Steam Bending

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Steam Bending

Postby ilerner2 » Tue Apr 03, 2018 11:26 pm

Hello Gents,

I'm familiar with the 1 hour in the steam per inch thickness of the wood for general info and how to build the steam box etc. but I need some input on more specific topics.

I'm wanting to make myself a few canes of the standard wooden shepherds hook shape but I'd like to crook to be a little more open than most. If I can find myself some billet material I want to know how to orient the wood in the form. For example; in the crook area which is a very tight curve and roughly 180 degrees would the sapwood be oriented toward the outside of the circular curve with the heartwood on the inside of the curve.......stretch and curve respectfully with the same principles of a stickbow or longbow with the outer wood facing away from the archer and the inner wood on the side of the archer having the outer wood doing the stretching and the wood closer to the heartwood doing the compressing. ????

I'm only going to find Oak or Hickory here in a kiln dried state but we do have a fair amount of Mesquite here. I have no idea how it takes to steam bending but it is very hard dense wood. Anyone have any working knowledge of Mesquite?

Can glue laminated wood be steam bent successfully? What type of glue must be used? It's hard to find hardwoods cut any thicker than 3/4inch and I'd like these canes to be on the stouter side of perhaps 1 1/8 in diameter so I'm wondering if I could glue two pieces together and then steam bend them?

Thanks Guys
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Re: Steam Bending

Postby Davie Crockett » Wed Apr 04, 2018 11:17 am

Hi Ilerner2, The old stick makers used to use hot sand...https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bJetV16FR-I but steam and damp sand is used also https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BYB5eR335pA. The woods used in these films are ash and chestnut, Nothing like as hard as Mesquite But I have seen Blackthorn bent in this way. Basically you need to plasticise the lignin in the wood until it becomes pliable. You're going to have to play with what you've got until it works for you...Let us know the results ~ good or bad, we can all learn from them.

If you're going to laminate, surely bending it before sticking it together would be much easier to set up in a jig and less problematic with affecting the glue, I can't think of any adhesive that would stand up to the rigors of steaming and bending and still survive the process (But I stand to be corrected).

PS, if you're interested in the science of plasticising wood, there's a lot of good information here: https://www.fpl.fs.fed.us/documnts/fplgtr/fplgtr190/chapter_19.pdf
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Re: Steam Bending

Postby ilerner2 » Mon Apr 16, 2018 2:01 am

Hello Davie, thanks for the reply and the related links. I could not help wonder how they were transferring the heat of the wood fires to the moist sand while I watched the videos. Very interesting stuff. Makes it look pretty easy one a fella is set up with the necessities.

I'm wanting to make wooden canes. Some would call them walking sticks but I would call them canes because of the circular crook at the handle end where in my way of thinking (and locality) a walking stick for the most part is straight.

Here's a question Davie, if all I can find here is dimension lumber in lets say Oak and the width and thickness is say 1'' x 1 1/4 would the overall steaming time be based on the 1" dimension rather than the 1 1/4?

Thanks
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Re: Steam Bending

Postby Davie Crockett » Fri Apr 20, 2018 10:44 am

You could get away with that as the heat will penetrate from the "long" sides to the centre.
It's a suck it and see kind of thing. I've never bent oak so I can't advise on how it will react, as an educated guess I'd say be sure to use a strap to help prevent splitting out on the external bend.
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