Beauty can come in all forms, and that includes you dear wood craftsman, and your medium. Wooden furniture and decor now come in various shapes and sizes, imitating its source from nature – trees bent and curved to adapt to their environment. If you’re a handyman who’s up for the challenge of doing your own wood bending, you’ve come to one of the most convenient guides online. We’ll show the best methods on how to bend wood that won’t break the bank.
An important tip to easily achieve those curves and bends is by choosing a type of wood that is both durable yet malleable especially in more slender cuts. The best wood bending mediums include ash, alder, beech, elm, hornbeam, oak, walnut, and yew. For a clue on the best wood to use, look into deciduous tree species.
What You Will Need
If you have been into woodworking for a while now, you should be able to have most of these tools. If you’re new to the craft, don’t worry! You can find most of these tools at your trusted hardware store and woodwork suppliers:
- Woodworking clamps (C-clamps)
- Putty knife
- Table saw
- Circular hand saw (either one or a combination of both saws listed may be used. If your craft is a bit more small scale, the circular hand saw should work fine with most of the methods here)
- Your choice of mold or tightening straps to shape the wood (this depend on the look you will try to achieve)
For special wood bending equipment and supplies, you will encounter these other tools in the methods we’ll discuss (only use what you need as per instructions):
- Steam box
- A large tub or bath safe for boiling water
The following types of commercial adhesives are affordable options suited for most types of wood and wood bending projects:
- Cyanoacrylate (CA) Glue
- Polyurethane Glue
- Polyvinyl Acetate
- Veneer Glue
The Best Methods to Bend Wood
Before you proceed to your workshop, make sure you have the appropriate safety attire. The adhesives produce a strong odor while sawing your wood will produce lots of dust and debris that can injure you. Wear safety goggles, a respirator mask, and gloves at all times.
Sketching out your design will save you time and prevent mistakes while shaping the wood. Have a layout sketched on your workspace or keep a pencil nearby if you need to make marks on the wood for cutting. Here are the best methods on how to bend wood.
- In a large tub or bath, fill it with enough water to completely submerge your wood pieces.
- Have the tub or bath positioned over a wood fire or stove and bring the water to boiling point (100 degrees Celsius or 212 degrees Fahrenheit)
- While you bring the water to a boil, prepare your wood. Thin slabs are more ideal for this method, while slightly thicker planks of wood can be Kerf-cut to make them easier to bend later on.
- Once the water starts to boil, submerge your wood into the bath.
- Maintain the temperature. Avoid it from overheating or cooling down. Have enough fuel set aside so your flame does not go out.
- The wood pieces can be left between 24 to 48 hours, depending on the thickness and malleability you want to achieve.
- Pick up a piece or the end of your wood with thick gloves to test if the material can be bent after the 24 to 48-hour soak.
- When the wood can be easily bent in your hands, remove it from the bath. Let the wood dry off and avoid it from cooling immediately.
- While it’s still hot, keep your gloves on and start to shape it. Hold it down with a mold or C-clamps on your desk. Apply adhesive or nails if needed.
- Let the wood cool and take shape for a week or less, until it is completely dry.
Steam Box Method
- In the steam box, store all your planks and beams inside and seal the box tightly shut.
- Start the pressure cooker or steamer, and have a bucket or tub at the end of its hose attachment on the steam box to collect the water.
- Bring the steam to about 100 degrees Celsius or 200 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Check on the wood pieces every 15 minutes to avoid them from breaking. Once it is soft enough to bend, you may turn off the pressure cooker or steamer.
- Transfer the steamed wood to a dry work table and start bending. Clamp it in place and use nails or glue to secure it with tightening straps.
- Let it sit in the mold for 1 week until dry.
- Draw 1-centimeter gaps along the beam or board. These will be the notches you will cut into.
- Draw a line across the base of the wood where your saw should stop. The depth of each notch should be about 3 quarters of the wood.
- Once you’re done lining out the material, kerf-cut the notches by following the lines you have drawn. Be mindful of the end of the notch that serves as the surface to be bent later.
- When all the notches have been cut-out, test the malleability of your wood. It should easily be bent with your bare hands.
- Start molding the wood gently and hold it in place with tightening straps.
- Apply glue in between the notches to secure its shape. Let the glue dry completely as instructed on the product packaging.
Congratulations! You’ve just learned how to bend wood. Are you ready to apply what you’ve learned? Wood bending looks only like a craft that God can create, but even the common man can achieve the same results you see in high-end exhibits and galleries. Choosing a species of wood that is malleable is a good headstart to make the process easier. You will also need to invest in the right safety equipment and woodworking tools especially if you will be doing more similar projects in the future. Don’t be afraid to bring your creative vision to life – make funky and extraordinary pieces that blend right in with your style.