Which wood is most suitable for long, smooth bends?

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Forum topic by jans8 posted 02-17-2013 01:13 PM 1259 views 0 times favorited 11 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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1 post in 1895 days

02-17-2013 01:13 PM

I’m looking to make some 10 foot long battens to shape a project I’m working on. The battens will only be bent very slightly, I just want to be sure it bends into a nice arc. Which wood would be most suitable for this application?

11 replies so far

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10280 posts in 3617 days

#1 posted 02-17-2013 04:11 PM

Many woods will work. Look for straight grain pieces
and of course wood with knots won’t bend smoothly.

Clear softwoods bend well.

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999 posts in 3152 days

#2 posted 02-17-2013 05:48 PM

Straight grained woods can be bent without too much trouble and like Loren stated knot free would be the best. You can also cut thin strips and laminate them with wood glue in a form and allow to cure then once removed it should retain the bent shape. You can also make a home steam chamber and then bend the wood once it’s steamed but will still need to be held in place until the wood has cooled down and dried. Several sites on the net that cover what your trying to do. Also look on sites that deal with bow making.

Here’s a good site that shows laminate forming:

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Francisco Luna

943 posts in 3362 days

#3 posted 02-17-2013 08:03 PM

One thing I noticed making bent parts recently is the tendency of the laminated parts to spring off the original shape/form in about 25%.......I was using layers 1/8” thick (Mahogany), so I guess for better results , could be better to use 3/32” layers—like plywood does—OR making the radio/shape form25%. tighter.

-- Nature is my manifestation of God. I go to nature every day for inspiration in the day's work. I follow in building the principles which nature has used in its domain" Frank Lloyd Wright

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1052 posts in 2166 days

#4 posted 02-17-2013 09:55 PM

If you are using the battens for say drawing a line any straight grain softwood will be fine.I have battens up to 20’ in pine spruce and cedar. They all have different bending characteristics. The dimensions will affect how stiff it is also. Use as stiff as will make the bend for the fairest curve.

-- Jim, Long Island, NY home of the chain leg vise

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Matt Rogers

109 posts in 1939 days

#5 posted 02-17-2013 11:13 PM

I would also say that basically any clear wood (soft or hard) will work for gentle bends, even poplar, but for tighter bends, I would use ash or oak. Hickory, walnut, maple, birch, and others will also work well. I get beautiful clear ash in 10’ lengthst ath will take basically any bend when steamed and still easily bend in a circle over 10’ when dry if cut to 1/4-3/8” thick.

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Jim Finn

2648 posts in 2891 days

#6 posted 02-18-2013 01:37 AM

I find that Oak bends very well. Soak it in water overnight and bend it and give it a day or two to dry in the bending frame..

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321 posts in 1923 days

#7 posted 02-18-2013 02:18 AM

A note on soaking overnight in water. I used that technique on an apron for a round table. I used a piece of 4” pvc with an end cap, poked the lumber into it and tied it to my deck stairs so it couldn’t tip over. I filled it all the way to the top, used a clamp to keep the lumber underwater. Worked like a charm. the piece I got was from HD, so it was only 10 feet long.

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560 posts in 2170 days

#8 posted 02-18-2013 02:23 AM

Ash is very good for bending, has always worked well for me with steam..holds its shape well also.. Papa

-- Papa...

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932 posts in 2324 days

#9 posted 02-18-2013 04:53 AM

pretty much any wood as long as its not cork, or balsa. Just depends on which method for bending you are using.

-- The mark of a good carpenter is not how few mistakes he makes, but rather how well he fixes them.

View Tomj's profile


204 posts in 2351 days

#10 posted 02-18-2013 08:14 AM

The woods mentioned above will do fine and whether or not you laminate strips together or use steam, boiling water or dry heat (heat gun) you will need to over compensate for the bend in whatever form you use. Good luck.

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85 posts in 2030 days

#11 posted 02-18-2013 10:02 AM

I’ve made several sailboat tillers from laminated mahagony and ash. With some practice and well thought out bending jigs, they work well.


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