Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Build up Steam to bend wood

Chris from Canada wrote:
When I made my HS "rattan" furniture I was using chair caning which was to be softened either by steaming, or soaking for 24 hours followed by a dunk in boiling water. I didn't have the time to soak them, nor was their any way I was going to heat up my kitchen by using the stove let alone stand over a kettle of boiling water holding the cane pieces in the steam. So instead I placed 3-4 layers of wet paper towel in a glass cake pan, followed by a small plate and put the pieces of cane on that. Tightly covered with vented plastic wrap and "cooked" on high for a few minutes, the pan built up a good head of steam under the plastic wrap which made the cane moist and quite flexible, but didn't leave it dripping as the cane was not in contact with the wet towelling. I've used the same technique on basswood for some curved drawer fronts, and even gave it a second steaming (just to even out the curve a bit) while it was still strapped to the 3 pieces of dowel and scrap wood I had used as a form, without causing any problems.

BTW, this also often works to release something you have glued incorrectly without damaging the parts, even after the glue has cured for 4 weeks. It works for hot glue, carpenter's and wood glue, tacky and craft glues including WeldBond, Eileen's and Sobo, but NOT with Hypo-Cement, super glues, common plastic model glues, Gorilla Glue or rubber/contact cements. I haven't tried it on any other glues so far, as I tested only the glues I had on hand, gluing wood scraps together, labelling them, and then trying to steam them apart a month later. Not a truly scientific approach, but it was a good way to check what would work, so I would know in case I ever had to correct a gluing error. Not of course, that I would EVER glue a carved door panel on upside down or a chair arm inside out, let alone do something as dumb as gluing the middle floor of a 3-level house in backwards and not notice until 6 months later, when returning to the project and attempting to glue in the staircase. :-D