Steam Bending

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Forum topic by George Coles posted 01-19-2013 08:17 AM 1421 views 0 times favorited 7 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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George Coles

183 posts in 2440 days

01-19-2013 08:17 AM

Topic tags/keywords: question trick

Hi. Am about to try some serious steam bending for Bar Stool Legs. Not having had any real experience with this, I am seeking help. I plan to use 3 mm thick strips and laminte them into 33 mm leg with a very tight radius of 90 degree. This part is not a problem. I need to know which is best to use, a quarter sawn or a flat sawn timber. Also what is the best glue to use. I would normally use an epoxy glue but have found this to be brittle and lets go sometimes.

Thanks in advance for any tips or ideas.

George Coles

-- George Coles,

7 replies so far

View runswithscissors's profile


2750 posts in 2020 days

#1 posted 01-19-2013 08:32 AM

Others may disagree with me, but in my experience grain orientation is irrelevant. What wood are you using? Epoxy doesn’t get along well with oak, I think because tanins in the oak react with it. Otherwise, epoxy is a very tough, long lasting glue. I have used it on several stitch and glue kayaks I have built, plus in many other applications. If you are using oak, old fashioned urea resin (Weldwood) will work. Haven’t used Titebond type glues in such an application, so I can’t say about them.

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

View George Coles's profile

George Coles

183 posts in 2440 days

#2 posted 01-19-2013 09:05 AM

Hi. The wood I am using is Ipil. This is a wood from the Philippines with a high oil content similar to teak. The timber has a lot of tannins, so this is probably why the epoxy failed. Thanks for your input.

-- George Coles,

View DocSavage45's profile


8549 posts in 2837 days

#3 posted 01-19-2013 04:18 PM

Do you have another wood option? It probably would be labor intensive but removing oil with mineral spirits and running a test on the glue up? I think you mhave specified your problem? Maybetitebond makes a glue specific to this purpose?

-- Cau Haus Designs, Thomas J. Tieffenbacher

View shipwright's profile


7980 posts in 2793 days

#4 posted 01-19-2013 04:45 PM

When steam bending oak ribs in a boat, which is where my experience lies, it is always best to bend flat grain as opposed to edge grain.
As for glue, there are epoxies that have additives to deal with oily or tannin heavy woods. Ask your supplier.

The most likely reason for your epoxy failure however is that epoxies are not good with high clamping pressure. You need to leave some glue in the joint. In hard epoxy lamination you should either roughen the surface or add a thin glass cloth or the like to create room. These are boat building solutions however and are not likely to give you the clean look you want so I’d suggest either hide glue, urea formaldehyde or resorcinol type glue that dries hard over any of the pva’s which don’t.

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

View JAAune's profile


1797 posts in 2311 days

#5 posted 01-19-2013 05:43 PM

While glue starvation is a common cause for epoxy failure it’s not always over-clamping that is the culprit. Epoxies that have long open times tend to absorb into the wood while in the liquid state. If the joint is clamped immediately after spreading the glue, oftentimes whatever epoxy that remains in the joint will soak into the wood. That leaves a starved joint.

The safest way to use epoxy is to apply a first coat then wait awhile before applying a second coat. Don’t clamp anything until it stops being absorbed into the wood. The amount of time between coats depends upon the open time of the epoxy. Using West Bend with a fast hardener I’m usually doing three coats over a half hour period then clamping immediately after the third coat.

-- See my work at and

View runswithscissors's profile


2750 posts in 2020 days

#6 posted 01-19-2013 09:46 PM

In boatbuilding, it’s common to prep oily woods like teak by washing with acetone first. Cleans the oily film off. But I can’t vouch for how long this glue up will endure. Quite a while, probably, because boatbuilders don’t like to have their work fail any more than other woodworkers.

When I glue wood with epoxy, I like to thicken it with wood flour (sanding dust). But I wouldn’t want to use sanding dust from an oily wood. Maybe from a species that is similar in color? I got into this habit after building several Pygmy kayaks, as their building instructions suggest this. They even include a little pouch of the dust in the kit. They claim it makes the joint stronger. It also controls, to some extent, the tendency of epoxy to run like honey through the hole in your hot toast.

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

View Beginningwoodworker's profile


13345 posts in 3668 days

#7 posted 01-22-2013 01:47 PM

Never try steam bending myself.

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