bent wood rings - how do you get bent?

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Forum topic by Razorbak91313 posted 11-23-2012 07:10 PM 16916 views 5 times favorited 5 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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89 posts in 2846 days

11-23-2012 07:10 PM

Topic tags/keywords: wood bent wood wood jig

I have been making wood rings for a while now using the block (and layered block) method and have tried a few times to do bent wood rings but never had much luck and never put much effort in it. Recently I have actually made effort to figure it out and have come a good ways along. I was wondering how others who make bent wood rings actually bend their wood – what tools or methods that they use.
I made a simple little jig with a copper pipe to wrap the wood around to get it into the rough shape I want. The pipe has a slot cut in it (using a cutting wheel from a dremel) and I bent one edge of the slot down so that the wood can be slid into the slot and as the wood is bent and comes back around it will lay over the start point without a kink or raised spot. I usually sand down one end after i bend it but before before I actually make the ring but you can sand one end down before you wrap it but there is a higher chance that the end will break when you are bending.
For the softer easy to bend woods, just soaking the wood a few hours is all it needs to be able to bend it. For the harder to bend woods, I use a heat gun and will heat the wood up within a few inches of where the wood is being bent around. I apply a little bit of bending pressure on the wood as it is heating up and it is easy to tell when it hits the right temprature because the wood will suddenly start to easily bend around. By hitting the wood at the point that it is being bent as I bend it, I don’t have to worry about the wood cooling before I can get it bent. It does take a little longer since I am heating it up a few inches at a time.
Once it is bent around I use a clamp or a piece of velcro to hold it in position as it dries and use the heat gun to help it dry or just let it dry over night. Once it is taken off the pipe, it does spring back a little but will hold the form and once the wood is dried completely I can then bend it around the final form I will use.

So how do you do it?

-- Turning good wood into even better wood jewelry.

5 replies so far

View RussellAP's profile


3104 posts in 2488 days

#1 posted 11-23-2012 08:27 PM

When I started bending I used oak and walnut layered strips about 1/16. I made a jig from some particle board I had laying around and drilled 1 inch dowes to use as forms. I’d layer about 7 at a time. They were 7/8×36”. I’d use an iron to steam them up initially and place them in the form one at a time and then clamp them all over in the mold till they dry. Then I remove them and glue them up and put back in the mold clamping any voids.
It’s a lot of work, and I haven’t found many uses for it yet, but I do have a steam kit now at least. Just wish you could bend padauk, it’s just too oily to take on much water.

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

View WoodenFrog's profile


2737 posts in 3114 days

#2 posted 11-23-2012 10:50 PM

I think you are trying to hard it is not really that hard, I make some bentwood rings and have done a lot of research on the subject. I still ask questions and I still mess up, it takes time an patience and lots of practice.
I boil my wood for about 10-15 min. some woods need more time. I then bend them by hand around a form(as close to the size that you want as you can get it) tape, velcro or tie something to keep it around said form. wait a little bit to dry and then untie or unwrap it. glue it little by little with super glue as you wrap it around the form again. you should end up with a ring. start sanding and sanding and there it is.

I am no expert on bentwood rings this is my process I am still learning, I learn something new all the time!!

Have fun Check out Franklads work, he is the master and he will help you too.. Touchwood rings in Canada is also awesome they won’t help but their site gives me lots of ideas. If I can help PM me I will try to help as much as can—-Good luck!

Heres a link to a cool instructables on making bentwood rings.

-- Robert B. Sabina, Ohio.....

View runswithscissors's profile


2892 posts in 2226 days

#3 posted 11-26-2012 06:42 AM

I first stumbled onto bending wood with heat (but no water or steam) about 20 years ago. Eventually, I wrote an article on it for WoodenBoat magazine. Don’t have the date at my fingertips, but can look it up for anyone interested. The point is, it’s the heat that does the bending, not the moisture. Steam, or boiling, is just a way to get the heat into the wood. When I’m bending thicker wood, I always use a bending strap (steel binding strap from the lumber yard dumpster works great), as this forces the bend into the inside fibers of the curve. The outer fibers don’t want to stretch, so they’ll tear and the wood will break. Looks like the wood you’re bending (oak?) is quite thin, and a heat gun should heat that through very quickly. It’s easy to burn the wood, though. I have an old infra-red propane paint stripper that I bought years ago (and I’ve never seen another like it), that works beautifully, with little risk of burning the wood. It’s my favorite bending tool, but I do use the heat gun sometimes. The curious thing about it is that once the wood has cooled (and this would take only a minute with your thin strips), the bend is set; to unbend it (and I have occasionally over bent a piece), you have to heat it again to make the wood relax. The advantage of doing it sans moisture is you don’t have to wait for drying to proceed with your project, and there are no raised fibers to sand off.
By the way, there was an article in FWW 2 or 3 years ago by a guy using a technique similar to yours, but he was heating the pipe bending form by shooting a propane flame into it from the open end. Looked scary. I’d sure wear heavy leather gloves working that way. I tried many species (researching for the WB article) and found that the usual suspects are best—white oak and ash. Red oak works fine too, as well as black locust. Doug fir and luan don’t work at all. Here in the rainy PNW, we don’t have access to some of your good bending woods in the east, which to me are legendary. I read somewhere recently that Alaskan yellow cedar doesn’t heat bend, but I’ve seen enough bentwood boxes made by NW coastal tribes to know that isn’t true.
It’s even possible to bend plywood this way. If you laminate 2 pieces of ply that have been pre bent to the same shape and allowed to cool, the resulting piece will be astonishingly rigid.

-- I admit to being an adrenaline junky; fortunately, I'm very easily frightened

View Razorbak91313's profile


89 posts in 2846 days

#4 posted 11-26-2012 11:54 PM

Well, some woods do bend really easily with no real work or prep required, but it is those harder woods that I am experimenting with. Like Padauk an Purpleheart and such that tend to be a bit brittle or splintery. I have been experimenting with some different types of wood from a scrap pack of veneers I had bought and some I have identified and some I am not sure about. I have been able to make bent wood rings from Maple, Walnut, Oak, Anigre, Black Limba and Tzalam (at least that is what i think it is from the small piece I have since none of the veneers were actually labeled). Few others I haven’t been able to identify but they splintered badly when bent. Also I have managed to bend a few pieces of Purpleheart but not used them in a ring yet.

Scissors, that binding strap sounds like a super idea. I had been trying to think of something to use as a bending strap and that stuff is strong yet thin and flexible so I will have to see if I can find some – or even the plastic straps that some larger boxes have on them.

-- Turning good wood into even better wood jewelry.

View TurnedUpWoods's profile


1 post in 255 days

#5 posted 04-03-2018 01:49 AM

I’m sure this post is older but I was hoping to weigh in. I’m still kind of new to the bentwood process. I have found that for the vast majority of woods, boiling works wonders. Usually, boiling the strips of wood (after cutting into 1/4”-1/2” strips) for about 25-60 minutes (depending). the only type i haven’t gotten to work is the purpleheart, which, i have like 7 orders for once i figure it out. If i boil it, steam it, soak it in cold water, or even use veneer softener, it just breaks or loses ALL of the color. Have you found anything that works for bending the purple heart?

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