Johnnymike

Bending with steam easily

I was reading the topic 'bending with heat only' with great interest to learn some new methods

of bending planking. I will give it a try for sure.

 

I use steam now which is fairly fool proof and quite easy for a beginner like me.

I figured if it was good for the original boat builders it was worth a try.

 

I put together a vert simple steamer by buying an electric tea kettle I think for about $15.00

a few years ago. I just set it on the floor and slip a piece of scrap fiberglass tube over the spout 

turn the pot on and drop a few pieces of wood down the tube. I usually stuff an old rag loosely in the

open end to hold the steam in the tube. After only a few minutes the wood is up to temp and ready to bend.

You just need to be careful in handling the tube because it gets very hot but the wood is workable by hand.

 

I never let the pot unattended because I will hold the power on so the pot does not shut off when it starts to boil.

 

 

JMS

 

 

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Hm, for me it works without any extra jigs - I bend pear even with 3-4mm thickness by simply:

1) Boil a full kettle of water

2) When it is done - open the lid and dip the piece into the boiling water while it is still boiling. Of course, it is super hot inside the kettle, so use tweezers to hold the wood piece

3) Wait 15-20 sec

4) Done! Take the piece out, bend and clamp to shape

5) Wash the kettle and pretend you never did it in a first place

 

Super simple and no problems. Of course, it will be hard to do with long pieces, but super long pieces are typically out of scale anyway, right? :)

 

I found that for best results it is important to dip when water is still boiling. Maybe it is all that air bubbles and vibration that helps to relax the wood fibers? Just a guess..

At least experimentally - it works better than just dipping in hot water when bubbles are gone, and much faster then using steam.

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Johnnymike: It looks like your jig is intended to steam the whole plank. Most of the time only a small fraction of the plank needs to be bent, I use a tea kettler with excellent results. Just dip the wood through the spout.

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5) Wash the kettle and pretend you never did it in a first place

 

 

I just did this last night in using a long shallow cooking tray to bend some extra long pear - I'll keep your secret if you keep mine  :rolleyes:

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Thanks for your comments guys. I think we found that steam or boiling water work well for bending and is quite convenient.

We use the same method with different equipment because it is what we have to work with.

I don't have a accessible place to boil water so I had to find a compact design. 

 

JMS

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For some woods, and depending on the size you need to bend, it doesn't seem like you need boiling water.  Most of the time I just run hot water from the tap.  Usually, by the time I get the piece situated, the water is room temperature.  I boiled water for my first build's planks, but haven't noticed a difference just going with warm water on my current builds.  If you were bending tricky woods like ebony, you probably do need heat.

 

One thing to remember is that the wood may expand a little when soaked.  So, if you glue it right away when wet, by the time it dries, it might shrink leading to gaps.  I've been a little more conservative these days in soaking, pinning and letting the piece dry overnight before gluing just to be on the safe side.

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I prefer dry bending by far, but sometimes soaking is a better way to go.  If that is the case, for me, steam and hot water is way too much work and too much wasted electricity. It provides no advantage over using cold water.  I use various lengths of  PVC pipe with one end capped.    I put in a few shaped pieces of wood n the tube and fill with distilled water.  I don't trust the chemicals in the tap water.  Tap water may not eat the lining of my stomach, but may have an adverse effect on the wood color or some such. I do have my priorities!  

  

Depending on the wood and thickness, it takes from a few minutes (holly) to an hour or so (pear and castello).  I usually put in a few pieces at the end of the day and they are ready by morning regardless of the type of wood.   I notice that most bob up as they float in the water in the pipe, so I will put an end cap on to hold them down.  When they are ready, they don't pop back up once the end cap is removed (and they often sink to the bottom.)  Once the pieces are all out and used, the water goes back in the jug for the next round.

 

Allan

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I use a wine bottle to soak the wood (empty it first, the white is ok but the red stains the wood) there is always one around and they are long enough to do long pieces. Then heat with a plank bender, the kind that in on the end of a soldering iron. Depending on the wood as little as ten minutes soaking does the job.

 

Mark

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I started this topic a while ago but as I wanted to find the best way of bending wood, for me. I could see that there are many different methods and although steam worked best for me at that time I am always interested in searching for a better way to do things.

 

So for the last few months I purchased a few different heating irons, tried soaking only, used crimping tools and tried heat guns.

 

For me steam is by far the quickest, easiest method and allows the best complex bends. I am working on the Batavia by Kolderstok and I need to bend 1mm x 6mm walnut planking around the bow to the stern. This is a fairly tight bend with a cross grain twist that leads into a longitudinal sweep up with a slight twist. I tried everything and went back to steam with excellent results. After only 5 minutes in full temperature steam I could take a straight piece of walnut and bend it by hand to the final shape on the hull gluing it into place completely at one time easily. I did not have to fight with the wood at all.

 

As they say, your results may vary but for me steam is by far the best way to bend wood.

