How To Bend Wood

Knowing how to bend wood correctly is one of the hardest parts of carpentry. Usually used in chair making, wood is bent by the use of a steamer, which is then pulled into a mould. Here is what you will need to bend wood:

  • Wood steamer. You can buy one, or make one out of a simple household water boiler, some tubing and some PVC piping. Plug one end of the tube with a rag, so the air can flow, and then rig up some waterproof piping from the opening of the boiler to the PVC. The connections don't have to be completely airtight, but it should be close.
  • Leather gloves
  • Eye protection
  • Wood to be bent
  • Mould for the wood
  • Tongs (optional)

Note: Always wear eyewear. You are working with hot steam. Anything can happen. In addition, you are bending wood, and sometimes splinters come flying out. We don't need to tell you that you don't want these anywhere near your eye. Before you start this procedure, practice taking a piece of wood out of the steamer and moving it to the mould. Time is against you, so you should do everything you can to prepare.

  1. Place wood inside of steamer. Make sure that there will be room for proper airflow. You want the steam to flow through the area where the wood is stored. You don't want it to pool up inside, you will end up soaking parts of the wood, which means that the wood will warp because of uneven loosening.
  2. Start up steamer. For every inch of thickness, you want you wood to be in the steamer for an hour. Once you turn on the boiler, you want to be wearing gloves any time you touch your rig. This will get very hot.
  3. Prepare mould. While the steamer is going, make sure everything you need to bend and mould the wood is in place. There are many different ways to affix the wood, but keep in mind that the wood will try to revert to its original form once it starts to cool. Keep an eye on the boiler, and check periodically to make sure that there is enough water.
  4. Remove wood and put it in the mould. Wearing gloves and eyewear, turn off the boiler and let the steam out of the steamer. Then, using tongs or your gloved hand, remove the wood from the steamer. Take it to the mould and bend it to your will. Don't worry if anything splits, you can fix that later. The most important thing right now is to have a piece of wood that is generally bent the way you want it.

There you have it. It's pretty tough, but once you practice it enough, it will be like second nature.

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