Bending wood with water might sound like something that only the professionals get around to doing, but with some time, some good tips, and practice, you should be able to take on this complex task and improve your woodworking skills.
How do you bend wood with water? Bending wood with water essentially means making the wood more pliable with water, and then bending it in the direction of the grain to get the shape or curve you want. There are two ways to bend wood with water: to soak it in water or to use a steam box.
Read on to find out more about bending wood with water the best ways to do it!
Bending Wood By Soaking It In Water
Bending wood by soaking it in water is one of the most common ways to do so. Here is a short guide on how to do this:
- Find suitable wood to bend. Look for wood that is not too thick, hard, or thin, as these will either be too difficult to bend or break easily. The best option would be wood that is around 20mm thick. A straight-grained wood is also the better option.
- Check the moisture level of the wood, as wood that has a moisture level of between 20-30% is best suited for bending. The moisture level of the wood should not pass 70% when being soaked.
- Find a container that is water-resistant to soak the wood in. It needs to be able to hold both the water and the entire length of the wood you are bending.
- Fill the container with water and place the wood inside. The wood will need to soak for between 24-48 hours, and you will need to check the moisture with a wood moisture monitor throughout. Soaking the wood in hot water helps the process go faster.
- Create the mold that you will use to bend the wood, making sure it has a smooth edge.
- Remove the wood from the water and clamp it to the mold. You will need to clamp the wood along the wall of the mold, using either store-bought clamps or bolted clamps.
- The wood now needs to be left to dry. Keep checking the water moisture level of the wood, and it will be ready to be removed once it reaches its original moisture level.
- Once dry, remove the clamps and use your newly bent wood!
Bending Wood By Steaming
Another popular way to bend wood is to use a steam box. Here is how to use this method instead:
- Choose a suitable piece of wood to work with, following the same criteria as listed above.
- Make sure to check the moisture level of the wood, as you will need to keep a check on this as the wood dries.
- You will need to create your own steam box, and there are some great tutorials online that walk you through the process. We’ve linked one below for you. There needs to be a place for the steam to be pumped in, and a small pressure release hole too.
- Start steaming your wood, monitoring the moisture level of the wood as it is steam. This could take up to 48 hours, you will just need to keep checking.
- Create a mold that has a smooth edge, so that the wood is not put under stress.
- Remove the wood from the steam box once it reaches the right moisture level. Clamp the wood to the mold using your preferred type of clamp.
- Leave the wood to dry, removing the clamps when it has reached its original moisture level.
- Get working with your newly bent wood!
Does Wet Wood Bend Easier?
Wood bends easily if it is either hot or wet. Wood needs to be heated up to around 212°F to be bent easily, or have a higher moisture content than usual to be more pliable.
What Is The Easiest Wood To Bend?
Some types of wood bend easier than others. The easiest woods to bend include white oak, red oak, and beech wood. These have more open grains, which means that heat or steam can penetrate the wood more easily, making it easier to bend.
Can You Bend Wood With A Heat Gun?
Yes, you can bend wood with a heat gun, by placing the heat gun on medium-high and holding it around 4 inches away from the wood. You will need to test the wood as it heats to see when it is ready to bend.
Up Next: How To Prevent Racking On A Table