Tips for Bending Wood

September 16th, 2015

Wood bending is often seen as an intimidating process which requires a professional carpenter, but it is actually quite simple and can be accomplished in a variety of ways. Knowing how to bend wood is a useful skill for any craftsman, as you never know when a project will call for a curved bar or rounded corner.
Bending wood for projects like custom stairways and rounded rooms is possible using a variety of methods. Each method has its benefits, but in the end, the best method is the one that allows you to accomplish your task and leaves you with a professional effect that was created with your own two hands.

Kerf Cutting

Kerf cutting is by far the easiest method to attempt wood bending as a do-it-yourselfer, and it reigns as the most commonly used technique in home construction. Cutting strategically placed slots in the side of the wood you are using will allow you to bend the wood and glue the gaps together. These small gaps provide subtle weaknesses in the board and provide more give, allowing you to bend it into the desired shape.

Bent BoardSteam Bending

Steam bending is the most effective method for bending wood, although the technique requires more elaborate planning and setup. Utilizing a steam box, which can be built fairly easily, a craftsman can force hot, humid air through the wood, helping to soften it enough to create a bend. By shaping the supple board and bracing it in the shape of the desired curve, you will end up with a perfectly bent piece for your project.

Laminated Wood Bending

Laminated wood bending involves the use of wood epoxy, so be sure you aren’t using regular wood glue when you attempt this wood bending method. Cuts are made to give the wood more flexibility, and it is then coated with the epoxy, clamped into position, and given time to dry. Sometimes, several coats of epoxy are required to create and maintain the desired curvature. This technique requires more time and effort, but the results can be considered a labor of artisanship, and will create a great, high-quality decorative bent piece.
Remember that wood is the most durable when it’s dry and cool and it becomes weak in hot and moist conditions. Exposing your wood to heat, or keeping it moist with a sprayer bottle will increase your ability to reshape and perfect your curved woodwork throughout the process. Be careful to not exert too much force, which could break the boards, but with patience – and practice – you’ll end up with the perfect bend for your project.

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