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    Bending wood

    Summary: Learn how to bend wood, steam bending wood, bend wood using a pipe bending machine and bend wood with glue.

    The two main methods of bending wood are to steam the timber, or to soak the timber in glue such as epoxy or resorcinol. You should research further before deciding on which glue to use.

    The difficulty with bending wood is that it is hard to reach the exact shape you desire because of the degree of spring-back after the bending process has finished. There is no formula which allows you to calculate how much extra to bend the curves of the wood to reach the desired angle; therefore it is a process of trial and error.

    Whatever process you use, you will need to create a mould that will be used to temporarily hold the wood in the position that you want it to bend.

    Bending wood with glue

    This is possibly the easiest method for bending wood as it requires less effort and strain. You must decide on the type of glue to use; whether this is slow or fast setting option. Slow setting is usually better for the bigger projects which need tougher setting glue. The faster setting is better for smaller, lighter timber that isn’t as difficult to bend.

    • Be sure you have the shape of the mould ready for the wood to fit into and a way for it to be clamped in place while the glue sets.
    • Before you put the timber in the mould, soak it thoroughly in an open container of glue. Check manufacturer’s instruction on how long the timber needs to be soaked in the product you are using.
    • Clamp the timber in the mould firmly and leave to dry.
    • Take the timber out again and reapply the glue before placing it back in the mould.
    • It is best to line the mould with waxed paper to prevent the glue from sticking to the sides.

    Steam bending wood

    Steam boxes are used to apply steam to timber so it can be bent as required. A steam box is a length of pipe, which is open at one end (the end you insert the wood) and closed at the other. A small pipe connects to the steam box through which hot steam enters. This small pipe leads from a canister which contains water, heated by a hot plate or propane burner.

    • Having either made your own steam box or purchased one; set it up in a suitable place where it can be used for the next 24 hours or more.
    • Depending on the timber you are steaming, it will take 15 minutes or more per inch that needs bending.
    • Having steamed the wood for the required time, place it in the mould form as quickly as possible. The more the wood cools the harder it is to bend.

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