I am building a table which I would like to put a 1/4" thich oak piece
around a 42" r. and would like to know if I need to steam it ? Next
question is: Could I just build a mockup frame and steam it using a
large garbage bag? If someone thinks this may work for me I will work
on a steam source myself.
Should be able to do it without steam, but select your stock for straight
grain parallel to the surfaces to minimize surprises. I've done ~48
diameter with 3/16 stuff.
Don't have to go all the way to steam on stuff that thin. Soak would give
you a lot of flexibility.
If I read that as a 42" radius (84" diameter), it's piece of cake, if
you have relatively straight grained oak. Soak it, no steam needed. If
it's a 42" diameter, then you might want to consider planing the oak
down to 3/16, but 1/4 shouldn't be a real challenge if you steam it a
Steaming is easy if you're in a warm area. Wet the grass, lay the
board on it, cover with a black plastic bag in the sun and wait 6
hours. You'd be surprised how warm it get under a black bag in the
sun. If you're in Minnesots, that method may be a no-go this time of
Using a form for the bending rather than the finished piece is a good
idea. Clamps have a way of slipping and marring something when you
least expect it.
A long time ago I read in Fine Woodworking that Downey fabric softener makes
hardwood easy to bend. I can't remember the proportions, I think it is 1:9
with hot water. You soak the wood for a while and then it bends easily. I
made a few curved things this way. It does not work with redwood. I learned
that the hard way.
I had luck bending a redwood that I used for an edging by cutting it
longer than needed. I then drilled a hole in each end and using twine
starting pulling the ends together like a big bow and arrow. With
wetting and shorting the string I was able to get the trim a circle
that I could glue on to the edge of my wood. I did cheat and use a few
brads to help hold it.
Personally I no longer bother to steam oak. I find it a damn nuisance to
get a good bend into it and it's also far too easy to stain it, if
there's any metals in contact with the steam. Even after replacing the
galvanised aircon ducting steambox with one made of plastic pipe, it can
still pick up metal traces that cause stains.
So if I want curved oak - chair backs mainly, but it works for table
aprons too - then I use "knees" and a bandsaw. Knees are the pieces of a
tree that grow too curved to be sawn for flat timber. Although we
usually avoid such things for risk of "reaction wood" oak is stiff and
stable enough that you can still use them. Many sawyers (or boatyards)
have a stash of such things.
For steambending I stick to ash. English ash, green and split by riving
not sawing, is the perfect timber for bending.
I used a coffee can heated with a propane torch to bend 1/8" wood for
the circular body of a banjo with a 6" radius. No water, no soaking, no
steam.You just keep rocking the wood over the heated surface while
applying bending force somewhat short of breaking the piece and it
reaches a temperature point where it becomes quite flexible. Water can
be wiped on the inside to keep the wood from scorching if it is a
problem, but the heat is what makes the wood flexible. Sam
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.