Steam Bending Wood… And The Fire In The Kitchen
One of my biggest challenges when building my trunks is the lid because it is dome shaped. If you look at the top of the trunk you will notice there are wooden slats that arc over the top. Obviously I couldn’t just bend them with mechanical force or they would crack. I did a lot of research online and found that I needed to build a stream box and buy a steam generator in order to steam bend wood.. I lacked the time and money to build a good steam box so I had to improvise a bit.
What I did was get a cheap but heavy roasting pan that would fit over two burners on my electric stove. I would then fill the pan with water and turn the burners on high, set my wood on top of the roasting pan then cover it with aluminum foil.
The wooden slats I needed to steam bend are about 2 inches wide and 1/4 inch thick. I found that about 45 minutes of steam would get them pliable enough to bend. Tip: when steaming them flip the wood over about half way through your steam time.
The downside to this is burning your house down, one day I was bending slats on the stove and I was preoccupied doing some other work out in the shop. I was walking back and forth from the shop to the kitchen to “keep an eye on everything.” Well, I was out in the shop and I hear this beeping coming from the house and I thought what in the ____ is that. Then my mind raced to fire, to smoke alarm to my other half is going to kill me, I entered the house and was greeted with the unique smell of a wood fire and melting plastic. The smoke was not too thick but definitely present. I made it to the kitchen and found that a portion of the wooden slat was or I should say had been hanging over the edge of the roasting pan and had caught on fire from being exposed over the burner.I pulled the burning slat off of the roasting pan and tossed it elegantly into the kitchen sink. No serious damage occurred but the house smelled for about three days and my wife was not very happy to say the least.
So lesson learned, stay in the kitchen when steam bending wood, right? No. Don’t be cheap and just go buy a steam box, my wife made sure that I understood that lesson very well!