Steam bending wooden just isn’t an actual science, regardless of it being a time-honored course of. Wood usually simply needs to retain its present form. That’s what lignum and people different wooden fibers are designed to do. Here’s a truism you might want to know: if you’re going to try to steam bend wooden, you’re going to break some items. It’s inevitable. But with that mentioned, it’s a solution to make some stunning woodworking initiatives, like these coat hooks. They’re an ideal starter venture for getting your ft moist in steam bending, since you’ll study springback, creating two different- formed curves on a single piece of wooden and make a two-piece type. Make when you be taught — it’s a win-win!

The most simple idea in steam bending is that you’re going to want some steam and a chamber to steam your items of wooden inside.

As to the steam generator, Rockler sells an ideal one. The firm’s Steam Bending Kit is protected to make use of and has all of the items you might want to get began. You could make your individual, however there’s the danger that it might explode — one thing to undoubtedly keep away from! The steam generator must be linked to the steaming chamber with a hose. The chambers themselves could be constructed from stable wooden, CDX exterior plywood (our instance on the alternative web page) or PVC designed for extremely popular temperatures. (Some schedules of PVC will go limp when handled to steam.)


Diagram of steam bending set-up

The chamber we made is way bigger than we wanted for these little hooks, so we added a movable chamber divider. Next time we could also be making some lengthy desk legs or sled runners as an alternative … who is aware of?

What About the Wood?

Air-dried wooden is a should; the kiln-drying course of hardens the lignum when it heats the wooden. Green wooden is your finest guess — wooden that has a moisture content material of 20 to 30 % bends most simply. While there are some conflicting opinions as to which species of wooden is finest for steam bending, most lists embody white and purple oak, ash, elm, hickory, seaside and birch.

Sourcing inexperienced hardwood could be a little bit of a problem, however native noticed mills may have a provide. Also, you possibly can search for native woodturners who normally have sources for inexperienced lumber. If you’re adventuresome and also you personal a band noticed, you possibly can harvest your individual items from lately downed logs and limbs.

Avoiding a break while you bend is the purpose. Your bending blanks ought to be wider than they’re thick, and the bending face ought to be plainsawn. You’ll get the perfect outcomes when the grain runs your entire size of the clean’s edge. If the grain runs off the sting, you should definitely orient that towards the “inside” of the curve. Here are three ideas that proved very helpful for us: 1) Sand the clean clean earlier than you bend it; 2) Chamfer the sides with a block airplane and three) Soak the clean in water with Downy material softener. All of those steps cut back breakage.

Steam Bending Guidelines

  • Presoak wooden a number of hours in water/Downy liquid material softener.
  • Convex and concave curves on one piece require a two-half type.
  • Use air-dried lumber so its lignum just isn’t hardened by warmth.
  • Lumber with 20 to 30 % moisture content material bends finest.
  • Lumber drier than 10 % is not going to bend with out breaking.
  • Use plainsawn wooden that’s wider than it’s thick.
  • Prepare blanks with vertical grain operating the size of the sting.
  • Choose straight surfaced wooden with out knots, rot or different flaws.
  • Overly lengthy workpieces helps with leverage when clamping.
  • Steam one hour per inch of wooden thickness.
  • You could have to re-steam giant bends (15 minutes per re-steaming).
  • Once bent, permit to chill for one hour, then transfer to a drying type.
  • Expect some springback as soon as the wooden dries, and plan for it.

Making the Bending Form and Hook Blanks

Diagram of steam bending form

First, you might want to make the bending kinds. We used 3/4″ MDF, however Baltic birch plywood or stable wooden may also work. We’re offering drawings of the hooks’ inside and outdoors curves and their ovoid form on a free downloadable PDF.

Marking out two sides of steam bending form
Lay out the 2 curves for the convex and concave mould templates. Saw and sand them to form. Separate their curved edges 3/8″ aside to verify for correct alignment.

Cut two items of three/4″ inventory 7″ huge by 11″ lengthy, and switch the 2 curved shapes for the bending mould onto the items. Take them to the band noticed and reduce as carefully to the strains as you possibly can. Then use a drum sander or stationary belt sander to refine the strains. Set the items flat on a worktop 3/8″ aside and see if their curved edges align properly. If they don’t, use a sander to regulate the profiles. These are your bending type templates.

