Monday, June 13, 2016

hot pipe bender

I made a post about Vincent Edwards a few weeks ago. You might remember that Vincent makes furniture from bent wood pieces. I had inquired with Vincent about his wood bending technique and he sent the images above and the text below.

Here's the hot-pipe setup I used to make the coffee table. For heat, you want water dropped on the pipe to ball and roll quickly off and not just explode in steam. 

Start with 1/4" thick air-dried white oak and don't forget to soak overnight first. 

It’s basically just a 8in length of 1/4” wall steel pipe with angle brackets welded on so you can bolt it to a board with a hole in it and leave some space.

I use a propane torch supported by a wooden-jawed clamp for heat. 

The really important thing is that you need air-dried lumber. Wood bending involves softening the lignum in the wood (essentially connective tissue between the tubes that make up grain structure)

In kiln dried lumber, the cells harden and collapse, and can’t be softened again with heat and steam. 

2nd, I soak the wood overnight (I use a plastic length of gutter for this) so it’s really saturated with water. The heat creates steam inside the wood that softens the lignum to allow it to bend.

When you hold the wood on the pipe, it will feel stiff and resist bending for about 5-10 seconds, then soften. Once this happens, you have a little time to shape it before you cook all the moisture out. 

You can spray or re-soak if you need to adjust a bend further. 

This method works best with thin wood- 1/4inch or less- and some species are better than others. White Oak, Ash, and Hickory are among the best.

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