How to Make a Wood Steamer

Written by melissa j. bell
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One of the more advanced techniques in woodworking is wood bending, used for decorative parts of furniture, houses and even sculptures. In order to bend wood, it must be first steamed, so that the wood temporarily regains the flexibility it had when it was part of a living tree. There are two types of wood steamers: a PVC pipe steamer and a wooden box steamer. The simplest type to make at home is the PVC pipe steamer, which can be used for almost any type of wood bending project.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

Things you need

  • Schedule 40 PVC piping
  • Hand saw
  • Sharp utility knife
  • PVC slip caps
  • Drill
  • 1/2 inch wooden dowels
  • Meat thermometer
  • Wallpaper steamer or kettle
  • Waterproof glue
  • Scrap lumber
  • Nails
  • Hammer
  • Screws

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  1. 1

    Cut, using the hand saw, a length of PVC piping that is slightly longer than the piece of wood you would like to bend. The pipe should also have a diameter large enough to accommodate your wood plus extra space to allow the steam to flow around it. Remove the roughness from the edges of the pipe using a utility knife to scrape the ragged PVC away.

  2. 2

    Drill 1/2 inch wide holes into the PVC all along the centre of the pipe, on both sides, so that you can run the wooden dowels through the holes, creating a shelf for the wood. Glue the dowels in place, sealing the holes tightly. If you cannot find a glue that does not come apart with the hot steam, use clamps to hold the dowels in place.

  3. 3

    Build a platform for the PVC pipe out of pieces of scrap 2 by 4 inch lumber. Stand one short piece on its 4 inch wide end, and nail a piece as long as the PVC pipe to the top of it. Screw the bottom of the PVC pipe to the top piece of wood.

  4. 4

    Drill a small hole in the top of the PVC pipe and stick a meat thermometer through it to gauge the temperature inside the pipe when you are steaming your wood.

  5. 5

    Place an electric tea kettle and an empty dish beneath the open end of the PVC pipe to provide steam and catch the runoff condensation. If you are using a wallpaper steamer, drill a hole in another slip cap, place it on the open end of the pipe, and stick the steamer hose through the hole. You can also use this method with the tea kettle, if you attach a hose to the spout.

Tips and warnings

  • Do not glue slip caps in place, or otherwise affix them. If the steam pressure becomes too high, you will want the caps to pop off on their own, rather than putting all the pressure on the pipe itself.

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