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Soaking or steaming

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Forum topic by natenaaron posted 02-18-2014 06:04 PM 864 views 1 time favorited 25 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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natenaaron

376 posts in 488 days


02-18-2014 06:04 PM

I am wanting to try my hand at a small project using bent wood lamination. Something small to see if I like the process, and get a feel for what the uber dry weather here might do to it. I have been watching a few videos and I have seen both techniques.

I have no idea if the wood I have is kiln dried or air dried. When I asked at the lumber store I was told that it “Doesn’t make a difference how it was dried.” Apparently they don’t know either. So, for the benders out there, is soaking or steaming a better way to go? The laminations will be 7/8×1/8 x a length I have not figured out yet. I have walnut, and maple.


25 replies so far

View jdh122's profile

jdh122

372 posts in 1508 days


#1 posted 02-18-2014 06:11 PM

Not sure about the question – if you’re doing bent lamination you don’t steam or soak the wood but resaw it thin enough to bend, put it on a form and then glue the plys together. Soaking or steaming would probbaly make the glue fail, I’d think. With bent lamination I don’t think it’ll make any difference how the wood was dried.

If you want to steam thicker pieces, everyone seems to agree that green is best, then air-dried and lastly kiln-dried, but some people have had good success with kiln-dried wood. I’ve only ever done it with green wood. Both soaking and steaming will work fine – it’s the heat not the water that plasticizes the wood.

-- Jeremy, in the Acadian forests

View mrjinx007's profile

mrjinx007

1710 posts in 458 days


#2 posted 02-18-2014 06:19 PM

Walnut bends very nicely. I have used three methods and they all work well depending how fast you want to bend the wood; the fastest way is to soak it over night (for thicker pieces, longer time). Get a steel pipe about 3-4” in diameter and 5-7” long. Place the pipe in a vise and place a torch on the other end. Once the pipe gets hot, place the wood over the pipe and apply light pressure to the areas that need bending. You have to make sure to move the strip few inches at the time to make even bend (if that is the goal). Also, be careful the wood doesn’t burn. Another method I use, is to soak the wood for a day and then boil it for while and immediately put in around the mold. Steaming after soaking works the same way but it tends to dry the outside of the wood too fast since I don’t have a fully enclosed steamer. I have a picture of a walnut candle holder in my projects if interested.

-- earthartandfoods.com

View Earlextech's profile

Earlextech

996 posts in 1381 days


#3 posted 02-18-2014 06:22 PM

If you didn’t ask for air dried, you got kiln dried.
The walnut will bend better than the maple.
I like the combination of steam bending with bent lamination. It allows you to use thicker pieces. Steam all the boards at once. Clamp them on your form until they dry. Then do the glue up and put them back on the form. I find this to be the most rock solid way of bending wood. No springback at all.

-- Sam Hamory - The project is never finished until its "finished"!

View bigblockyeti's profile

bigblockyeti

1667 posts in 411 days


#4 posted 02-18-2014 06:29 PM

I haven’t tried steam, but from what I understand it will allow you to bend rather thick stock that would otherwise prove fairly rigid when dry. Soaking makes a mess and in my opinion wouldn’t be worth the effort if what you’re creating is going to be laminated anyway. Dry bending requires significant force depending on the thickness and species of stock you’re working with, but will allow you to use your glue of choice, has minimal spring back if you have several laminations in your piece and has tremendous strength once everything is completely dry. The wood doesn’t require as much surface prep after laminating as any method that introduces moisture into the wood as the grain could be significantly raised after being soaked.

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jdh122

372 posts in 1508 days


#5 posted 02-18-2014 06:37 PM

Interesting, Earlextech – guess I was wrong and you can combine lamination and steam bending. This would allow Nate to start with pieces thicker than 1/8th of an inch. And by steam-bending then drying the moisture won’t interfere with the glue.

-- Jeremy, in the Acadian forests

View basswood's profile

basswood

256 posts in 311 days


#6 posted 02-18-2014 06:40 PM

Thin strips may bend without soaking or steaming, if the radius is large enough.

