It is natural that as you develop your woodworking skills and widen the scope of your creativity, you will move on to more advanced woodworking techniques, like bending wood. Up to now, you may have only worked with straight pieces of wood but I am sure that you have admired some beautiful furniture of other pieces of woodwork that have included curves and bends and wondered how you can achieve that same great look. Learning to bend wood is a natural progression on from the basics of woodworking.
There are many methods of bending wood. Carpenters and artists have bent wood down through the centuries and most of the techniques mentioned in this article have been developed over time. You have probably heard of the most popular methods of bending wood, like steam bending. In this article, we will look at three popular wood bending techniques: Steam Bending, Kerf-Cut Bending and Microwave Bending. After reading, you will be able to decide which of these techniques is best for the project that you have at hand.
The most popular and easiest way to bend wood is through steam bending; usually done with a Steam Box. To use the Steam Box method, you will need the following materials: water, a container, a hose or pipe, some type of box to hold the wood that is being bent, all of the screws and clamps that will be needed throughout the task and of course a source of heat.
To get started, the piece of wood that you are bending will need to be placed securely in its mold. You would place both the wood and mold into the steam box with a hose or pipe placed with one end in the steam box and the other end in the water container. The hose will be used to carry steam from the water container into the steam box once the water is heated.
Steam bending can be quite a lengthy process depending on the thickness of the wood that you are bending. On average, it will take approximately one hour of steaming for every inch of thickness in the wood.
Kerf-Cut bending is quite a simple method of bending wood and has been used for centuries. Kerfs or slots of wood are sawed out of the inside edge of the wood that you are bending so that the wood can then be curved and compressed into the shape that you are looking for. You can be as creative as you want to be with kerf-cut bending and create all types of shapes.
As you can probably see by now, the smaller and thinner that a piece of wood is, the easier it is to manipulate. Therefore, bending small pieces of wood becomes a very simple process with the use of a microwave; the only modern technique mentioned in this article. For all intents and purposes, microwave bending is also steam bending but in a much quicker, more manageable way.
To generate steam when microwaving, wrap the wood in a piece of wet paper towel, place it in a microwave oven and microwave it on high. The exact amount of time needed to heat a piece of wood will vary depending on the size of the wood that you are bending, as well as the thickness of the wood so do experiment a little. Err on the side of caution until you are very comfortable with using this method and understand the heating requirements. I would recommend starting out by heating wood for 20 seconds and testing to see how pliable the wood is at that time and continuing on.
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