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Old August 19th 03, 06:48 AM
steamer
 
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Default Steam bending basics??

--Looking to see if someone's got a technique or guidelines to
follow; i.e. how long to steam a particular wood with a certain thickness.
Are there tables for this sort of thing?
--TIA,

--
"Steamboat Ed" Haas : Quando Omni
Hacking the Trailing Edge! : Flunkus Moritati
http://www.nmpproducts.com/intro.htm
---Decks a-wash in a sea of words---

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Old August 19th 03, 11:50 AM
Brian Nystrom
 
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Default Steam bending basics??



steamer wrote:

--Looking to see if someone's got a technique or guidelines to
follow; i.e. how long to steam a particular wood with a certain thickness.
Are there tables for this sort of thing?
--TIA,


The "rule of thumb" is to steam for one hour for each inch of thickness. This
seems to be the recommendation for any of the common bending woods (oak, ash,
walnut).

--
Regards

Brian


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Old August 19th 03, 01:18 PM
Ken Kennedy
 
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Default Steam bending basics??

steamer wrote:

--Looking to see if someone's got a technique or guidelines to
follow; i.e. how long to steam a particular wood with a certain thickness.
Are there tables for this sort of thing?


Steam Bending FAQs
http://www.wcha.org/tidbits/steamfaq.html
http://www.bluemud.org/article/18152

There are few more I found by googling "steam bending faq"
kk
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Old August 19th 03, 01:20 PM
Gregg Germain
 
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Default Steam bending basics??

steamer wrote:
: --Looking to see if someone's got a technique or guidelines to
: follow; i.e. how long to steam a particular wood with a certain thickness.
: Are there tables for this sort of thing?
: --TIA,

: --
: "Steamboat Ed" Haas : Quando Omni
: Hacking the Trailing Edge! : Flunkus Moritati
: http://www.nmpproducts.com/intro.htm
: ---Decks a-wash in a sea of words---



Steambending FAQ with photos:

http://home.attbi.com/~saville/Steambend.htm

Woodworking (replica navigational instruments) and
boatbuilding webpages:

http://home.attbi.com/~saville/backstaffhome.html
http://home.attbi.com/~saville/SBOATrestore.htm


This FAQ on bending wood is provided courtesy of Gregg Germain. Any
comments would be welcome. Comments should be directed to
.

I've been in the business of steambending wood for about 15 years now.
I've built a variety of steamboxes and tried a number of boiler
systems. What you see written here is a combination of reading and
actual experience. Mostly experience.

All of my steam bending has been with Oak, Mahogany or
Butternut. I've done a little boiling work with thin birch veneer.
I've never tried any other wood as I do this work in my
boatbuilding/restoration. So I cannot comment authoritatively on
bending other woods like cedar, pine, poplar etc.

And if I haven't actually DONE it, I will not comment on it. I will
not state anything here that I have ONLY read out of a book and not
tried.

With that in mind, let's fire up the boiler....

To start with there are several rules of thumb which work quite well.

What you are doing when you are steaming wood for bending, is
softening the hemicelluloses. The celluloses are polymers that
behave the same as thermoplastic resins. [My thanks to John McKenzie
for the last two sentences].

And you need BOTH heat and steam for this. I realize that some people in
Asia "fire" bend their wood but invariably, that wood is quite wet -
typically quite green. The Norse boatbuilders used to get their planks out for
shipbuilding and sink them into a salt water bog to keep them limber until the
time came to use them.

However, we are not always so lucky as to get green
wood for our bending and you can have great success with air dried wood.
It's useful if you have the ability to soak your wood for a few days
so that the moisture content rises - those Vikings knew what they were
doing.

You need heat and you need moisture.

The primary rule is the one for steam time:

One hour of steaming per inch thickness of wood.

I have found that you can OVERSTEAM as well as understeam. If you
steam an inch of wood for an hour, try to bend it, and it cracks,
DO NOT assume that you haven't steamed it enough. There are several
factors involved which could explain the result - but we'll get to
those later. Steaming another piece longer will not help.

It is smart, however, to have a piece of stock in the steam box that
is the same thickness as the piece you wish to bend, and that is
expendable. PREFERABLY a piece taken from the stock itself. Steam that
with the target piece, and after the requisite steaming time, take the
test piece out and try to bend that to the mold. If it snaps, then
give your piece MAYBE 10 minutes more. But no more.

