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As the material properties of wood are dependent on temperature and moisture content a traditional method for extending the plasticity of a number of hardwood species, as for example ash, beech, birch, elm and white oak, is steaming.
The developed integrative computational design tool was tested by constructing a full scale prototype from more than 1000 geometrically unique parts. I wanted an item to make in the basement that would not require power tools, easy, cheap and with the potential to make some money. The last thing is this the time the world celebrates the birthday of Jesus Christ, The Son of God. Hey we used a Dewalt drill squeezed between two boards tied together with 550 cord to make a lathe in Iraq. DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. Note that the steps are not mine and were installed 2years ago when the house was constructed.
Though this was a very interesting project, it required a lot of reclaimed old wood which is limited. In this season 3 episode, Tommy creates a beautiful chaise lounge from 25 individual pieces of red oak wood.
Wood steam bending techniques are as old as the ships built by Vikings, steaming wood over a hot fire, but thank goodness we live in modern times! Tommy learned that the boat’s wood stock is held in the steam box for about a half hour and quickly clamped and assembled into the required curved form of the boat for the inside staves and the outside shape before the wood cools down. Back at the Rough Cut shop with Tommy’s wall paper steamer, he found that it would take an additional hour more to bend the wood, due to the lower temperature capability of the machine.
To learn more about the International Yacht Restoration School in Rhode Island, plan your own Rough Cut Road Trip to the school or click on the photo above! Once the wood comes out of the steam box, it begins to loose its flexibility in a minute or less, so you need to work fast. This music stand requires only five board feet of lumber, but I recommend buying at least four times as much, so you can practice and refine your bending techniques.
After experimenting with different lengths of time, I settled on steaming each leg blank for one hour.
I discovered I couldn’t work fast enough to successfully bend the leg blanks by myself, so I enlisted a partner.
Pre-setting the strap clamp paid immediate dividends, because tightening it only took a couple of twists with the ratchet. After an hour, we took the bent blank off of the jig, removed the strap and immediately clamped the blank to one of the drying forms (Photo 9). Next, I returned to the jointer to create flat gluing surfaces on the top portion of each blank (Photo 11). When I glued the front two legs together, I aligned the terminus points of their jointed faces (Photo 12).
To install the tray assembly, I let it rest on top of the the front legs as I slid it around the back leg. American Woodworker magazine was acquired by F+W Media (parent company of Popular Woodworking) in 2014. Christopher Schwarz has helped many of us solve some pretty frustrating problems over the years.


As compared to additive or subtractive fabrication techniques, this forming process has considerable advantages for producing curved wooden parts: bending wood is materially very efficient and structurally advantageous, as it reorients the grain direction to follow the part’s curvature, avoiding excessive fiber run-out on the edges and cross-grain weaknesses.
However, traditionally steam-bending processes require a mould that defines the curvature of the part to be formed. The lightweight structure is computationally derived as a double layered lattice providing both a spatial division and a seating surface, in which the thickness of slats, the number of layers and the depth of the system responds to the load-bearing requirements. These are easier to make and I have sold 7 so far in about a week with 2 -3 more possible sales. So many variables affect the way each piece of wood bends, the outcome can be difficult to predict. The turning point came when I discovered Lee Valley Tools’ Veritas strap clamp and instruction booklet on steam bending (see Sources, below).
Our dry-run do-si-dos through the bending process also paid off, because clamping the blank to the jig and completing the bend took only seconds (Photos 7 and 8). The distance between dadoes decreases from bottom to top, so the spaces between the stays are graduated. After many years together, my flimsy music stand and I experienced the ultimate falling out. I discovered that I needed a strap clamp and a dedicated bending jig to successfully bend the thick, kiln-dried pieces I was using.
I discovered that the bent leg blanks had to be edge jointed, because they were always slightly twisted. I created a flat gluing surface on each leg blank by jointing the top portion of its outside face, above the bend.
Before I glued the two front legs together, I marked the points where their jointed surfaces ended. I decided to lighten the appearance of the stays, because their rectangular shape made the stand look top-heavy.
This project explored ways of developing a computational design process that allows the free forming of steamed white-oak slats without the need for a 100 percent contact mould. Utilizing a custom-built steam chamber and a simple CNC-cut formwork that guides the free forming of the steamed pieces by spatial reference points, the prototype was constructed from white oak slats without any additional mechanical fasteners or fixings. I am fortunate in a friend owns an architectural panel company that applies veneer to MDF for mill work installations.
Since the anvil is covered with cellophane and the clamp is aluminum, the bracelet should sit in the jig for 8 hours.
When the client pass by my showroom and saw the door handles, she then inquired about a snake-like handrails for her house. I’ve found that the best way to achieve consistent results is to control as many variables as you can.
I planned to use some of them for test-bending and I wanted to have more than three bent blanks to choose from for the base.
Taking one minute longer made a huge difference in the amount of springback (the tendency to straighten out) when the blank was removed from the jig.
Occasionally, we had to reduce the strap’s clamping pressure as we bent a blank around the form, to keep the curve from buckling. When all three blanks were bent, we headed to the golf course: The blanks had to stay in the forms for three days to stabilize.


After cutting the back foot, I glued the back leg to the front assembly, taking care that it remained centered.
After the glue had dried, I removed the tray assembly to finish shaping the top of the stand. They required only about 15 minutes in the steam box, not nearly as long as the leg blanks. Rather than buying another utilitarian stand, I got the crazy notion to design and build one that would, somehow, visually represent the music I play.
I wanted the stand to echo the blues music I love, so I decided to bend the wood, just like those soulful blue notes. Every time I tried to bend and clamp a piece over a form, the fibers on the outside face tore apart. The strap clamp (see Sources, below) wraps the steamed piece and keeps its fibers from stretching and tearing apart as it’s bent.
The entire bending process, from removing the steaming blank to applying the last clamp, takes less than a minute. In order to achieve this, a large number of physical tests were conducted investigating the process parameters of steaming as for example temperature, time the specification parameters of the slats such as species, fiber direction, initial moisture content, thickness, in relation to the forming figure that the slats find when the position of one endpoint is translated in space in relation to the other. We made sure we had clamps, gloves and everything else we needed before we removed the blank (Photo 6). I trimmed the front leg assembly to its final height and then hand-planed it to final thickness, making sure to create a flat gluing surface for the back leg. I still steamed the blanks together to save time, but I removed each one separately and clamped it on its own form. This seemed the perfect opportunity to try steam bending, something I’d always wanted to do. So we rehearsed the entire bending process first, to choreograph our steps and make sure all the tools we needed were close at hand. I positioned the assembly so the legs’ splay was the correct width at the bottom edge.
The resultant data was used to set-up a computational form-finding tool for a multilayered lattice system constructed from bent and twisted white oak slats. Also used the pattern as the router guide to carve out the grip for the thumb and the 4fingers that wrap around it.
After sanding and satisfied that I am finished, I will spray some shaker can lacquer, sand and then spray again. I tried to use a split tire tube to wrap around the anvil, but found it very clumsy, so I am off to the jig building part of my brain. I measured out a piece of aluminum flashing the width of the anvil and the length to go past the point on the bracelet where you will cut off the ends. You can hand bend the material around the anvil then place the clamp over it and tighten it up.



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