How To Steam Bend Wood

Steam bending wood is a skill that is valuable when it comes to carpentry. Whether you are building a rocking chair or a decorative gazebo, there are a number of reasons you may want to bend wood into an arc. Though it does take the right equipment and some know-how, steam bending can give your carpentry project that little extra bit of detail you are looking for. Take a look and see that you too can begin steam bending wood for your project.

The first step, of course, is to build a steam chamber for your wood. To make one simply, you will need a saw horse, pipe made of PVC, end caps for the pipe, glue, metal strapping to hold pipe in place, a little piece of metal pipe, a rubber hose from a radiator, something to hold water (gas can or large water bottle will work), something for heat (a camp stove works well), and various pieces of hardware like screws, bits, and a screwdriver. Once the pieces are together, you can assemble your steam chamber.

Make sure you get PVC pipe that will hold any wood you will want to steam. Then, make sure your end caps will fit that pipe. Once you have done that, you will want to make sure the cap has a release for steam in it while the other end as a place to let steam in. Once those holes are created, you can cement the fittings on the ends of the PVC pipe, but leave the caps screwed on so they can be removed to put in and remove wood. From there, use the heat source to connect to the container for water to create steam and lead it into the pipe with the rubber radiator hose.

To steam the wood, you need to install dowels so that your wood is in the middle of the pipe. This allows the steam to evenly soften the wood. It is easy to do, but the idea it so make sure you are going to get even steaming and an easier and cleaner bend.

Next is to steam it. How long do you steam the wood to get it towrk? The general rule of thumb is about an hour for every inch thick it is. So if you have four inches of wood, you need to “cook” if for about four hours. This will help you get a better bend.

Next, make sure you use a hard wood. Soft woods, for some reason, do not tend to bend well and you want to set yourself up for success. Additionally, exotic woods like Cocobolo and the like do not bend that well either. It is best to stick with your oaks and redwoods for steam bending. Once the wood is steamed, you can simply take it out and gently bend it around a mold. Check your local wood experts or a reliable online source to find out how much you can bend wood. It varies depending on the wood.

As you can see, steam bending wood is not difficult. It does, though, require a little construction and patience. Once you have done it, though, you will open up your carpentry skills significantly.

WARNING: when using heat sources, always use proper precautions. Also, if you use a gas can for the water, make sure it is brand new and has never contained a flammable source.