The wood:

Generally it is best if you can get green wood. I know that this
makes the cabinetmakers among us shudder. But the plain fact is that
green wood bends easier than dried wood. I can take a 6 foot
long, one inch thick piece of white oak; clamp one end to the bench
and hand bend the piece to the curvature I need - green wood is THAT
limber. However it won't stay bent, of course, so I steam it anyways.
In boatbuilding, rot is the main evil.

For those of us that have to worry about rot, the act of steaming
green wood removes the tendency of green wood to rot. So no worries
there - boat ribs are typically made from green, steam bent oak and will
not rot in a well cared for boat. And so this also means you can make
your Windsor chair parts by steaming green wood.

But I've done a lot of steaming of air dried oak and it works fine
too.

One thing you want to try to avoid in your selection of wood for
bending is grain runout. This will promote cracking when you bend.


So the rule of thumb in wood moisture is as follows:

1) Green is best.

2) Air dried is a good second choice.

3) Kiln dried is a distant third choice.

If all you have is kiln dried and can't get any other well then I
guess you have no choice. I have made it work.
But if you can get air dried wood that would be much preferable. Just
last week I steambent 7/8" thick Butternut boards for the transom of
my sailboat. The stock had been air dried for several years and the
bending went along just fine.


Steamboxes:

It is not necessary - and is in fact detrimental to the bending
process - to have a steambox that is absolutely airtight. You WANT
steam to be emanating from the box. If you don't get a flow through of
steam you will not be able to bend the wood - it will crack as if you
steamed it for only 5 minutes.

I know - I've created a lot of kindling in this manner.

Steamboxes can come in many shapes and sizes. You want one big enough
so that you can suspend the wood off the surface, and get a good flow
of steam around most of the wood surface. A box made of 2 x 8 pine
boards will work. One suspension method is to drill a hole through the
sides and run a hardwood dowel through. The dowel holds your wood up
and minimizes the amount of wood touching a surface. You don't want
the box to be SO big, however, such that the amount of steam your rig
generates is too small to fill up the box. You want a wet, steamy box
BILLOWING steam. So the box has to be sized to the boiler (or the
boiler sized to the box ;^) ).

I have 2 boxes:

For small stuff like 1 1/2 x 5/8 by 6 foot long oak for ribs, I use a
2 inch diameter piece of PVC. I have it resting on a 2x4 so that it
won't deform under the heat. I've also nailed sides to the 2x4 so that the
tube doesn't flatten. For a boiler I've used a whistling tea kettle
with the whistle and top taken off. A length of radiator hose connects
the kettle to a suitable reduction on the end of the PVC. For a heat
source i use one of those counter top electic burners.

Works great.

When I had to steam bend 17 foot long, 7 inch wide, 3/4 inch thick
mahogany for the new cabin trunk of my boat, I used a steambox built
with 2 x 12 inch pine. For a boiler i had a 20 gallon steel boiler.
Heat source was a propane burner I bought at Ace Hardware Store. This
burner is GREAT because it's convenient and mobile. It generates
45,000 BTU of heat. It's an aluminum
bowl on 3 legs with one burner about 8" in diameter.

Lately, I noticed a 160,000 BTU propane burner in the West Marine
Catalog for $50. I bought it. Now I'll be able to generate enough
steam to bend ribs for the Constitution.

Now when I say "one hour of steaming per one inch of wood" I mean one
hour of SERIOUS steam with NO interruptions. Therefore you have to
pick a boiler whose capacity will be sufficient for the steam time you
are looking for. I have used a 5 gallon UNUSED gasoline can for this
purpose.

NEVER put the wood in the steambox unless you have full steam and the
box is completely filled. Be ABSOLUTELY certain that you don't run out
of water BEFORE the necessary steam time. If you do, and are forced to
add more water give it up...you'll generate kindling. the new cooler
water inhibits the steam generation.

One way of maximizing the water use is to have the box tilted at an
angle so that any condensation within the box runs BACK towards the
boiler. But this requires that the fitting to introduce the steam be
located more towards the back of the box.

