Step 5: Steam away

When you're all set, fill your pot two thirds full of water, turn on the heater and wait for the water to boil. After the water has come to a boil, the steam box still takes a little while to heat up. Once you get a good flow of steam coming out of the end of the box, you're ready to heat and bend. One quarter inch thick ribs heat up in under 5 minutes. Thicker stock takes longer. Heat has to travel from the surface of the wood to the interior. Rule of thumb is 15 minutes of heating per 1/2 inch of thickness.
Keep in mind that some woods bend better than others. White oak, red oak, ash and poplar all bend well. Straight grain is important as well. If you have rain running out of the face of the board, your wood will most likely break where the grain runs out.

It's really easy to leave on the heat when you're done bending wood. Eventually, the water all evaporates, the pot becomes hot and the plywood starts smoking. Good way to start a fire.

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zacker1 year ago
Hey, anyone have any idea why I cant post or reply to anything except for places I already posted to before? Like this instructables? this has been going on for about 3 weeks now. I cant even post to the boards or forums here, only to instructables I posted to prior to a few weeks ago. What's changed?
zacker zacker1 year ago
oh sorry for posting my problem here but I cant post it anywhere sorry.
I would add a indicator bulb and a timer switch to stop that from being left to boil dry.
otisbaldwin6 years ago
thanks a lot! :) I like your kyak it looks like its going to be nice do you have any suggestions on how to make a ball out of wood?
from reading your post I am picturing a chair where the person sits inside of the sphere?and since it has been 2 years I was wondering what you came up with
nativewater (author)  otisbaldwin6 years ago
There's a wooden sphere on the desk of the lumber yard where I get my lumber for paddles. I imagine it was made on a lathe. If you don't have a lathe, you can carve and file using some semi-circular template to check your progress.
otisbaldwin6 years ago
what about a hollow wooden sphere? or if i wanted a half of a sphere for a chair im really bad at explaining stuff but maybe you understand what im asking
any wooden spheres or half spheres youve seen have most likely been made on a lathe. steambending works on one plane (from | to \) not two planes(3D) it could work, but would be exremely ETREMELY difficult.
how long do you have to bend the steamed wood
nativewater (author)  CharlieHarley5 years ago
not sure about this question, is the question how long do I have to keep the wood in the bent position until the bend will stay? Assuming that this is the question, here is the answer: When you bend heated wood, the bending is a combination of elastic and plastic bending. Elastic bending when released lets the wood spring back to its original shape. Plastic bending permanently deforms the wood. As a practical matter, bent wood has to be locked into its bent shape permanently to keep the bent shape. In general this is not a problem because the bent piece is generally part of a larger structure. If the wood you bend is a stand-alone piece, then you have to experiment to see how much spring back you get and how much of the bend stays. When you steam bend, you probably have to overbend the piece so that after spring back you still have enough permanent bend in the piece. In general, when I do extreme bends, like bending wood into a circle, I leave the wood clamped to the form overnight. Once wood cools, it is less likely to spring back. Also, once it dries, it is less likely to spring back. When bending ribs for a boat, I clamp them in place right away so that the boat locks them into the correct shape.
okieinAZ6 years ago
If you are worried about leaving the steaming pot on too long, just make a timer outlet. Get a junction box, an extension cord, an outlet and a timer:
Turn it on by setting the timer for the amount of time you think you need, then if you run out of time while working just add more time.
I see this in thrift stores where people can test old toasters, etc. and not be bothered to turn them off themselves.
I prefer the wind-up kind.