Curved woodwork is widespread, and many people ask how to bend wood to create such distinctive pieces. While most people feel that bending wood is a mystery, it is a craft that has been practiced for a long time.
Bending wood, for example, is required in boat construction to achieve the shapes required to navigate safely over water. Aside from water vessels, wood bending is used to make furniture, structures, and any other structure that requires bentwood.
It is essential for professional or armature woodworkers to learn the processes involved in wood bending.
The steam, lamination, and kerf-cutting methods are the three basic processes used in wood bending.
How to Bend Wood
1. The Steam Method:
In this method, wood is bent by applying hot steam. The hot steam softens the wood, making it easy to bend. However, the success of the bend depends on the type of wood being used.
When using this method, the first thing to do is select the correct type of wood to bend. The best bendable woods using the steam method are white oak, hackberry, and red oak. The quality of the wood makes it bendable when using this method.
For instance, it is recommended that hardwoods are preferable to softwoods. Moreover, the moisture content of the wood plays a vital role in heat distribution within the wood. For its moisture content, greenwood is highly recommended for bending using the steam method.
Straight-grained wood is better for this method since cross-grained wood is more likely to crack. Additionally, woods such as soft maple, yellow poplar, and hard maple are the least suitable for bending using steam.
Tools to be used
- Steam box: This can be made from wood or PVC and holds the wood steam. It is recommended that the box be able to house the entire wood piece. Moreover, it should have two openings. One lets in the heating steam while the other lets out the steam to prevent pressure that might blow the box.
- Steam generator: The Earlex Steam Generator is an excellent tool for woodworkers to easily
- Bend wood. The electric steamer creates high-temperature steam in steam boxes to bend your wood. Check out how to bend wood using Earlex steam.
- Thermometer; Used to measure the suitable temperature.
- Once the wood is inside the sealed box, turn on the heat of the steam generator. Usually, the wood is steamed for one hour per inch of wood at 212 Fahrenheit.
- Once the wood has soaked up the steam for the appropriate amount of time, quickly remove it for the bending process.
- Immediately clamp your piece of wood to bend it into the desired shape. Once the wood is bent, beginning from one end to the other, allow settling and calm, which may take a day.
2. Lamination Method
This bending method is quite simple, and it involves cutting a large block of wood into thin strips that are easier to bend.
The process is simple and involves determining the size of the strips based on how sharp the curve is intended to be.
For example, for sharper turns, thin strips are best. However, if the angle is not too much, the strips can be thicker and fewer.
Tools used include:
- Powerful cutting tools such as the Skilsaw cut the wood into strips of the desired thickness.
- Use strong glue to hold the sliced strips together to form laminations. Titebond ultimate wood glue, available on Amazon, is the best adhesive to use here.
- Cut the wood into the sizes you choose. After the strips have been cut, glue them together.
- To bend the laminations, clamp them together with ordinary clamps or a vacuum press.
- Before the glue dries up, ensure that the wood is directly bent to the desired curve.
3. Kurf-Cutting method
This method is unique. It involves cutting tiny gaps into the wood to allow it to bend into suitable curves. By cutting these slots into the wood, the slotted portion becomes thinner and bendable without breaking the wood.
Although it allows for deeper curves, the bends created are not rigid and are prone to breaking.
The method of kerfing wood depends on the type of wood. For instance, wood suitable for bending via the other two mentioned methods can also be kerfed. These types of wood include oak, mahogany, and even ash.
Plywood is also suitable. Other considerations are the depth of the slots and the evenness of the cutting. Additionally, it is advisable to cut across the grain to prevent the wood from breaking.
Tools: Use a Skilsaw for cutting wood.
- Cut the slots at a spacing of about half an inch from each other.
- Press the wood with the slotted area as the bend to join the cut slots.
- Once the desired curve is obtained, the side of the wood not slotted is fixed with a laminate to hold the wood in shape. The slots can be disguised with a wood filler or sawdust mixed with glue.
How to Bend Wood: A summary
Bending wood is not a complicated undertaking. However, close attention to the process is necessary to avoid failed bends or wood breaking.
Whatever the wood bending project requires, diligently following the steps will ensure desirable outcomes. Additionally, considering the type of wood and the bend is most important when settling on a wood bending technique. However, in most cases, any method can be applied.
Check out how to finish wood.