How to Bend Wood

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Knowing how to bend wood can prove helpful for all sorts of projects. It might be worth your while to explore the different types of methods and options available for you to choose from so that you may decide on the best option suitable for you.

This article will help you learn about five different processes that can help you achieve your desired result.

Without further ado, let’s dive right into it.

Bending Wood with Steam

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1. Prepare the Tools and Materials for Steam-Bending

2. Put the Wood in the Steam Box

The steam box, in which you’ll place the wood, will need to have a few essential features; such as a lid for you to insert and take out the wood pieces, two holes, one through which you may add steam into the box using the hose and another that will let the steam escape. It should also be of a size that can accommodate the length, width, and height of the pieces you’re planning to bend generally though this method works best for thin stock.

3. Steam the Wood

You will need to get the wood all steamed and hot before you can bend it. So to steam it, put it inside the steam box, close the lid of the box, then flip on the steamer. Waiting hours depend on the thickness of the wood. After a few hours, open the cover to take out the hot piece of wood.

4. Remove the Wood and Clamp it to the Form.

Now it’s time to clamp the wood to your pre-made form. Depending on how you want the final product to look, you will have to plan ahead of the positioning of the form. Move quickly before it cools down, and clamp it securely. Wait for it to cool off and dry in that position in order for it to bend. Repeat the entire process if needed.

Bending Wood with Water 

1. Prepare the Tools and Materials for Bending Wood with Water

2. Place the Wood in the Tub

If you have a lot of wood pieces or if the wood is quite large, consider using a big tub, such as a bathtub, to soak and make it pliable. The tub should be filled with enough hot water so that the wood is completely submerged. 

3. Heat the Water

As the water is added to the tub should be hot, you’ll need to use a utensil to heat it up before. Use a big pot or pan to heat up water on the stove, then pour it into the tub. Once it has reached the boiling point, it is time to add it to the tub. Repeat till the tub is filled to the desired level.

4. Add the Water to the Tub

Carefully fill up a bathtub with enough hot water to completely cover the piece or pieces of wood you want to bend. Do not rush this process, or else you may accidentally injure yourself. Once done with the process of filling the tub and adding the wood, check that there are no pieces floating on the top. If that happens, use a heavy object on top of the wood piece to keep it submerged. 

5. Remove the Wood and Clamp it to the Form.

Once it has been soaked for at least an hour, take it out of the tub while using your protective gear and quickly clamp it into the desired position on the form. Make sure it is secure, then wait for it to cool off and dry.

6. Let the Wood Dry

Now it is important to let the wood dry clamped to the form for a few hours before you remove it and let it dry on its own. If it does not seem to be holding its shape after it has been removed and dried, you might have to repeat the process.

Bending Wood by Kerf-Cutting 

1. Prepare the Tools and Materials for Kerf-Cutting

2. Set the Saw Blade

The depth of the saw blade is significant as you want to cut just enough wood to create a weakened area but not too much that it would break completely. Adjust the depth of the saw blade by measuring the thickness of the wood you are cutting. The depth of your saw blade should idly be 1/8 inch less than the thickness of the wood.

3. Mark the Range of Cuts

Using the pencil, mark the area on the wood that you will be cutting in order to achieve the desired bend. You should make your marks evenly spaced, as this will play a significant role in how successful your bend is.

4. Make the First Cut

Wear your protective equipment, and with the electrical saw blade of your choice adjusted to the correct depth, start to cut along your pencil markings. The cut should be straight and clean.

5. Make Additional Cuts

Now that you’ve seen how the first cut went make additional cuts following the same pattern as the first until you have gone all the way through the marked section of wood.

6. Bend the Wood

You have two options when it comes to how you wish to bend kerf-cut wood. One is by drilling it into the place you want to install it, and the other is using wood glue in the cuts and applying pressure on it to create and hold the bend in place. For the latter method, you may use a veneer to cover the glued area for stability and a neater look.

Also Read: How to Cut a Square Hole in Wood

Bending Wood by Lamination 

1. Prepare the Tools and Materials for Lamination

  • Miter saw table saw, or radial saw
  • Pencil
  • Eye and hearing protection
  • Special durable wood glue, preferably two-part urea-formaldehyde glue or epoxy
  • Clamps
  • Cork liner
  • A pre-made form (shape holder)

2. Prepare the wood to be bent

This method will require you to weaken a piece of wood by cutting it into thin slices and then rejoining and constructing them according to the shape you want. Start by making a diagonal line with a pencil on one side of the wood piece. This will act as a guide in helping you figure out which piece belongs where once you’ve divided it into several pieces. Next, you’ll start cutting the wood into thin, evenly sized slices using a power tool. 

3. Line your wood strips with a thin cork liner

A cork liner is easy to install and will help the pieces of wood you’re laminating to stick together. It will also give the wood a neater appearance and surface.

4. Spread glue on top of one of your wood strips

Using strong glue, preferably a two-part urea-formaldehyde glue or epoxy, spread an even layer of glue on top of your thin wood strip. Regular wood glue is soft and dries quickly, which isn’t ideal for this type of project.

5. Place the wood in the form quickly.

Align the strips with the other pieces, press them and carefully place them in the form. Then clamp them in place. Allow the wood time to dry and cure. Once it has completely dried you can remove it from the form.

Bend Wood Using Chemical Impregnation

Chemical Impregnation is a process where the natural pores of the wood are filled with a liquid that will harden. This is done by using a solution that is 25% ammonia. The ammonia solution will seep into the wood and make it easy for you to shape it while the chemical is still wet. It will then hold that shape when it dries. Though this method is a highly effective method, it is also a dangerous way to bend wood. If you decide to use this method it is important that you take all necessary precautions, including using a respirator, goggles, gloves, a well-ventilated room, and a tight container for the soaking process.

The Best Types of Wood for Bending 

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Some types of wood are easier to bend than others. Typically, the more open a wood’s grain, the easier it would be for it to be able to accept the liquids being used during different bending processes. The following are some types of wood that are well-loved in the woodworking industry for bentwood projects:

  • White Oak
  • Red Oak
  • Beech
  • Birch
  • Alder
  • Ash
  • Elm
  • Hornbeam

Another tip you may find beneficial is to not use kiln-dried wood. This wood has been dried in an artificial drying kiln at a high temperature. This will make the wood very hard and difficult to bend. Instead, try to use green or air-dried lumber which is wood that has been dried naturally. This will give you a little more flexibility when working with it. The ideal moisture content of wood should be around 20% to 30%. If the moisture content is 10% or below it, the wood is considered too dry to work with.

Conclusion

There you have it, different methods on how to bend wood!  Whichever method you choose, make sure to take all necessary precautions for your safety and the safety of those around you. And as always, have fun with your woodworking projects!

If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them below. We love hearing from our readers!

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