy. I would like advice on wood species conducive to this style of bending. I’ve only bent wood that I had no intention to bend. I need to dye the strips so light-colored wood selections are preferable. My quantity need is small, so I have more buying options that are less cost prohibitive than normal.

Also I need to dye the strips with shades of blue, blue-green, maybe white(?), or bleach. I’m thinking of using a lightweight, maybe 1/4 pound cut (more or less) of shellac, as a wash coat. I would need to experiment first with color saturation before committing. Shellac should help keep their shape somewhat, while not too heavy a finish. Some very minimal protection would be nice. The strips will be used inside only. I have a few trans-tint bottles, just not blue, green, etc. Since I need to buy dye, is there a brand you have used successfully, and don’t mind sharing. Would liquid or powder work best, and does it matter? Is clear-coat shellac a reasonable choice? I could set up for lacquer, if the better choice. I’ve never used primary colors with lacquer spray.

As always, thanks.

-- Better woodworking through old hand tools.

6 replies so far

View Texcaster's profile


1287 posts in 1874 days

#1 posted 10-06-2016 09:28 PM

Thonet chairs have been made of euro beech for almost 150 years. I use 3.5mm x 10mm beech for linings on small instruments. As an experiment I bent the beech dry around a 40mm hot pipe. Normally I wet it out 30 min. before bending. Keep it wet to prevent scorching. Watch out for runout. A tight radius can be slightly thinned at the bend.

-- Mama calls me Texcaster but my real name is Mr. Earl.

View Michael Spector's profile

Michael Spector

8 posts in 797 days

#2 posted 10-07-2016 12:12 AM

Hi Dave, I just now joined the forum. I build acoustic guitars and have used a hot pipe for bending the sides and edge bindings, no doubt it will work. If you look up “guitar side bending” on you tube you will see a contraption that a lot of us use. I don’t know what your final product will be but if you built that rig and customized the insert part for the shape you want to bend, it might be what your looking for. Also, even though most luthiers use “heat blankets” now-days, you can use a couple or three light bulb fixtures for heat in the bottom of the rig, just be careful you don’t leave them on too long. Oh yea, holly will bend and one of these days I’m gonna try Tallo. I’ve always said if a fellow could find a use for that stuff, he be a millionaire (I’m from Orange, tX)

View davidroberts's profile


1027 posts in 3686 days

#3 posted 10-07-2016 03:31 AM

Texcaster, beech is a great suggestion. Plentiful, I could probably pick some up easy online. I’ ve never worked in beech that I remember. Few knots too. Not a lot of beech in southeast Texas.

Michael, been through Orange many times. Was a Beaumont resident a couple of years in the 80s. Holly is an excellent idea. It’’s already near white and I have a 1×8x6 or so board left over from an inlay project. No knots, wonderful grain. I had completely forgot about that board. Bought it at Clark’s in Houston. Thanks for the memory jog!

-- Better woodworking through old hand tools.

View Don's profile


22 posts in 2070 days

#4 posted 10-07-2016 03:36 AM

I just posted a picture of a kayak I made that required quite a bit of wood bending. It was non kiln dried cedar that I cut into 3/16×3/4 inch strips and used a heat gun to heat the wood and bend it. Once the wood was heated to a certain temp, you could feel it “give” and then it would hold it’s shape. Rob Mack at Laughing Loon Kayaks has written quite a bit about this technique.

View DrDirt's profile


4510 posts in 3942 days

#5 posted 10-07-2016 01:30 PM

ash bends very well – -but is rather coarse grain (like oak) so may not color as uniform as you would like.

-- “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” Mark Twain

View Texcaster's profile


1287 posts in 1874 days

#6 posted 10-08-2016 07:43 AM

David, I just bent this 4mm x 10mm euro beech strip in about 30 sec. It’s a sanding tool to get in through the soundhole. The only bentwood tool I own. It’s stepped to get over the transverse brace near the soundhole.

My pipes, 40mm and 55mm. Way neanderthal but I’m quite happy with them.

-- Mama calls me Texcaster but my real name is Mr. Earl.

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