Another way is to set up a siphon system so that the boiler is
constantly being refilled at the rate at which water is boiling off.
A crude ascii picture of this follows:


hhhhhhh s Whe b's are the boiler
h h s s's are the steam outgo
| h | h bbbsbbbb l's are a level indicator:
| h | l b b metal tube from side
|wwwwwhw| l bwwwwwwb of boiler with clear
| h | l b b plastic vertical tube
| | llllllllb b h's is water hose from
| | b b auxilliary tank
--------- bbbbbbbb w's are water levels

Aux tank boiler

As the water in the boiler evaporates, the siphon brings more water
from the auxiliary tank. The level gauge is a simple metal tube
extending from the side of the boiler with an elbow pointing up. Over
the elbow you slip a piece of clear plastic. This way you can
observe the level of the water in the boiler. The feeder hose from the
aux tank fits inside the clear plastic level hose so that you can get
inflow and still see the water level.

One important point:

If you find you have to add water to the auxilliary tank, be
sure to add water a LITTLE BIT AT A TIME. Otherwise the flow of cool
water into the boiler will inhibit the boiling and you will get an
interruption in steam generation: not good.

It's also best to begin with a full aux tank to start with so
that you minimize the need to add cool water to the aux tank. I like
to leave a little air space in the boiler when I begin.

Many steam boxes have a door at one end to allow you to slide in
pieces when you want to - and take them out when needed. For example,
in ribbing out a boat - something you'd like to do in a day if you
can, you crank up the boiler and (when steam is up) you put in your
first piece of wood. 15 minutes later you put in the second. Fifteen
minutes later the third and so on. Then, when the first piece is
ready, you yank that out and bend it. This is all supposing that the
process to bend and install the rib takes less than 15 minutes. When
the first rib is in, the second piece of wood is ready..and so on.
This allows you to do a great deal of work while avoiding
oversteaming.

The door serves another important function. And the door doesn't have
to be solid either - on my small steam box I LOOSELY stuff in a rag. I
say loosely because you want steam to be able to come out of the end
(remember you need steam flowthrough). You don't want back pressure
building up which precludes steam entering the box. Besides - there's
nothing so cool as a steambox with steam billowing out of it - the
passersby are fascinated.

The secondary purpose is to preclude cool air from entering the
steambox underneath the suspended wood.

Bending:

Assume you have the wood cooking (it makes a nice smell) and the jig
is ready. Take pains to place everything so that the operation of
removing a piece from the box and bending it is a FAST SMOOTH
operation. Time is CRITICAL.

You have only seconds.

When the wood is ready take it QUICKLY out of the box and bend it.
GET CURVATURE ON THE WOOD!!!!!!!!!!! As fast as humanly possible. If
inserting the wood on the jig is complicated, bend it with your
hands (if possible).

On ribs for my boat - where there is a curve in 2 directions - I
take it out of the box, slip one end into a brace and bend that end
then bend the other end with my hands. Try to bend it MORE than the
amount you need in the jig. But not too much more. Then
slap the wood on the jig.

But I repeat you MUST get curvature on the wood immediately - like
within the first 5 seconds. Every second the wood cools it becomes
less flexible.

Length of wood and curvature at the ends:

There is practically NO WAY you can cut a piece to exact length and
expect to get curvature near the ends. You simply don't have the
strength and you will be thwarted by springback.

By the same token, if all you need is a 3 foot length, and
the wood is greater than, say, 1/4 inch thick, you had better cut the
piece 6 feet long and bend THAT. You can trim the wood to fit later. I
am assuming the lack of some sort of hydraulic press in your shop - i
know I don't have one. Cut the stick overlong remembering that the
shorter the stick the harder it is to bend.

And if you cut it overlong, you'll have more curvature near the final
finished end - the last 6 inches of a 1 inch thick piece of oak will
be dead straight. Depending upon the curvature you need, you may have
to resort to carving the curvature out of the end of the wood and
should size it with that in mind.

Jigs:

When you steam bend apiece of wood, and clamp it to a shape, you wait
24 hours for it to cool thoroughly. When you take it off the jig, that
wood will spring back somewhat. How much depends upon the grain and
the type of wood - it's hard to say. If your stock has a natural curvature
in the required direction to start with (I try to take advantage of this
whenever possible), you will get less springback.