 

JMS

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John

You almost have me convinced to give it a try.  :)     Does the steam expand the wood?  Gluing it in place "wet" is problematic as it leaves gaps when it dries, so I was wondering if the steaming softens the wood without expanding it at all.     Also, 1 mm is the equivalent of only 2" thickness at 1:48 . Have you had success using steam for thicker pieces of walnut or other hard woods, say 3 or 4  mm?  

Allan

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allanyed

 

I would recommend trying steam based on what I have experienced. For me nothing else is even close.  And I started bending wood when everyone was recommending using ammonia and water. But be cautious because steam is really hot, obviously, and it also makes the steam chamber and the part you are heating get pretty hot also. I would never use a sealed container either because of the pressure. Steam is great but you have to respect it.

 

Some expansion must occur in the wood but I have used it on four builds now and have never found it to be an issue. I have only used it for walnut and it does not soften the wood enough to be detrimental in any way.

 

For my hull work I use a PVA glue and like to leave it set out for a short time to get a little heavy and never had an issue.

 

I am now bending 1.5 mm x 6 mm walnut which is the heaviest I have bent but I would not hesitate to try it on heavier cross sectional area wood.

 

JMS

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5 hours ago, Johnnymike said:

For me steam is by far the quickest, easiest method and allows the best complex bends.

There's a reason every large-scale wood bending operation since the beginning of time has involved steam. The Egyptians were steaming the wood required to make their highly sophisticated and engineered chariots 4000 years ago, for example. It really is the best way to do it. However, it's not always the most convenient way to do it and dry bending at our scales generally works fine. So the recommendation should be to use steam if you can, if that's hard to do for some reason, use Chuck's dry bending with a hair dryer method, it should get the job done also.

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vossiewulf

I guess different things work for different people.

I tried a hair dryer and even a heat gun. It was much slower and more cumbersome than steam.

And most importantly it did not impart nearly the flexibility into the wood.

 

Just my observation.

 

JMS

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You can't do dry heat the same way you do steam, if you do you'd reach the conclusion that it doesn't work. First it's not a good idea for severe bends, if you have a severe bend to do and you don't use steam you need to soak the planks in water first, and then you'll use the heat mostly to set the bend. With no-water you heat and bend in steps, clamping as you go along, and you have to bend it past the final curve you want as it will spring back a bit. Chuck's planking videos show it in action pretty clearly.

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I used to use steam

But since finding the hot air soldering tools I have been converted.

Here is a link with more details including my review

https://modelshipworld.com/index.php?/topic/14646-bending-with-heat-only/

 

This cheap little unit delivers a 300 degree C (or higher if you wish) air stream in a focused nozzle.

 

I find the advantages over steam are

 

No preparation needed, just jump straight into a bend.

Steam can only reach 100 C (in atmos), this thing can go a lot hotter, so time to bring a plank to a malleable state is seconds.

You can keep revisiting the bend - put in heat, bend a bit by hand - hold out of heat a few seconds and try - return to heat and repeat as many times as necessary.

It will edge bend and twist.

The timber does not swell with the water/steam.

It is quite safe even though it doesn't look it.

the hot spot is within a millimetre or so of the nozzle.

You can put a finger within a 1/4" of the side of the nozzle without discomfort.

 

Sounds like I'm selling them :)

But I would recommend taking a look, even just read a more detailed review.

 

Nick

 

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The hot air station Nick pointed out doesn't ship to the US, here is one that is equivalent that is for sale in the US. As a tool type, they are called hot air rework stations and many come with soldering irons as well.

 

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I have a similar hot air unit.  I've used it on box and temperatures above 225 F tend to char the wood and I've never had the wood go malleable....maybe user error.  A combination of wet and dry bending is still where I am.

Maury

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Hey howya goin all, I found this at Rockler <--- Click Here. Good for doing multiple steaming at a time, they even tell you how to make a steamimg box.  :bird-vi:

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The Dutch shipbuilders in the 17th century knew very well how to bend wood.

You need in fact three things:  water to  soften the cell membranes (which in fact is cellulose which dissolves in the water) - then heat to make these cell membranes flexible - and then some force to bend and twist the wood. 

Steam has both the water and the heat - whereas a heat gun only has heat and uses the existing water still in the wood. For both methods you need force to bend it.

 

In Holland wood was often still quite wet - because it was transported via rivers and canals to the sawing mills, and also stored in water.

When a plank was ready in shape to be bend it was stuck into a special construction at one end - then with reed a fire was made under the plank, and with weight (stones) and forcing clamps the plank was bend into the right form.

 

I have a special device to bend planks. It works with a soldering iron and a curved head. You need to make the small strips of wood wet (and it does not have to be soaking wet - for basswood and walnut 30 minutes in water are more than enough) - put it onto the head of the hot plank bender and force it slowly into its needed shape.

 

Everyone has his (or her) own method, but this one works very good for me.

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