Marking contoured shape of coat hook on template
Use these templates to attract the contoured strains on six 3/4″ x 7″ x 11″ MDF blanks. You have to make three of Template #1 and three of Template #2.

Use the templates to create the mould items from six 3/4″ x 7″ x 11″ blanks. Make three of the concave and three of the convex items. Carefully align the curved faces for every type, gluing them collectively. We secured one of many kinds to an extra piece of MDF for a base in order that solely one of many two curved kinds would be capable of transfer when clamping up steamed components.

Cutting out coat hook blanks with a band saw
At the band noticed, reduce near the road to organize every of the six blanks for template routing utilizing a flush-trim bit on the router desk.

With that executed, now it’s time to make the hook blanks. Ours are 3/8″ x 2″ x 11″ purple elm, however the different hardwood species talked about earlier can be simply pretty much as good. We reduce them from a piece of a log, and it was admittedly a problem to get items with the grain operating accurately. We wanted three items for the coatrack, so we made 5 blanks to permit for potential fractures.

Routing edges of glued together coat hook blank with flush-trim bit
Glue two stacks of the three curved components collectively to create the bending type’s inside and outer curves.

Once roughed out, we planed and sanded the blanks clean. Chamfer their edges, then soak them in water with a little bit of Downy material softener. Experienced steam benders swear by Downy. It apparently softens the lignum. Who knew?

Turning Up the (Steamy) Heat!

Placing wood in steam bending chamber while wearing gloves
Take care when eradicating inventory from the steam chamber — it is rather scorching. Note the slat contained in the chamber to carry the inventory in the course of the steam.

Our steam chamber has grooves on the within that permit us to insert adjustable slats that droop the hardwood blanks in the course of the chamber. We additionally put in a chamber divider to restrict the steaming space inside. Plugging within the steam generator, we waited for about 15 minutes for it to start out making a considerable quantity of steam, then one other 30 minutes to make certain the chamber was up the right temperature and humidity. We put one hardwood clean into the chamber and set a timer. Steam the wooden about one hour per inch of thickness. As these items are roughly a 3rd of an inch thick, 20 to 25 minutes of steaming was required.

Clamping coat hook blank in bending form
Once bent, go away the coat hook within the kinds for one hour.

Before the piece is able to bend, get three sturdy clamps able to go. When the timer rings, rigorously open the chamber door and stand again — that steam is scorching! Unplug the steam generator. With gloves on, place the clean contained in the bending kinds and heart it. Install a clamp within the heart of the kinds to start out the bending course of. You don’t want to maneuver rapidly, however don’t dawdle; the clean begins to chill instantly. Using the opposite two clamps, proceed to squeeze the kinds collectively till the clean is bent to its new form.

Clamping coat hook into cooling form
Then switch it to a cooling type. It ought to stay within the cooling type no less than in a single day.

The bent wooden wants to remain within the kinds for no less than an hour. While it’s in there, make a cooling type that matches simply the concave facet of the bending type. Once the piece has cooled for an hour, take it out and clamp it within the cooling type. Let it set no less than in a single day. When you unclamp it the subsequent day, it’d spring again a bit … that’s to be anticipated.

Completing coat hook shape cut
Cutting out the coat hook form on the band noticed requires particular consideration. Rotate the inventory in order that the part being reduce is flat on the desk, and reduce rigorously. A 1/4″ blade is an effective alternative for slicing these tight curves.

Complete the coat hook shaping course of by tracing the ovoid form discovered within the Drawing onto the face of the bent clean. Cut out the coat hook shapes on a band noticed or scroll noticed and sand them clean. We selected a 1/2″ x 2″ x 24″ piece of wenge for a backboard. To mount the meeting to the wall, we drilled two holes 16″ aside.

Finish sanding coat hook on belt sander
Use a stationary belt sander or disc sander to clean the curves and do any closing shaping. Sand the coat hooks clean earlier than making use of a end.

Then we positioned the hooks evenly alongside the 24″ board, avoiding the mounting holes. Attach the hooks with a spot of glue and two #Eight x 1/2″ black washerhead screws. When the glue cures, apply just a few coats of Watco oil end, and fasten your new coatrack to the wall.

Side view of steam bent coat hooks installed on a wall

We hope that this easy steam bending course of and venture could entice you to attempt it out. It’s an effective way to develop your woodworking horizons by including extra curves!

Click Here to Download the Full-Size Template.

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