Steam bending

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Forum topic by Bill74 posted 12-19-2013 01:32 AM 904 views 0 times favorited 3 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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3 posts in 1893 days

12-19-2013 01:32 AM

I will be restoring an old oak billiard stool which has a damaged foot rest made out of 1-3/8”oak bent into a complete circle. The cross section of the foot rest is round. I have no experience steam bending, but a recent woodworking magazine has an article providing detailed instructions.

My question is would I be better off turning the piece round before bending it around a form or bend the square stock and then round it over. If I opted for the latter method I would use a round over bit on a router table taking off the inside and outside corners, than work with a spoke shave to get it close to round.

I might add that the two ends are connected to form the circle using a scarfed joint.

3 replies so far

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1802 posts in 2345 days

#1 posted 12-19-2013 02:42 AM

It’s probably easier to bend square then round it over assuming your equipment is limited. The backup strap won’t provide a lot of support on a round piece of wood unless you make a custom one.

I believe Thonet bent round stock for his furniture in a factory setting but I can’t remember what the straps he used looked like. Perhaps a Google search on Thonet might provide more information.

-- See my work at and

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7994 posts in 2826 days

#2 posted 12-19-2013 05:06 AM

When steam bending square stock you should always relieve the corners. Otherwise they are prone to starting splinters. I would say that bending round stock would be better for this reason as well as the fact that you have less material and therefore less internal stresses to fight with. Always bend flat grain, that is to say you should see edge grain when you look down on your circle. It will bend much better than bending edge grain. For best results look for something called Indiana bending oak if it’s still available. It is not dried to death and is prepared with steam bending in mind. It’s what we always used to get for bending the ribs in wooden boats.

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

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10476 posts in 3676 days

#3 posted 12-19-2013 06:14 AM

I recommend bending a 3/4” thick piece first just to
get a feel for what bending to that radius feels like.

3/4” is not that hard to bend but for every 1/8”
more of thickness there’s a lot more cell compression
that needs to happen. You’ll need some leverage
and a well fixed bending jig you can walk around
all the way. You might consider sinking a post in
concrete to anchor the jig to.

You are also definitely going to need a moveable
end stop on your strap because you’ll have to start
with the board under tension in the strap, then
back off on the tension as you go around. You
can probably muscle a 3/4” board around an 18”
circle without backing off the stop, but it’s going
to be a lot harder to bend that thicker part and
backing off the stop makes it a lot easier to pull
the lever all the way around the curve.

I encourage you to pursue steam bending but
be aware that the expense and time in setting
up to do the first bend can add up. I use the
Veritas system. It’s not cheap but it’s real solid
and it works. I have not had a failure yet when
using it as directed.

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