Whether you’re fascinated by woodcraft or work in the industry itself, you’ll notice that specific wood piece designs aren’t made from the basic tools in your workshop. Some require an utterly different crafting technique than most that need wood routers, saws, and other power tools. Wood bending or wood curving is one of the designs that can be done using cutting tools, making a big material waste. The good news is that you can curve wood by using manual methods and less complicated tools without committing to big industrial wastes; those are what we’re featuring in this article.
If you want to add a unique design factor to your project without eating up many wood materials, you should know how to bend wood. While the set of wood-curving methods we’ll mention are slightly complicated, you’d want to learn more about each one to know which one works best for you and your way of operating.
3 Techniques for Bending Wood
In this section, we’ll show you the 3 most common ways to bend wood. Follow the steps for each method, and you should be good to go with your project.
The Steam Box Method
In this method, you’ll be using a steam box. This box can be a DIY wooden box to store the wood during the process.
Setup your box in a way that would fit the wood you want to bend. Ensure that you put openings in the box. You need to make two holes: the first one is where you’ll be pumping the steam into the box using a small piece of PVC or any pipe. The second one will serve as the box outlet; it would be the steam exit to prevent your box from exploding due to the pressure.
Set your desired form or shape for the output. You can do so by attaching clamps on some areas of the wood, depending on the design you’re going for. You can also draw circle offcuts and drill off-center holes, where you can push a bolt through to make a clamp system.
Turn on your heat source and start steaming the wood inside the wooden chamber. The heating duration for the wood depends on how thick they are. Put it as an hour of steaming for every inch of thickness.
After the designated time for the steaming process, take out the wood from the box and place it in the form. Wait for the wood to be completely dry before proceeding. Bend the steamed wood carefully and gently so as not to break it; keep in mind that certain kinds of wood are more elastic than others. You can also clamp it so that you can form the wood with much more ease and flexibility.
The Lamination Method
Here, you’ll be using glue as the main component. You won’t need the standard wood glue, though. Find out more in the following procedure:
Prepare the wood you’re bending by cutting each piece a little longer than your original scale; this is done because the curving process will shorten the overall length of your wood strips. We recommend that you cut the pieces on the straight-grained part instead of the face-grain; this way, it’d be easier for you to re-align the pieces back.
Settle a cork liner on your form to help you smoothen irregularities on the wood and get the lamination to hold.
Put glue on one of your wood pieces’ surface and spread it using a disposable roller. Do NOT use conventional wood glue because it sets quicker than other adhesives. You can use epoxy as it’s highly effective but the downside is that it’s slightly more expensive. The two-part urea-formaldehyde glue is also ideal; however, it sets slowly.
Set the wood strip on the form before the glue sets. Add another wood piece to the setup until you get the right thickness for your project. Clamp the strips and let the glue set and dry. After this, you can cut the strips into measurement in your design.
The Kerf-Cutting Method
This method requires your cutting tool to assist with the wood bending. Follow the steps below:
Get your wood strips ready by cutting notches about 2/3 of your wood’s thickness. Be mindful of doing so because you might break your piece when you cut too deep. Try to give your cuts even spaces in between for the best kerfing results.
Squeeze the ends of the wood strip together to push the gaps in and form the wood’s shape.
Polish the bend of your wood piece by adding a laminate or veneer on its front. While this process can fix the curve, it can also conceal any cutting mistake you might have made during the process. You can also hide the kerfing by mixing glue and sawdust to fill in the gaps.
Common Questions About the Process
Which Wood is Best for Bending?
Keep in mind that not every kind of wood is applicable for bending. You need to look into a few factors before proceeding with the bending, such as the wood elasticity, moisture, and tanning content. Take note that some kinds of wood also change in color after the curving procedure. The best types of wood for bending are the deciduous species, including maple, birch, oak, ash, beech, linden, alder, poplar, and hornbeam.
What is the Easiest Way to Bend Wood?
Out of the three methods we’ve mentioned, the easiest way is the Lamination Method. You don’t need to buy and build a steam box for the process or perform measured cuts on your wood that can’t be too deep or too shallow. You’ll just need the right kind of glue to piece your wood strips together into the shape or form you’re aiming for.
What is the Best Way to Bend Wood?
The methods we featured above are all effective when it comes to the end result. We highly recommend the Steam Box Method. While this bending method seems complicated to execute, this provides you with a way to effectively soften your wood pieces so that you can form them easier.
How Long Do You Have to Soak Wood to Bend It?
The right moisture is one of the primary keys to having the best result in wood bending. You’d want to penetrate the wood as much as possible to soften it enough. The duration of soaking the wood depends on how thick it is; however, 24 hours should be enough.
How Much Can You Bend Wood?
The answer to this mainly falls on how thick and elastic your wood piece is. Some types of woods tend to be softer than the others; if this is the kind you’re working with, you might want to be careful in bending and forming the strips as these might break. On the other hand, you can bend thicker and harder wood strips more.
How Do You Bend Wood Without Breaking It?
There are several ways to bend wood without breaking it; this includes using a laid-on tire and boosting the wood’s elasticity. Both the elastic strips and the thickness of the tire absorb the energy exerted from the forming process. Additionally, you can increase the wood’s elasticity by increasing its moisture up to 25% and making it hot from 180 degrees to 212 degrees Fahrenheit; this can be achieved when you place your wood pieces in a steaming chamber for no more than one hour.
The output design made out of wood bending indeed provides your project with a unique and impressive touch. It might be quite hard to execute, but you’ve got a lot of methods you can try depending on your preference. If you’re new to curving wood, our step-by-step guides above should help you out.