Steam bending - Router Forums
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post #1 of 12 (permalink) Old 05-11-2012, 11:48 AM Thread Starter
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Default Steam bending

I'm trying to strengthen the perimeter of paddles which I build with Manilkara bidentata a hardwood known as Bullet wood in English. This wood is extremely heavy so I only want to use it on the perimeter of the blades. To do this I need to steam bend it. Is there anyone out there who is familiar with steam bending "Nispero" ( the above mentioned wood)?
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post #2 of 12 (permalink) Old 05-11-2012, 10:00 PM
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Welcome to the router forum.

Thank you for joining us, Bob.

I have not seen a lot of comment on steam bending, but some one may have experience they are ready to pass on.

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post #3 of 12 (permalink) Old 05-11-2012, 11:44 PM
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Hello Bob,

Welcome to The Router Forums!

I haven't personally done any steam bending, though I have seen the topic discussed here in the Forums.

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post #4 of 12 (permalink) Old 05-12-2012, 05:02 PM
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i just did a search on Youtube and got this..

steam bending wood - YouTube

i used to make native hand drums, i just split oak boards on a saw and made a steamer out of a piece of new insulated stove pipe in the kitchen routed the steam from a large stew pot with tubing i made with HD aluminum foil. it looks like PVC works too. i took it out and clamped it to a mold real quick.. i had no idea what i was doing, i was way up in the Olympic Peninsula deep woods, way before computers and youtube.

i got the raw hide for the drums off of fresh road killed deer, an a lot of very good dinners too. i did, however lose a few girl friends pulling over to skin out a dear and butcher off the hind quarters.


the microwave system looked like a reasonable method for small stuff.

here are some books steam bending wood
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post #5 of 12 (permalink) Old 05-12-2012, 05:12 PM
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Check with jlord - he's made reference to steam bending on past posts.


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post #6 of 12 (permalink) Old 05-12-2012, 10:22 PM
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I'm not familiar with the timber you mention but I have been involved with steaming timber for boat ribs.
The steamer we use is about as basic as you can get, just a large diameter steel pipe with one end in a fire. Add water and timber to taste! (dog is optional)

Steaming time will vary depending on timber and size of piece to steam. We mostly do softwoods so about 1 hours per inch of thickness.
The trick is to get it out of the steam and bent as quickly as possible.
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post #7 of 12 (permalink) Old 05-13-2012, 11:02 PM
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Hello Bob, I am new to the forum as well. In fact this is my first reply or post of any kind. I have not steamed Manikara bidentata. I have steam bent allot of wood while making selfbows. (long bows and recurve bows made of one piece of wood. No laminations or fiberglass) I used allot of Osage Orange. One of the densest woods in North America. Steaming and bending wood is not very hard if I can do it. Your set-up is limited only by your imagination. I like to keep things simple. I used a hot plate, cheap coffee pot with a four inch opening, four inch galvanized duct pipe. I took one end of a tee jointed galvanized pipe and place it into the coffee pot. I then attached additional pipe to both sides of the tee joint keeping it more or less symmetrical until it’s longer that the piece of wood being steamed. I also found one hour per inch to be about right. I used tin foil to help seal the joint around the coffee pot opening and at both ends of the pipe. Small holes in the tin foil at the ends of the pipes helped direct the steam. Tilt the pipes up so the water runs back in into the coffee pot and to help the steam flow up the pipes. You will need a jig to clamp your wood to. The jig needs to bend the wood further than you would like the finished piece to be. You will loose a little set when you unclamp. You may want to use gloves when removing the wood from the steam. It will be hot. The faster you can clamp it to our jig the better. The wood will cool fast. My goal was 30 seconds. Some people will use a heat gun to keep the wood to temp if clamping some complex shape. It is best if you can let the wood dry before unclamping. It will keep its shape better. You will find greater success (less breakage) using straight grain wood that is cut following the woods grain. It’s better yet if you can use splits from a log then reducing the size of the wood following the grain. I know this is not always practical. Most pieces that break are from wood that is not hot enough or from grain being violated. I hope this helps.
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post #8 of 12 (permalink) Old 05-13-2012, 11:34 PM
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I use the Hotsy steam cleaner for bending jobs,(see the one below it's like the one I use)

Quick and easy to bend stock.


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post #9 of 12 (permalink) Old 05-14-2012, 04:30 AM Thread Starter
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Steve, thank you for a detailed answer. Your set up seems easy enough to build and very practical. My son tried bending some of this wood with poor results using a microwave method he found on the internet. I believe one of the reasons he was not successful was the wood he tried to bend was dry. Do you know if the wood needs to be recently cut (wet) and what difference the dry - wet wood has on the success of bending? thanks again bob PS/ Janka hardness of Nispero is 3200
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post #10 of 12 (permalink) Old 05-14-2012, 09:51 AM
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Bob, I have never tried to steam a fresh cut piece of wood but my experience is that the drier the wood is when removing from the jig the better it keeps it's shape. I don't think a wet fresh cut piece of wood will keep it's shape very well. I know there are methods of bending wood with heat without steam but I'm sorry to say I have no experience with those methods. In general most bends fail for two reasons. The wood was not hot enough or the grain was violated to much where the bend was taking place. What are the dimensions of the wood you are trying to bend? How hard of a bend are you making?
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