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I wasn't sure where this topic should go, but I put it here because it is about planking. Anyways, I have been thinking about building a steam box for my wood shop. I know that I could use it for ship building as well. My question is, how long do you steam the planks for? For woodworking it is generally 1 hour per inch of thickness. Also, does anyone out there have any suggestions for making a steam box. Wood or pvc pipe?

 

Thanks

Scott

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I just happened to look up, "boat building steam box" on the web last night and there were so many different types it looks like any container to allow steam to saturate the wood would do. 

 

As far as how long, I've never heard of modelers using a steam box.  I would start at scale.  If 1" takes 1 hour 1/8" would take 7.5 min. and then adjust from there.  Let us know how it works out, others would like to use this method also. 

 

Bob

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Hi Scott,

 

I remember seeing a wooden steam box somewhere on the site. I don't recall if it was part of a build log or in a seperate topic. Do a search, but if I run across it myself, I'll let you know.

 

Brian

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Thanks, RiverRat,

 

That article is very informative.  Thinking more about the steam box, wood is a better insulator than PVC and you need to hold as much heat as possible. And the time,  He was bending 8.5mm wood and said he steamed it for one hour.  Two boats from now I will need this information.

 

Bob

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Thanks guys, that helps a lot! I have some 4" pvc and fittings (perks of the trade I'm in). Just going to throw something together tonight and build a more permanent wooden box during the week. Going to have to make a couple different ones. A box for large wood working would be a little ridiculous for model ship building.

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Well here is what I have so far. I am going to try this 4" pvc tube that I have. Capped one end and used a fernco cap for the outlet. I drilled 6 holes and inserted 3/8 wooden rods for a shelf. I didn't seal the rods, they swell with the steam and seal themselves. Didn't forget the drain hole, it's near the steam inlet on the bottem. Also have a vent near the outlet, don't want the pvc to explode! I plan on using it tomorrow, so we shall see how it works.

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I decided to go with the Earlex steam generator. I picked it up at a Woodcraft. They run for $70, but I had a gift card burning a hole in my wallet! It has gotten great reviews, but I will let you know tomorrow how it works out.

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O.k here are the test results. In a link that RiverRat posted, drazen had steamed his planks for 30 minutes. This was a good starting point, but I found that an extra 15 minutes really made the wood pliable. As far as the steam vessle goes, it worked great! This was a test vessel, so I found a few things that I want to change. First, I have a condensate hole in the back where thewater just comes out and splashes into a pan on the floor. I am going to add a drain line and drop it into the pan. This will eliminate the current watery mess that have. Second, I want to move the steam supply to the back cap, I think I might get a better steam surround this way. Third, I want to add a thermometer to see what is going on in there and if need be, insulate the unit. I didn't get fancy with my bends but they were able to bend around themselves easily. With more practice I am sure I can do really tight bends. In the picture below the wood on the left is cherry I belive and the right is a wood supplied with my kit called obeche. Just a few things if you guys build one out of pvc, pitch it back to your supply to allow the condensate to drain and support the unit with a least three supports. The pvc really get soft and if not supported, will bend drastically. Like I said before, I will be using this for my wood working as well as my hobby. Including the Earlex steam generator at full price, this setup came out to less than $100. I know you can use a tea kettle for a steam source. I found that alll new electric kettles will shut off when they achieve a boil. Also, I do not feel comfortable using a portable heat source, especially in my workshop so this was the best choice for me.

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I knew I forgot something! They were both1.5mm thick and 5mm wide. They were both about 24 inches long, one slightly longer. I forgot to measure radius, but it was that of a beer glass!  Haha lets say 3 inches. I know that with practice and familiarity with the unit I can get a little tighter bends.

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I would say yours is way better as far as portability! Had you made a thread I would be stealing my wifes curling iron as soon as I read it. I was expanding my woodworking and will be incorporating steam bent wood in some of my projects. I figured why not try for my hobby as well. That's not to say that my wives curling iron may still go missing!

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  • 2 years later...

Here is a shot of the steamer I built. It is easy to use and portable. It can be taken apart for storage as well. I found that steaming a bit longer than the 1" to 1' formula was better. The first plank took 24 hrs. for the glue to actually hold. The second try, steamed longer, took several hours and the clamps came off.

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