So if you have to get a certain curvature to the final product, make
your jig with greater curvature.

How much?

Tis is the realm of black magick and I can't personally give you a
figure. One thing I DO know is this:

It's infinitely easier to unbend some wood that was overbent,
than it is to put MORE bend in a cool piece of wood (assuming you
don't have incredible leverage).

Once caveat: if you are bending pieces that will be glued together to
form a laminate, be sure that the jig is the exact shape you need at
glue time - I rarely get much springback from well bent, glued wood.

There are an infinite variety of jigs you can build. No matter what
type you choose, you can't go wrong if you own a clamp making factory
- you can never have too many clamps. If you are bending wood greater
than 1/2 inch thick you must see to it that the jig is built extremely
strongly: the amount of stress on it is quite high.

Quite often people will use a metal strap along the outside of the
wood as they bend. This helps to distribute the stesses along the
length of the wood and helps to prevent cracking. This is especially
true if you get grain runout at the outside edges.

Well that's all I can think of now. If I think of more I'll add it to
the FAQ.

Gregg

My woodworking projects:


Replicas of 15th-19th century nautical navigational instruments:

http://people.ne.mediaone.net/savill...staffhome.html

Restoration of my 81 year old Herresoff S-Boat sailboat:

http://people.ne.mediaone.net/saville/SBOATrestore.htm

Steambending FAQ with photos:

http://people.ne.mediaone.net/saville/Steambend.htm




--- Gregg
"Improvise, adapt, overcome."

Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics
Phone: (617) 496-1558

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Old August 19th 03, 03:12 PM
Backyard Renegade
 
Posts: n/a
Default Steam bending basics??

steamer wrote in message ...
--Looking to see if someone's got a technique or guidelines to
follow; i.e. how long to steam a particular wood with a certain thickness.
Are there tables for this sort of thing?
--TIA,


Try this link:
http://www.wcha.org/tidbits/steamfaq.html
Scotty


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Old August 19th 03, 03:27 PM
William R. Watt
 
Posts: n/a
Default Steam bending basics??

I should mention that the common way of softening split cedar for ribs in
a birch bark canoe is to light a fire under a 55 gal steel drum full of
water and boil the wood in that.

William R. Watt ) writes:
according to someone who posted here you can bend wood after its been
through a cycle in an automatic dishwasher.

I've softened wood for bending for a model by cooking it in a shallow tray of
water in a microwave oven.

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Old August 19th 03, 05:55 PM
steamer
 
Posts: n/a
Default Steam bending basics??

--Thanks a bunch; very useful info! I guess I should take some
photos of what I'm doing, which is replacing the cockpit coaming on my
steam launch. The curve of the coaming in the bow is parabolic, with
tightest radius maybe 4". I spent yesterday resawing and then drum sanding
some Honduran mahogany into .09" thick slabs, which I plan to bend around
a form and laminate together. Looks like it won't take too long to steam
them if they're that thin, Since I plan to use West system to bond the
laminates (unless someone's got a better idea) it looks like I'll
steambend, form, clamp and let the parts dry in that position before I
attempt the lamination.

--
"Steamboat Ed" Haas : Quando Omni
Hacking the Trailing Edge! : Flunkus Moritati
http://www.nmpproducts.com/intro.htm
---Decks a-wash in a sea of words---
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Old August 20th 03, 03:21 PM
P.C.
 
Posts: n/a
Default Steam bending basics??

Hi

"Gregg Germain" skrev i en meddelelse
...
steamer wrote:
: --Looking to see if someone's got a technique or guidelines to
: follow; i.e. how long to steam a particular wood with a certain thickness.
: Are there tables for this sort of thing?
: --TIA,


Big Snip.

