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Bending mahogany: kerfing, or steam bending?

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Forum topic by Vidjuvigla posted 150 days ago 433 views 0 times favorited 4 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Vidjuvigla

1 post in 151 days


150 days ago

Hi!

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

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Rick M.

3384 posts in 883 days


#1 posted 150 days ago

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
Magnolia
Pecan
Black walnut
Hickory
Beech
Elm
Willow
Birch
Ash
Sweetgum
Soft maple
Yellow-poplar
Hard maple (Worst)

-- |Statistics show that 100% of people bitten by a snake were close to it.|

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Tennessee

1447 posts in 1017 days


#2 posted 150 days ago

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.

-- Paul, Tennessee, http://www.tsunamiguitars.com

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benchbuilder

73 posts in 953 days


#3 posted 150 days ago

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. woodsteamingsystems@yahoo.com

View Loren's profile (online now)

Loren

6769 posts in 2150 days


#4 posted 150 days ago

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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