Steam box #1 and Steam Bending Fail #1 and #2

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My first steam box is the simplest. The steam box was very simple and fun to make. It is basically a 4 inch ABS tube, sealed at one end with some wooden dowels inserted to allow the steam to surround whatever length of wood I put inside. There is a brass fitting that is inserted at the far end which attaches to a steam generator. I am using the Earlex SS77USSG Steam Generator

I plug in the steam generator, wait about 20 minutes for the steam to start moving through the 4 inch tube, then put my wood in. The end cap goes on and I secure it with a screw at my end. There is a single pressure release hole at the far end, which shoots out steam and also moves the condensed steam inside the tube out into a bucket.

I steam for a bit and then bend the wood into a form. That part should work pretty well, given the right wood and the right form. This brings me to fail #1 and #2.

My first attempt was to bend a couple of 3″x8′ strips of 1/2″ marine plywood. The steam went well. I steamed for 40 minutes, which should have been plenty. Strips came out nice and soft. I immediately pushed them into the form and then worked on putting the female form of the wold on top and then work all of the clamps. In the end I had 2 strips that buckled a bit at the harshest bend and were very brittle. There was a good deal of flex-back, so the shape was not what I was looking for.

I tried to epoxy the 2 strips together and push them back into the form… SNAP! Fail. They were too brittle. I think maybe I spent too much time getting the clamps and such on. The pieces went cold before they could get their shape.

Fail#2 was a day later. I decided I would use 3mil plywood instead of 1/2″. Same size strips go in the steamer. They come out very flexible and I try and press into form and epoxy at the same time. Ha! Worst mess ever. The wood is cooling down as I apply the epoxy. They are way too cool to be formed by the time I am done with my epoxy. I give it the college try and… SNAP SNAP SNAP!

Steam benders are holding their sides at this story. Of course you can’t epoxy and form at the same time. More research tonight, then more tries.

Stay tuned.

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