Now there are two important issues ; with mahogony the one hour pr Inch. is 45
min.
------- Trust my words this is common boatbuilder knowleage.
Beside, ---- what make the wood bend, is the layer of proteins between the cells
and cell walls being liquid first time the wood is heated just under 100 deg. C.
This way the fibers can move when bended , but wood can only be steamed and
bended once. You can also only boil an egg once and somthing like the same
happen with the proteins in the wood as what happen with an egg being boiled ,
as when first the proteins have "hardened becaurse of the heat , it will not
again go liquid and allow the fibers to move.
Please know that I talk fom hands on experience as I once had a producion of
mast rings in both Ash and Elm. Youy can easily over steam but this is often
about to high a temperture when you have a decent boiler working with say 1.2
Atm. preasure , making sure the steam isn't down some 60 Deg.C. when it reach
the steam box.
Acturly the difficult part is to make sure that the steam is not so hot that you
dry out , boil out the water from the green wood.
Proberly easyer to steam wet wood, but that is becaurse this is not so easily
oversteamed , but done right your wood will be dried in the steaming process.
Just my million kroner.
P.C.
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Cyber-Boat/


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Old August 26th 03, 08:10 PM
William R. Watt
 
Posts: n/a
Default Steam bending basics??

I've done something similar with a polytarp envelope but do not know how
hot it can get. What I got was warm moist air which was okay for the
gunwales I wanted to bend a bit more than they were willing to go dry. I
laid the polytarp on some plywood between two saw horses, put blocks a bit
higher than the camber of the bend I wanted at each end, laid the gunwale
stock on the blocks, folded the polytarp over, and "steamed" until I could
push the gunwales down to touch the plywood, put some weights on the
gunwales to hold them in that bent position, turned off the steam, and
left things like that overnight. In the morning I unwrapped everything and
had my bent gunwales.

"fraggy" ) writes:
hi
my boatyard puts the wood in a long bag made from sail cover material and
inserts the steam cleaner lance and just leaves it on full blast for about 1
hour per inch

fragged
"steamer" wrote in message
...
--Looking to see if someone's got a technique or guidelines to
follow; i.e. how long to steam a particular wood with a certain thickness.
Are there tables for this sort of thing?
--TIA,

--
"Steamboat Ed" Haas : Quando Omni
Hacking the Trailing Edge! : Flunkus Moritati
http://www.nmpproducts.com/intro.htm
---Decks a-wash in a sea of words---





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Old August 26th 03, 08:33 PM
Ed Edelenbos
 
Posts: n/a
Default Steam bending basics??

I think the 1 hr/inch thick is pretty standard. A way I've seen it done
is to use a large pressure cooker with a copper tube through the lid
(the fitting that weight usually sits on comes out and a compression
fitting can be installed) then to a pvc pipe of the proper diameter with
a hole drilled in the cap. The pvc pipe is slanted downwards with the
bottom open. When it is steamed and still hot, it is attached and it
cools and dries in place retaining the bend. For larger pieces, most
people (I know) don't steam it. They attach it tight in the center (or
at one end depending on the curve) and then progressively (over several
days) tighten screws outward from that point.... the closer ones get a
turn or two a day and the farther ones get 4-5 turns a day. Sometimes
you have to start with oversized (extra length) screws and remove them
when they have served their purpose. Sometimes the process takes up to
2 weeks although typically it can be done in less time. For several
years in a row, I helped an older gent replace several (a couple each
year) mahogany "2 by" planks on his Owens 40+ footer this way.

Ed


William R. Watt wrote:
I've done something similar with a polytarp envelope but do not know how
hot it can get. What I got was warm moist air which was okay for the
gunwales I wanted to bend a bit more than they were willing to go dry. I
laid the polytarp on some plywood between two saw horses, put blocks a bit
higher than the camber of the bend I wanted at each end, laid the gunwale
stock on the blocks, folded the polytarp over, and "steamed" until I could
push the gunwales down to touch the plywood, put some weights on the
gunwales to hold them in that bent position, turned off the steam, and
left things like that overnight. In the morning I unwrapped everything and
had my bent gunwales.

"fraggy" ) writes:

hi
my boatyard puts the wood in a long bag made from sail cover material and
inserts the steam cleaner lance and just leaves it on full blast for about 1
hour per inch

fragged
"steamer" wrote in message
. ..

--Looking to see if someone's got a technique or guidelines to
follow; i.e. how long to steam a particular wood with a certain thickness.
Are there tables for this sort of thing?
--TIA,

--
"Steamboat Ed" Haas : Quando Omni
Hacking the Trailing Edge! : Flunkus Moritati
http://www.nmpproducts.com/intro.htm
---Decks a-wash in a sea of words---





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