Learning How To Bend Wood Using A Steam Cleaner | Woodworking

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hi everyone my name is Robin Lewis and

in this video I'm gonna be having a go

at steam bending so the first thing I

need is a steam box that's where the

wood goes into to get it up to

temperature and to make that box I'm

going to be using some of this behind

the reason I've put in so many screws

along this length is as I fill this with

steam this box is gonna want to walk and

twist like crazy the problem with that

is then the steam is going to escape and

you're not gonna be able to get the

temperature that you want you may be

thinking plywood would have been the

better option and I think it would have

but I had this pine left over from

another project and I figured with

enough screws I'd be able to get away

with it I drilled some holes through the

side of the box to slide some dowel rods

through and I could sit the piece of

wood that I was bending on top of this

that way I'm getting steamed to engulf

it more even more I screwed the back

panel in place and then started working

on the front panel this needed to open

and close I used some fairly cheap

window seal as a gasket and then

attached the front panel using a hinge

and a clasp the idea here is you want

the seal to be as tight as possible so

you have better control over the steam

but if it does leak a little bit it's

not the end of the world ultimately you

want the steam to flow through the box

from one into the other so it doesn't

need to be completely tight however if

there's too many gaps then it's not

going to be able to build up that warmth

like you want it to the next step is

going to be to get steam into the box

and you would normally use something

like a proper steamer or steam unit I

don't have one of those but I do have a

steam cleaner so what I'm gonna do is

drill a hole roughly the size of this

and then I should be able to slide this

in and the match's holds in place as the

steam is coming out

then I drilled a few holes to allow the

steam out what you don't want is the box

building up too much pressure

and then there was it okay so the steam

box is really to go I've just got to add

some steam and then we can get underway

with the first and hopefully last test

before getting onto the bending of the

chair you can see here I changed where

the steam enters the box this was just

to help it spread through a little more

evenly you also want to tilt your box up

so that the steam rises up through the

box and then all the excess water will

run back down through one of those holes

this is where having a thermometer helps

so much because you can see exactly when

your box reaches the magic one hundred

degrees Celsius

it's amazing how close to that hundred


struggling it's really strength as it

gets one that's busy steaming I

apologize about the hiss let me talk to

you about the form that I'm going to be

using this is just a straight piece of

timber with two half circles so the idea

is gonna be to clamp it along this and

then curve it around all I'm doing in

this test is making sure that I can

curve this radius in the meantime we

just Pete 100 on this so it's drop back

down to 99 but just took a little bit of

time we're up to about 20 minutes now

and this did get up to 100 degrees


okay here we go you want to be as quick

as you can with this process because as

soon as that wood leaves that high


the lignin is going to start solidifying

again okay let's go to plan B let's see

what I can do okay not work it stay


I've done a lot of research last night

and I think I may have found some

answers to the problems I was having

this is the timber that I've been using

absol now this is Tasmanian oak and

according to a very good document which

I'll link to this should be good for

bending so I'm not too worried about the

wood that I'm using but I think the

thickness might be where I'm falling

down this is six mil thickness which I

would have thought would have easily

bent but re-watching a lot of the videos

I see people going down to four even

three millimeters and then they have

success so that's the first thing I'm

going to try today I'm going to resource

some of this down to around three or

four millimeter and we'll try Ben bet

okay we're up to 90 degrees Newton

that's going in I'm gonna try and be a

little more precise with this one so get

it to a specific temperature keep it in

for a certain amount of time that kind

of things so that I know when I come to

do the actual project that I want to do

I figured out where that sweet spot is

while the words cooking I've been making

a new form as well I suspect the old

form that I had might have had a radius

that was too tight so I'm gonna try

going a bit bigger and then work my way

down to that so this is a fairly larger

radius and then I'll be able to camp the

the piece of wood on either side of this

something that really started to make

sense with this test is the amount of

pressure that you need to apply to get

the woods Bend it's not too quick it's

not too slow but you sort of start to

figure this out around this point

