Decorations are great and all, but our goal is in learning the steps involved, and rules governing, the bending of laminated materials. A key model-making skill, bending laminates is a serious asset when you need to create a curved form.
Please only make use of the tools you feel comfortable with. Though I depict a table saw and router in cutting wood products, I will not provide instruction for either. If unfamiliar with these tools, I will provide alternatives for use with a variety of other materials.
Step 1: Choose Material, Determine Size and Shape
I have begun the process with 'bending plywood,' a particularly thin, easily bent material. Paper, chipboard, cardboard, plastics or any bendable sheet material should work well. In determining the curvature, I test the material for its limits, in which I bend until I begin to hear the plywood crack. Every material is different, papers will crease, cardboard will crinkle, I recommend stopping before your sheet loses its integrity.
Once you have determined a satisfactory bend, transfer a line of the curvature to another sheet, this will become our template for the next step, the mold.
Step 2: Create Mold
In using MDF, I spend a bit more time at first, but end up with a sturdy form that can be used again and again. I've cut several pieces, each with an identical silhouette, to stack up and glue together. I cut the general angles, and continue to sand out a smooth radius. To speed things up, I've used a router to replicate one silhouette multiple times.
Upon creating the needed amount of silhouettes, I line up and glue (with wood glue) carefully. When all clean and dry, you are ready to glue up the laminate.
Step 3: Glue-up Laminate
Apply a light, but even, coat of glue across the entire surface of each side and press together. Three layers will do it, two is minimum, though the more you press up, the stronger your laminate. Immediately center the stack on your mold and carefully tape down by wrapping the packing tape atop the stack and down the side of the mold. The laminate must be secure, you do not want any slipping or sliding.
In only an hour's time, you may remove the laminate from it's mold and there you have it - Your first curve!
Step 4: Clean Up Laminate
Working with wood, you'll want to rough-cut the general shape, and finish sand the rest. Sand enough to knock off any jagged edges, or as fine as you please.
On to the decorating!