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bending wood? Answered

 I am planning a project to build a wooden shield, and I need to know what the cheapest way to take a single sheet of balsa wood and bend it slightly and keep it like that. it will also have a design on it and I want it to look good. If you guys can help me in making it, the person with the best answer will be credited in the insructable. here is a reference picture.

P.S. this is MY idea so if anyone posts an instructable on it, prepare for the gates of Hell to open.


First of all, I hate balsa wood.  For crafts I always go with basswood, because it is readily available in many sizes/thicknesses and it is much stronger than balsa.

A trick I learned in one of my architecture classes for making models could apply to this.  If I wanted a peice of wood to bend, it was a five step process:

1.  I would soak it in water overnight. 
2.  Then bend it to shape while it was still wet.
3.  Find a way to fix it in that shape (Attach it to something curved with rubber bands or something similar)
4.  Put it back in the water for several hours.
5.  Take it out and let it dry (While still attached to the other curved abject)

If you are making a life sized shield, hopefully you have a spare bathtub or something to use.  Also it may need longer soaking times depending on size.

I recently read about using a dishwasher to steam wood. Maybe you could try that too.

How professionals do it is they put it in a hot steam chamber over night then bend it to shape and let it dry.

1 Cut out your shield, and bend it over a shape with the curve you want.
2 Cover one side of the shield with 5min epoxy ($2.99)
3 Place another, thinner piece of wood, on the epoxy and clamp it down.
4 Let the epoxy dry, then remove the whole shield off the frame and trim the   excess. It will stay in the curved shape, I've done it several times before with GREAT success. I once made a miniature surf board and tech deck using this method.

if it is a simple and not a compund curve , create your shield frame and attach 1/4 " ply wood to it as game boy suggests only differance being that th' frame remain as a permanant part of th' shield

Balsa wood is so light and soft that you should just laminate a block as thick as you need to achieve the radius you wand and just carve it out. If you are handy with and have a good  (Porter Cable) belt sander & some 80 grit paper you could be done in an hour.

Otherwise you need to build a form of the radius you need that you can clamp the wood to and laminate it that way. Start out with according to radius and size you may be able to use 1/4" thick strips but may have to go thinner.

Cut all the strips you need for the first layer then cut same amount same width for second layer, rip one in half for starter then glue all surfaces that touch and glue them together, By starting with the ripped one you will gwt a halflap effect giving you more strength.

Cover form with wax paper so glue doesn't bond to mold.

You can also soak strips in a pvc tube with water and faberic softner to bend but I doubt it necessary.


8 years ago

Balsa wood is easy to carve and shape, simply carve and sand the curvature into the piece. If thickness of the wood is an issue, laminate two pieces together to achieve the desired thickness before shaping.

You could possibly first make a form out of wood with nails in it to make the curve you want and then place the balsa into warm/hot water then place it into the form. !OR! Man up and use sheet metal. I have made only a few shields out of sheet metal and it is quite easy and cheep. Also easy to bent with a ball peen hammer.

Hope this helps

The simplest way is to fix it to a curved piece of wood behind it.

Use wood-glue, and clamp it in place until it is thoroughly set.

Look at this googled image - the horizontal piece can be curved, and the sheet of wood glued to it.

However, are you sure that balsa is the right wood to use?  It tends to be fragile, and wouldn't survive more than one or two strikes from even a LARP sword.

Steam the wood first and it'll bend much easier without breaking.

He asked for cheapest.

I think he should be using thin plywood instead of balsa anyway.