Bentwood Ring Technique

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Forum topic by acropk posted 10-08-2012 09:34 AM 11271 views 7 times favorited 13 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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3 posts in 2050 days

10-08-2012 09:34 AM

Topic tags/keywords: bent wood bentwood ring veneer lathe ca glue

I have seen this topic on the forums before but I have yet to find a rundown of the proper technique for creating the kind of product I see from Stout Woodworks and and other great sites. I have attempted about 10 rings to date and I still feel that I am missing something. I only sand up to a 600 grit and I have no lathe so the finishing might be impossible for me. I really don’t know. As far as bending veneer I am having trouble getting it to cooperate. I have tried boiling and steaming and it still cracks.

How do you bend the veneer?

What steps do you take when it’s flexible?

What is the timing on the various steps?

What is the best finishing technique?

I have a huge supply of veneer as my dad sells it for a living so that is not an issue. If anyone has any tips to share I’d greatly appreciate it as I am hoping to create a surprise for the love of my life.

If anyone needs any veneer I have great connections there too :)

Thank you

13 replies so far

View RussellAP's profile


3104 posts in 2279 days

#1 posted 10-08-2012 01:52 PM

When you say veneer, how thick is it? It should bend like a shoestring if you boil it, lol. Are you working with large sheets, or small strips? Pics would be nice too.

-- A positive attitude will take you much further than positive thinking ever will.

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3 posts in 2050 days

#2 posted 10-08-2012 04:29 PM

The veneer is 1/32 cut. It definitely isn’t bending like a shoestring. It’s panel width and I cut it into small strips with an exacto knife. I find that Indian rosewood bends pretty well but zebra wood is being rather difficult. It usually works out okay until I try to finish it. I’m using ca glue and it gets foggy and is hard to finish evenly. I’ll upload some pics on my next try.

View Loren's profile


10371 posts in 3641 days

#3 posted 10-08-2012 04:53 PM

I’d bent the parts to a tight radius on a 1/2” copper tube
heated with a torch or electric element. Spritzing with
water helps. If the wood is oversaturated by soaking it
can be weakened.

It may be possible to cut the veneers to 1/2” wide,
spritz, coil around the tube and heat for a few minutes.
Blowing compressed air on the fresh bend disperses
the heat and moisture and helps set the bend.

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2202 posts in 3151 days

#4 posted 10-08-2012 04:55 PM

I’d try thickening it up a bit. I think it breaks because at 1/32” there’s not enough wood left to keep it intact, particularly if there is grain runout. Try something between 1/16” and 1/8” using the same techniques and I’d bet you’d see success.

-- jay,

View Loren's profile


10371 posts in 3641 days

#5 posted 10-08-2012 05:00 PM

Riving small pieces of solid wood to rough size thickness
would be a good idea too. If riven, runout becomes
essentially a non-issue. Riving a straight edge and
then band sawing blanks also will work with small pieces.
The further you get away from the riven edge, the
more runout you’d get in the sawn pieces.

Grain runout occurs in 2 dimensions of a board or piece
of veneer. You’d want to minimize it in both dimensions
for optimal bending success.

View Jacob's profile


85 posts in 2635 days

#6 posted 10-08-2012 06:36 PM

Ive made a bunch of bentwood veneers rings

First step is cut your strip.

Second step is to sand the ends of the strip to a nice taper (thickness, not width, so a 1/32 thick should taper to almost nothing ideally) so when you wrap them they dont get a “bump” in the roll.

Steam the veneer, I like to just wrap them in wet paper towel and throw them in the microwave for 5 seconds.

Wrap them around your “mandrel” or whatever shape you choose, tape or rubber band or even velcro band them to allow them to dry. This training of the veneer is necessary so that it doesnt not crack when you go to glue it, but you must allow it to dry fully before gluing (you could cheat a bit more and throw it in the microwave again if your former isnt metal to dry it quick)

Once its dry, unroll it carefully and start spreading your glue, this can be a bit of a workout of the fingers to keep it tight and wrap it and glue it but you’ll find a good method.

