Bending mahogany: kerfing, or steam bending?

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Forum topic by Vidjuvigla posted 11-21-2013 04:02 PM 2330 views 0 times favorited 4 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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1 post in 1641 days

11-21-2013 04:02 PM


I have been scrolling this forum for years, but never signed up. Now that I have a new project however, I could need some help.

I also beg you to forgive any wrongspelling etc, I´m Norwegian and thus English isn´t my native tounge. Anyway:

I am trying to make a chair. I have made some earlier, but in my own design and therefore I have never had big problems solving it. This time, I am going to make a kind of “replica” of Arne Norells “Inca” chair:

As you see, this is not a very complicated construction! Whats complicated however, was finding cylinder-poles in the preferred wood. Wanted beech, but all I can find is mahogany, teak or oak. The reason I wanted beech was simply because it seems like the two longest poles have to be bent. Now, I have done some kerfing earlier, but never on round poles, and never this thick. Never tried steam-bending, and I hope there is a chance that I won´t need to do that – the winter is already setteling in here, and I don´t have a proper place to execute the project.

As you also can see – the bended poles have to carry some weight. Not a lot, but it needs to be strong enough for a person to lean back in the chair. I have never put any weight on stuff i have kerfed before, but I suppose that with glue, it should be pretty solid?

SO. My questions are: Do you think it is enough to kerf the wood? It is not that much of a bend. Is it even possible to use kerfing on these poles? Possible with mahogany? This is the softest of the woods I have access to. I would be so grateful for answers.

4 replies so far

View Woodknack's profile


11600 posts in 2373 days

#1 posted 11-21-2013 06:10 PM

It should be steam bent for appearance and strength. Not sure about mahogany but I know people do bend it. Best to worst according to the US Forest Service

Hackberry (Best)
White Oak
Red oak
Chestnut oak
Black walnut
Soft maple
Hard maple (Worst)

-- Rick M,

View Tennessee's profile


2870 posts in 2507 days

#2 posted 11-21-2013 06:16 PM

Rick is right. Almost every furniture factory that moves pieces into mainstream stores will have a way to steam bend. It keeps the grain running true, makes it as strong as possible, (think 100Kg person), and also looks much better.
I do know a couple people who use warm water in a bathtub and put the wood in for 6-8 hours, and after a few hours put the wood into a jig set up to bend, but not this thick. Might be worth a try, though, with some scrap wood and a simple jig. If it cracks, no big deal.

-- Tsunami Guitars and Custom Woodworking, Cleveland, TN

View benchbuilder's profile


284 posts in 2443 days

#3 posted 11-21-2013 06:23 PM

Hello, i am giving you an email address for a free set of plans for a wood steaming system. Its 28 pages with drawings and looks like a great system, i like it.

View Loren's profile


10371 posts in 3641 days

#4 posted 11-21-2013 06:39 PM

Mahogany, no. I don’t think you’ll get satisfaction trying to
steam bend it as a beginner to bending.

Oak will make that bend no problem but I would bend it square
then make it round. Your bend will probably fail without a
back-up strap. With a strap, in oak, with a flat outside face,
it’s not a difficult bend.

Kerfing I don’t recommend for this application. Laminating,
while messy and a fair amount of labor to set up for, is
a reliable way to get a good result the first time with
a furniture component bend.

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