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The perfect woods for steam-bending

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Wooden that will likely be steam-bent ought to ideally be between 15% and 20% moisture content material. Boggs extremely recommends utilizing air-dried wooden and monitoring it with a meter. Kiln-dried wooden will get a shower earlier than bending. Boggs prepares kiln-dried components by steaming them for an hour, then soaking them in water for 3 days earlier than steaming and bending them. The tub is a bag in a field.

Ought to the wooden be air-dried, kiln-dried, or inexperienced? Ideally, wooden for steam-bending must be between 15% and 20% moisture content material. Should you don’t have a moisture meter, get one. Figuring out the moisture content material of the wooden you might be working with is vital.

I most desire air-dried wooden for bending. However should you don’t have entry to air-dried or inexperienced lumber you’ll be able to nonetheless play the steam-bending sport. Kiln-dried wooden will be steam-bent should you pre-treat the wooden. I put kiln-dried workpieces within the steambox for not less than an hour and go away them there in a single day. Then I pull them out and soak them in water for 3 days. Now I’m able to put them again within the steamer and get bending. It’s a simple course of, nevertheless it means beginning your undertaking 4 days sooner.

Bending inexperienced wooden works too, nevertheless it should dry quite a bit longer on the shape, and the chance of cracking throughout that point is bigger. You’ll additionally get extra deformation within the drying course of with inexperienced wooden. Having mentioned that, there is a bonus to bending inexperienced vs. air dried: It takes much less drive. With some components (the bow of a Windsor chair, for instance) the distortion throughout drying doesn’t influence the half a lot. However I like precision, so I not often bend inexperienced wooden.

Pink oak

There’s hardly a greater wooden to start out steaming with. It’s straightforward to seek out inventory with actually straight grain freed from defects. Pink oak is usually abused within the kiln, so should you use kiln-dried inventory for steaming, examine it rigorously.

White oak

Typically fabulous for steam-bending. Some individuals report hassle with cracking, however I believe that’s as a consequence of improper drying.

White ash

This dream wooden was despatched from the steam-bending gods and destroyed by a beetle. An outstanding stand-in for oak if the components are to be stained.

Candy gum

I’ve performed with it, and it’s extremely versatile—it appears to be made from rubber. However it warps, so proceed with warning.

Pink maple

Within the second tier of fine bending woods. It’s typically extra elastic than cherry, however a bit weaker.


Superb for steam-bending, however provided that you employ a compression strap. It’s extraordinarily compressible, so it bends properly regardless that it’s not notably elastic.


Of these I’ve used extensively, it’s the species with the widest vary of elasticity, weight, and power. Relying on the tree, walnut will be excellent for steam-bending, or it may be very difficult.


That is one other species that’s far and wide relating to steam-bending. There are greater than a dozen sub-species which are bought interchangeably, so it’s exhausting to pin down. Some hickory is enormously elastic and nice for bending, some is unimaginable. It’s very stiff, and so requires loads of drive to bend.

From Brian’s article “How to bend wood to your will” which is featured in Fine Woodworking #287.

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