Best wood to steam bend

  • Advertise with us

« back to Woodworking Skill Share forum

Forum topic by Donlore posted 10-24-2010 10:21 PM 46751 views 2 times favorited 11 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Donlore's profile


15 posts in 2935 days

10-24-2010 10:21 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question

I’m curious, from everyone’s experience of steam bending different types of wood, what were the easiest and hardest woods to bend, IE.. oak, ash, beech, walnut…..redwood….?

Also, I’ve tried bending kiln dried with little success and am about to try bend air dried. Any comments on this?

Thanks, Don

-- Don, Indiana,

11 replies so far

View Moron's profile


5032 posts in 3826 days

#1 posted 10-24-2010 10:29 PM

As a rule AD bends easier then KD, some KD doesnt bend period

Birch, Ash, White and Red Oaks, Beech, Elm all bend quite well. I’ve had good luck with cherry too.

Good luck

-- "Good artists borrow, great artists steal”…..Picasso

View Howie's profile


2656 posts in 2856 days

#2 posted 10-25-2010 04:21 AM

Don’t forget hickory. Lots of chairs are made from it.

-- Life is good.

View shipwright's profile (online now)


7937 posts in 2731 days

#3 posted 10-25-2010 05:48 AM

Building wooden boats involves lots of steam bending. The common woods we used were Oak for ribs ( I’ve bent up to 2 1/2” x 3 1/4” stock) and Yellow Cedar, Red Cedar and Doug Fir for planking. Gumwood will steam bend if you’ve got enough clamps and a come-along. I know of other woods that bend well but these are the ones I have experience with. Kiln drying pretty much “Kill Dries” as far as bending is concerned. The wood never seems to regain it’s elasticity after kiln drying. My tips would be:
1) you want wet, white steam. If it gets clear it’s too hot.
2) you can help yourself a lot by chamfering the corners before bending.
3) a coat of linseed oil will help hold the heat and keep the material moist and flexible longer
4) be aware that a wide piece will cup quite a bit when bent
5) if you aren’t fastening the bent piece hot expect substantial spring-back
It’s a lot of fun to see the things you can do with well steamed wood. Have fun!

Paul M

-- Paul M ..............If God wanted us to have fiberglass boats he would have given us fibreglass trees.

View Scott_F's profile


1 post in 859 days

#4 posted 11-12-2015 09:27 PM

I’ve had good results using poplar ribs on a SOF canoe. It was mostly chosen for price, but it’s held up well for a couple of years now and was really easy to bend.

View jdh122's profile


992 posts in 2751 days

#5 posted 11-12-2015 09:31 PM

I’ve had fantastic luck with still green red oak, decent luck with small bends in kiln-dried yellow birch and nothing but failure when I tried trembling aspen (don’t ask).
I also experimented a bit with a bending strap but found that for the smaller bends needed for chairs (and especially with green wood) it wasn’t needed, although it does seem to allow you to do some pretty amazing stuff.

-- Jeremy, in the Acadian forests

View bearkatwood's profile


1503 posts in 945 days

#6 posted 11-12-2015 11:09 PM

Lon Schleining said you can steam bend any wood you want as long as it is white oak. ;)
Many different species will bend well. Try to stay away from kiln dried and use as straight a grain as you can.

-- Brian Noel

View JAAune's profile


1780 posts in 2250 days

#7 posted 11-13-2015 05:09 AM

Most of the domestics will bend if they are air-dried and still above 10% moisture content. Ash is an exceptional wood for bending. Walnut is very good and cherry will bend but is more prone to compression wrinkles when the radius gets tight.

-- See my work at and

View Terry Osnach's profile

Terry Osnach

32 posts in 1197 days

#8 posted 01-23-2018 01:24 PM

I have not had any problems steam bending kiln-dried maple or kiln-dried cherry—rule of thumb 1 1/4 hours per inch of thickness, use a compression strap and don’t relieve the strap until the piece has cooled, usually about an hour.

View PPK's profile


952 posts in 742 days

#9 posted 01-23-2018 02:23 PM

I’ve steamed kiln dried hickory, as well as air dried walnut. The walnut steams and bends like a stick of butter! :-)
Have fun. Steam bending is really fun, and it’s an art… I like to recommend this booklet by Lee Valley. It is well-put together and quite helpful in my opinion…

-- Pete

View MrRon's profile


4672 posts in 3176 days

#10 posted 01-23-2018 07:26 PM

I have heard that you can steam bend just about any of the domestic woods, but the exotic imports do not bend well.

View Dark_Lightning's profile


3115 posts in 3042 days

#11 posted 01-24-2018 03:58 AM

Old thread! My dad steam bent the bows for an old pre-war Rolls Royce convertible top out of white oak. I knew it was a tough job, but I didn’t realize how tough, until I read about steam bending here on this site. I’d ask him, but he’s been dead for almost 30 years. :(

-- Random Orbital Nailer

Have your say...

You must be signed in to reply.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics