What would be the best way to bend a piece of 3/4" X 2 1/2" oak. This
would be for the seat frame of a chair. The two straight rails would be
about 18" apart with the curve across the back. Thanks, Jim
Either "steam bend", or do a "bent lamination",
Neither one is a straight forward process, and both will necessitate
some jig building and advance preparation.
Do a google search on both terms and you should find ample information
to do either one.
The other option is to cut the curved portion out of a thicker piece of
wood, like this chair back rail:
Roy Underhill's Woodwright Shop built a chair not so long ago in which
steam-bending was done. As was suggested above, so far as the bending is
concerned, most of the work is in the jig. Several years worth of his
shows are online.
I'm thinking he wants the back board of the seat frame, itself, to be
bent, not the backrest/leg support to be bent. Caned seats often have
curved seat frames and the curves are usually simply cut from straight
boards. Even Sam Maloof cut/carved/molded curves onto some of his
wood pieces, rather than bending boards to conform. For that small of
board, bending is an overkill operation for that application,
especially if other connecting boards are not bent/curved.
Cut a straight board to the curve you want, otherwise you have the 2
options mentioned above: Steam bending or laminate bending. Also, to
my knowledge, air dried wood is most appropriate for bending, than
kiln dried wood.
Regarding cut from thicker piece, I learned a little trick from Sam
Maloof (GRHS). Kind of hard to describe in words but I will try.
Assume you had a 3/4" thick board standing on edge and you cut a curve
out of one face of it to make it a seat back. At the center that piece
has only maybe 1/8" thickness left. However, if you take the cutout
piece and move it to the back and laminate it onto the front piece you
now have a curved piece with an equal 3/4 thickness all along.
Not sure it makes sense in words but the man was a gentle and talented
genius. Just one of his many tricks.
Another option is to kerf the back - this can allow very tight curves if
you space the kerfs close and cut within about 1/8" of the
front. However, you only want to do this if the back kerf side doesn't
show and if you don't need the full structural strength of 3/4" stock
Just to be clear, did you SPLIT a 3/4" oak billet? If this is a sawn board,
in dried oak, steam-bending is unlikely to be satisfactory.
Green split wood is the ideal starting point for bending (you
can hand-plane it to flatten and adjust thickness). If
you must use sawn boards, there's gonna be a lot of selection
and maybe some failures.
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