it went further than last time

Tiffany went further than awesome so I

do feel okay I'm making some progress

I'm headed running now for another half

an hour so I'm gonna pull it out in a

couple minutes and have another go so

I'm gonna try and be a bit quicker this


it's not happy

it's gonna go it's gonna go

I need more support on the outside

that's what I need to do next I'm

starting to think that the combination

of a wider radius and thinner strips

Tiffany working but the next thing I'm

gonna try is using a strap for the

outside of the timber the idea is as the

the wood is bent around the form this is

going to support those those fibers on

the outside so I'm just waiting for the

box that heat up again and then we'll

give it another go if you're wondering

this fabric came from a ratchet strap

set a better option would be to use some

kind of flexible steel but I didn't have

any of that this is what I had on hand


okay there's still a small crack I don't

think I've done it perfectly but along

this top edge is look it looks like it's

held together so I'm going to leave this

this is cool down and see if it holds

its shape but either way progress is

definitely being made it's been about 12

hours and the lignin in this wood should

hopefully it dried in this time as you

can see I'm getting a bit of spring back

but it should be closer to its shape all

right I'm pretty happy with this got a

good of scrapping over here but that's

it really

and that's holding a check the thing

with it is though even though now it's

it's sprung back you can still push it

back in and it's relatively flexible on

that point this is a win um I thought it

was gonna be a lot more cracking in that

good morning everybody it is day three

and this piece of timber has been

sitting overnight submerged in water so

it's moisture content is up to 28

percent it's probably a bit too high you

really want it between 20 and 25 percent

but I want to see how this affects the


but that didn't make a huge amount of

difference I've still got another nice

big crack right there oh I guess it's me

I wonder if it's just gonna come down to

time and the steamer but that's cool I

think this crack is minimal enough that

I'm happy to proceed because as long as

one of my bends is correct on the actual

project then I'm gonna be happy because

that'll be the outside one and that'll

be covered it's the next day so this has

been sitting in the forum now for almost

24 hours this is the longest I've kept

it in the forum for the other one I

brought out a lot sooner it's

interesting I've left this one in the

forum for a lot longer and I'm getting a

lot less spring back in this previous

one you can see there it's a lot tighter

I've read that you're supposed to keep

it in the forum for at least 24 hours

and that's obviously why it just reduces

that amount of Spring Bank all right I'm

gonna leave this project here I'm

feeling pretty confident now that I

should be able to bend wood in the

actual project which will be in a later

video I've gone from this which was

probably a bit more breaking than

bending to this final Bend over here

which I'm really happy with a little bit

of sanding and I reckon there would be

good to go so just a couple of things if

you are thinking about doing this to

yourself just a couple of points that I

figured out along the way that you might

be interested in the first one is that

the one hour per inch of thickness rule

definitely a guideline I was steaming

this for an hour and that got me to

where I wanted and this is obviously a

lot less than one inch of thickness this

is four mil but that hour worked with

this particular species of wood so when

they talk about an hour of steaming per

per inch of thickness I think it's

really dependent on the wood but because

you're new and you're not sure how to do

that you've got no real idea of what is

and isn't going to work so my advice

just steam anything around this

thickness for an hour and start with

that as a baseline and then

from there you can either bring it back

or do it longer the other thing is that

I would HIGHLY highly recommend you go

for a wood that is easily and readily

available this Tasmanian oak or thick

ash is I can buy this from my local

big-box store so I've always got a

supply of it and you are going to make

multiple mistakes you are going to end

up with a pile of breaks so if you have

a type of wood that you can get

undermined and it's always the same type

of wood that's gonna work so much better

for those initial stages instead of

going for your exotic one-of-a-kind

piece of timber that you want to bend

and you're just gonna break it alright

well that was a was it was a journey I'm

gonna be using what I learned here to

make a chair and domination chair and

that'll be coming up in a future video

but I hope you got something out of this

if you haven't done bent lamination

before this is what you can expect so I

hope you've got a little bit of

information out of it my name is Robin

Lewis thank you very much for watching

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Bell icon alright everyone take care and

I'll see you in the next video