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Sunday, January 06, 2008

The Adventure of Bending Wood

Well this is a first. My blog is falling behind my progress. You would think I was being productive or something! So in an attempt to get caught up...

I bent wood! I am man! Me bend wood. How many guys do you know that have bent wood? I am wood bender.

Okay, I actually found bending wood to be quite stressful. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

First of all, I had to build a jig to bend the wood on. I started by drawing the shape of the rounded roof end onto a piece of plywood.

Then I pounded in big 'ol nails (I forget what size) following that line so that most of the nail was sticking out of the plywood. The plywood is about 3/8ths inches thick, so thats how far I pounded in the nails. A good 2” or so of nail was left sticking out. These are whats going to take the brunt of the force needed to bend the wood.

The nails are going to leave dents in the wood so what I did was, take a length of scrap 1/8th luan and bent that first. This will give the good lumber a smooth surface to be bent on. The luan will take the brunt of the nails. So actually, the very first wood I ever bent was used as a tool and will be scrap after I'm done.

I let the first 1/4” pine steam for about an hour. I sent a whole kettle of water through that steaming rig!

My idea is instead of trying to bend a 3/4” piece, I'm going to laminate 3 pieces of 1/4” together to make a 3/4” end, bending one over the other. And to help make it strong, I'm offsetting the joints so they all don't line up.

The first piece is a tough one since it curves over the left and right corners. So in other words, it requires two bends! The curve on the left side went perfectly, I was stoked! But I don't know if the wood cooled or what because the curve around the right side didn't go as well. It curved all right but the stress caused the wood to begin to splinter as you can see in the last photo.

Sequent bends had degrees of success, from bending just fine to an all out snap! in half. Thats disheartening to steam the wood for an hour just to have it snap. And then its off the lumber yard for a replacement and start all over again.

I think the trick is, take your time and bend the wood slowly, don't muscle it. Become one with the wood. Let the fibers stretch naturally around the curve at its own pace. Yes, thats the ticket. Feel the sensation of the wood giving way, it will let you know if its going too fast. Yes. Ahhh.

To tell you the truth, I'm glad thats over. Yes the wood bent, but it's less than perfect. The laminated pieces don't line up perfectly, but with a little filler in the spaces, I don't think anyone will notice. The front edge visible to everyone is a beautiful curve, and thats what matters, right?

Next, it's off to the lumber yard for some furniture grade plywood. Yessir! Furniture grade plywood!

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