If you can’t get thin, dry stock to bend tight enough for your purposes, then try soaking in the hottest water you can get. Some fabric softener can help with bending too.

I only steam when none of the above will work. I use a wallpaper steamer hooked up to a 4” diameter piece of PVC pipe with my stock inside. I drilled a few holes in the cap at the far end of the pipe so the steam flows the length of the wood.

Use the straightest grained wood you can find.

All this said, sometimes we over think these things, the last time I needed to bend wood, I used a dirty

wheelbarrow full of water from the garden hose and a large rock. Ha!

-- http://www.basswoodmodular.com/Tri-Horse-Builder-Plans-p/thbp.htm

View natenaaron's profile

natenaaron

376 posts in 488 days


#7 posted 02-18-2014 07:43 PM

These are going to have some serious bends. I guess I should have pointed out that this was to prebend the pieces not glue at the same time.

Earlextech, I would have gotten the same response no matter what I asked. These guys are construction people. Very nice and helpful when it comes to construction needs. Kind of lost in the non construction grade lumber department.

View mrjinx007's profile

mrjinx007

1710 posts in 458 days


#8 posted 02-18-2014 07:53 PM

Looks good basswood.

-- earthartandfoods.com

View basswood's profile

basswood

256 posts in 311 days


#9 posted 02-18-2014 08:00 PM

Natenaaron,

Here is another bending project that I used steam on. I was just having fun with the wheelbarrow example:

-- http://www.basswoodmodular.com/Tri-Horse-Builder-Plans-p/thbp.htm

View mrjinx007's profile

mrjinx007

1710 posts in 458 days


#10 posted 02-18-2014 08:02 PM

Looks better.

-- earthartandfoods.com

View theoldfart's profile

theoldfart

4491 posts in 1142 days


#11 posted 02-18-2014 08:08 PM

I used a fish poacher to steam 3/8” white oak for a set of children’s chairs. It worked quite well. If you interested I can post pics tonight.

-- "Aged flatus, I heard that some one has already blown out your mortise." THE Surgeon ……………………………………. Kevin

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natenaaron

376 posts in 488 days


#12 posted 02-18-2014 09:47 PM

Yes I would be interested. For the sake of this being the first project I think the soaking method will be the best idea. No use going to a lot of expense when it is not necessary.

View theoldfart's profile

theoldfart

4491 posts in 1142 days


#13 posted 02-18-2014 10:24 PM

Nate, I steamed white oak for the backsplats using a fish poacher. I did not submerge the wood rather put it on a rack (I did use the cover):

I made a pattern and clamped each piece till it cooled down. I also rigged up clamps to continue to hold the pieces overnight

Here they are

And the chairs

-- "Aged flatus, I heard that some one has already blown out your mortise." THE Surgeon ……………………………………. Kevin

View Rick M.'s profile

Rick M.

4154 posts in 1071 days


#14 posted 02-18-2014 10:28 PM

I didn’t see this answered but it is heat, not water, that makes the wood flexible. Steam just helps carry and hold the heat inside the wood, the moisture prevents darkening. You can bend dried wood without steam but you can’t bend without heat.

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

View Mark Shymanski's profile

Mark Shymanski

5113 posts in 2403 days


#15 posted 02-18-2014 10:40 PM

My understanding is that it is the softening of the lignin, a ‘connective tissue’ of wood that first allows it to bend the wood and the re-solidifying of the lignin that ‘freezes’ the newly bent wood. Softening with just water works, but my understanding is that heat and moisture provide the most predictable and consistent and timely bending. Boat builders bend surprisingly massive pieces of wood with varios bending methods. During the assembly of my scow I was surprised that I could cold bend 1 1/4 inch square kiln dried Douglas Fir chines, over a large radius mind :-)

-- "Checking for square? What madness is this! The cabinet is square because I will it to be so!" Jeremy Greiner LJ Topic#20953 2011 Feb 2

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