Any steam benders at the space?

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This past weekend I’ve started making a chair. It’s going to be based upon George Nakashima’s Lounge chair, a mid-century stick chair.

I’m learning as I go and have a grasp of how I’ll do most of it with the exception of the crest. For this I need to steam bend the wood. Any folks with steam bending experience out there? any equipment at the space? It’s pretty simple as I just need to put a gentle curve into it.

There is a small steam chamber in the woodshop but I’ve not yet witnessed it working, apparently it did once before. The @woodtechs will know.

I believe I saw the steam bender in the arch 2 bathroom on top of the excess timber we’ve got in there

I’ve not seen it used, but feel free to give it a shot!

you can also bend wood through lamination, where you cut it into lots of strips that are thin enough to bend to the desired shape then glue them together while bent and they’ll hold their shape - it does give a unique appearance with all the layers but it’s not a bad look necessarily if it fits your design

Yeah I don’t think bent lamination will work well in my case as I need to drill lots of holes for the sticks. Next time I’m in I’ll have a look for the steam bender. Do we have some form of steam generator too? I think wallpaper steamers are often used.

Today was the day! I found the bending box and wallpaper steamer and gave it a go. I was using kiln dried Ash, about 21mm thick and with far-from-ideal grain with a lot of run out so I had low expectations. It seems though, that luck was with me and both attempts came out fairly well. They’re not perfect as I struggled to pull the ends all the way in, so there are straight(ish) sections at the ends, but I’m hoping there is enough curved length for my chair. Next time I’d definitely work out a way to give myself more leverage.

I’ll have to keep my fingers crossed to see if they’ll dry out without any issues, but very happy for now. Thanks to the folks around the space today that helped!


Very nice! I might have to try something with this soon…

Nice! I have some ash bending of my own in my future (months? years? who knows!) so it’s good to know we have the kit. It’s not clear from the pics, but I presume you can put a longer piece all the way through and just steam the part in the middle you want to bend?

Yes I believe so. Basically it comes out slightly more flexible than when it was dry and cold, but you’re now able to compress the fibres and put a bend into it. It’ll conform to whatever you’re bending it over given enough force and stay there minus a little spring back. My piece was 75cm. I think the box would fit something a little longer but not much. This one is made of out insulation but I think you’d do just as well screwing together some ply if you needed a longer one.

Actually re-reading your comment I’m not sure… the box is closed on each end and needs to be so in order to have enough heat to work. The steam itself doesn’t really do anything, you’re heating it to make the lignum elastic and the steam is just a good way to transfer the heat. You need to be very close to 100 degrees so an open box wouldn’t work. You’d steam the whole thing and then bend it onto a form that only bent the bit you want curved. You may therefore need a bigger steam box.

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