Woodbending in the bedroom

Every now and then it would be nice to be able to bend wood. Someone building small boats in the living room usually doesn't need bent frames nor stems. But even small boats may have gunwales that bend so much, that it is doubtful if a 1" x 1" or so batten will accept the curve without showing some sort of damage.

The two common approaches to woodbending are:

Steam bending makes it possible to make a "knot out of wood" so it's the ultimate answer. But I don't want to do it in my living room. However careful I would be, there would always be the possibility of dripping water and leaking steam. Also, the equipment for steam bending is not really for my living room.

Lamination would be fine, but it's too involved. The lumber yard doesn't provide thin strips, so they would first have to be sawn with a circular saw. Then glued in a jig, which is likely to be a messy process. Then planed clean and level.

But there is a simple third solution! The excellent Forest Products Laboratory "Wood Handbook" states in Chapter 19 (in many more words):

So wood can be bent without steam, at a higher temperature (the "Wood Handbook" warns about the danger of "fiber decomposition", that is, burning the wood).

Actually, this is nothing new in boatbuilding. Venetian Gondola builders have used open fire for woodbending, the same with traditional Japanese boatbuilders. And all over Scandinavia one log aspen dugouts have been spread wide by use of fire on the outside, water on the inside.

The method can be so clean and simple, that You can do it in Your bedroom.

Find a heavy piece of furniture, a bed in this case, or something alike. Wedge the batten You want to bend firmly between it and the floor.

Heat the batten on the inside of the curvature with a heat blower gun. My gun is rated at 1500 W. A typical cheap one sold for paint removal etc.

You can only heat a short length at a time, maybe 8" - 10", maybe more. Experiment a bit. Move the heat blower steadily back and forth. Watch for the wood turning darker brown - don't let it burn.

At the same time bend the batten by pushing it up with the other hand.

But be careful! The air from the blower is really hot! Don't burn Your skin, don't burn Your furniture, don't burn Your house. Have some fire distinguishing equipment at hand.

2 minutes of heating, and I feel the wood giving in. Keep heating and bend to the desired curvature.

Move along the batten to the next 8".

Addition of moisture may help. Keep the battens wrapped in wet towels overnight, then heat and bend. In my experience it is easier to keep the bend uniform using dry wood. With moist wood it is too easy to make unwanted local tight curves. But again, do experiment a bit.

As You can see, the bend is not uniform.

Once the curve is complete prop the batten in place to cool.

Two complete bends. Both were heated over a single 8" area. The one with more bend was wet wood, the other one dry.

Extended over a longer area these bends are more than enough for dinghy gunwales and such.

Quick, clean and with readily available cheap tools. What more can You ask for?

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