OK, so I'm contemplating my first excursion into steam bending, and I'm having
a *lot* of trouble determining how much springback to allow for, when building
my form. I've Googled, and read a couple of FWW articles and books, and the
best I can find anywhere is general advice, e.g. the tighter the bend or the
greater the degree of arc, the greater the springback -- well, duh! that would
seem to be obvious. What I'm looking for, and am so far totally unable to
find, is any source that attempts to quantify, however roughly, the extent of
springback, so I have some idea of a starting point for my forms.
The specifics: approximately 75 degrees of arc, bending radius 43 inches,
solid stock 5" wide by 1/2" thick, probably beech or maple, maybe poplar (it's
going to be painted). I'm making a baseboard to fit into a curved alcove, so
once it cools and dries, it's going to be nailed in place (which obviously
will constrain springback to some extent).
I know I need to make the form somewhat tighter than a 43-inch radius, but
does anybody have a feel for just how much tighter? 42 inches? 40? 36?
Any help would be greatly appreciated.
Doug Miller (alphageek at milmac dot com)
Not to try and talk you out of steaming your stock, but there are other
options for baseboard. Nowadays, you can get manufactured flexible trim
in many profiles. Some are made of resin, some are made from foam, and even
mdf trim will flex quite a bit without a bending form. Even real wood trim
can be bent and will retain the shape with some springback just by taking a
ratchet strap and pulling the ends together slowly and tightening it a
little more each day for a while. The latter is generally what I use in a
pinch when trimming a house with tight curved walls. It often takes a good
week or two before the board will bend to approximately the right curve, but
it'll go. --dave
I would think if you made it at 40" even if it sprung back more than you
want it would be close enough. The wood will still have some bend to it .
It has to be easier to bend an already bent piece of wood than a straight
length . Just my thinking anyways.
I just steam bent a a piece of canary wood (arariba) 36"x3"x3/16". The
application radius was 18 inches and I made the steam bending form with
a 16" radius. The springback was considerable, and I had to use clamps
(lots) when gluing the piece to the cabinet. If I did it again I would
try a tighter radius for the form. Not sure how this relates to your
application since almost everything is different!
If you can make the piece thinner than 1/2 definitely do so. The
thinner the better.
I also made some curved doors by laminating 1/8" bending plywood. I
think this would be a much much much easier approach for your
application. There is zero springback, and you don't have to worry
about the cracking and splitting that is common in steam bending. I've
used unibond 800 and regular old yellow glue for the laminations. Both
I had to order the bending plywood. I comes in 4'x8' sheets. It only
bends in one direction, which you will have to specify when ordering.
Yes, I considered that, but decided against it, mostly because I'll also be
using a table-mounted router to cut a profile on the upper edge of the piece.
In bending ply, that would be almost entirely an end-grain cut, and I'm leery
of the tearout.
Doug Miller (alphageek at milmac dot com)
Probably more hassle IMO. I have to build essentially the same form whether I
steam-bend or laminate, and if I laminate then I also have to do a lot of
resawing -- since it's going to be 5" wide, that means the bandsaw, and *that*
means multiple trips to the jointer and planer as well, plus the additional
mess of the glue ... balanced against making a steam box.
Doug Miller (alphageek at milmac dot com)
On Tue, 28 Feb 2006 01:58:54 GMT, email@example.com (Doug Miller)
there are a set of equations that will describe this but I couldn't
put my hands on the key one - the one that I've found most useful
relates to the relationship between number of laminations and
percentage of springback. DAGS, you might find it.
1) Successful bending requires compressing the wood cells on the
inside of the bend - wood cells don't stretch very far and will break
so the bending method must constrain the outside fibers while
compressing the inside fibers.
2) the amount that you can bend (and the force it takes to bend) is a
function of how much and how easily you can compress the inside cells.
This is a function of the elasticity of the cell walls and the size of
3) The natural elasticity is best when the wood is green but can be
temporarily increased with the heat introduced with steam but only if
the material in the cell walls have not crystallized. There is a
formal description of this condition which I don't remember but
suffice it to say the main distinction is whether the wood has been
air dried or kiln dried. Kiln dried wood is more apt to be
'crystallized and therefore more difficult to increase the elasticity.
4) The bending force/stress curves are very definitely NOT linear.
There is a small part of the curve that is linear as the cells are
compressed but then the force/stress increases rapidly as the cell
approaches its fully compressed state.
5) Given 1) & 4) the amount you can bend a piece of wood depends on
the amount that you can compress the inside cells versus their normal
or slightly stretched state. Hence the amount you can bend is a
function of the delta circumference between the outside of the bend
and the inside of the bend. This is obviously a direct function of
the delta radius (dR) which, of course, is the thickness of the wood.
6) Since the bending force curve is not linear, the effort to bend a
1/2 inch thick piece of wood is most definitely not simply 4 times the
effort to bend an 1/8 inch thick piece of wood. Hence, laminations
require FAR less force to bend the same thickness then a solid.
7) The greater the force, the more likely that your going to approach
the steep part of the curve of the cells and end up breaking the bonds
in the outer cells and the wood will fracture. Hence you are more
likely to successfully bend laminations than solid wood.
Since it is easier to bend a thinner piece of wood (smaller dR) and is
a relatively easy thing to set up - especially in your case where the
inside is hidden and you're not looking for structure strength. Cut
multiple inside kerfs so that the effective thickness is much lower.
Kerf spacing is a function of the radius - the dR over the depth of
the kerf need to be less than the 1/8 inch thickness of the kerf.
There was a pretty good article describing this technique and
calculation in one of the mags last year sometime, DAGS it.
A good alternative to solid wood is to use MDF and kerf bend. For
your 1/2 inch thickness, I would laminate an 1/8 thick piece of MDF to
a 3/8 inch substrate (wood or MDF) that is kerf cut - this will smooth
the outside surface and is a good hybrid between kerf/laminate
Laminate bending is actually much easier than steam bending for a
single piece, IME. You don't need to joint the inside surfaces -
polyurethane glue will fill the small gaps. The equations, if you can
find them, will show you that the springback is a function of the
number of layer BUT the number of layers is actually a power (not a
multiplier) in the equation so that the percentage of springback
reduces dramatically with the number of layers.
Finally, if you do want to bend a solid piece, don't use kiln dried
wood but use air dried or green (preferable).
Hope this helps, good luck.
One variable that many people forget is the time between removing the
piece from the chamber and getting it on the form. A scant few
seconds difference there can change the bend fidelity enormously.
Since you said it goes *into* an alcove, I would think you want the
radius to be a little large rather than too small. If the radius is
too small then you have to hold the ends against the wall (forces
parallel to the nails). If it's a little large, then holding it into
the curve is managed by forces perpendicular to the nails at the ends
of the piece. (It's similar to always making sure the seams in a large
glue up are tight at the ends with a tiny gap in the middle.)
HomeOwnersHub.com is a website for homeowners and building and maintenance pros. It is not affiliated with any of the manufacturers or service providers discussed here.
All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.