Once again tape, tie, or velcro the band tight and let it dry. Then sand, polish, finish, however you choose. For a while I was doing clear polycrylic, being concerned of allergic reaction to other finishes, but it does not wear away handsomely and does indeed wear away, my next attempt if I ever have time would be to shellac.

Anyway, goodluck.

-- -Jacob Turetsky, Industrial Designer

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11600 posts in 2373 days

#7 posted 10-09-2012 01:23 AM

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3 posts in 2050 days

#8 posted 10-09-2012 02:13 PM

I’ve tried the steaming in the microwave method but the veneer just doesn’t gain the elasticity that it needs to wrap to such a small radius. When I soak and bend the veneer it cracks pretty easily. I have found that the species very in how much they will give. It would be really great if someone who ha perfected this process or has lots of experience could photograph or video their process. I don’t really have the tools necessary to heat copper tubing or anything. I just really want to see it happen from start to finish with an end product of the quality I’ve seen on etsy and the like.
Thanks everyone for your suggestions and advice.

View dakremer's profile


2672 posts in 3084 days

#9 posted 10-09-2012 02:45 PM

I’m thinking it’s about time someone made a video making a bentwood ring. I’ve also always been curious

-- Hey you dang woodchucks, quit chucking my wood!!!!

View Loren's profile


10371 posts in 3641 days

#10 posted 10-09-2012 04:13 PM

Try calling the Etsy vendors and ask them how it’s done.

I’m not sure they’ll be happy to share their secrets with
a new competitor, but you might get lucky.

View Woodknack's profile


11600 posts in 2373 days

#11 posted 10-09-2012 06:30 PM

I’ve only done slight bending projects but here is what I’ve learned from watching Roy Underhill and reading guitar and banjo building books.
  • When bending, heat is the necessary ingredient. Water is only used to help transfer the heat, soaking alone won’t make the wood pliable enough.
  • Ideally you want air dried lumber. My understanding is that kiln drying collapses the cells and the wood will never again bend as well. That means that commercial veneers may not work.
  • Riven wood is better for bending. Again excludes commercial veneers.

Other than that, it seems Jacob and Loren have pretty much covered everything.

You could try the method used by banjo ring makers where they build layers inside a female mold then use an expanding male piece to apply pressure but it requires the veneer to be very precise in length as the edges are butt joints.

-- Rick M,

View Dinapinza's profile


1 post in 1949 days

#12 posted 01-17-2013 07:15 AM

Hello! I’m new here but have some suggestions you might find useful.
I’ve been making bentwood rings for quite a while and don’t mind sharing all the things I’ve learned along the way.

- The thinner the veneer, the less likely it will split. For the more difficult woods, soak and cook them longer. Sometimes upwards of 45mins. Also sand the veneer strip smooth before soaking.
- wrap slooooowly. Start with bigger bends and work up to tighter bends.
- Coat the mandrel with a little Vaseline or oil, then wrap the strip until it just barely overlaps. Use a dab of medium CA to adhere the strip just where they start to overlap. Careful not to put glue all the way at the edge or else you might glue the wood to the mandrel.
-then it’s just a matter of tiny bends and gluing. Don’t try to push it and do too much at once.
-if you can’t even get it to form one wrap, start with a bigger mandrel like a cup and let dry. then cook/soak while still strapped to the mandrel (so it doesn’t uncoil), and repeat with a slightly smaller mandrel until you have the size you need.
-it helps to wrap and glue while still damp, but any moisture will turn CA white, so it takes practice to get it right. You want glue to the edge as far as possible without the white showing.
-to avoid cloudy CA outer finish, use several coats of thin (1-3sec) CA instead of one coat of medium. The accelerator spray also helps quite a bit. If you have bumps in the finish, sand them down with 600 grit. Then use micromesh 1500-12,000 to polish to a high gloss.

Good luck!

View Dinger's profile


145 posts in 2255 days

#13 posted 03-13-2013 03:01 AM

Thanks for the insight Dina. Your rings are beautiful by the way. I’ve been wanting to make on of these for my wife for her putting up with all the saw dust i drag into the house.

-- "Begin every endeaver with the end ever in mind."

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