How to Build a Curved Wood Beam

Written by philippa jones | 13/05/2017
How to Build a Curved Wood Beam
Wooden beams such as these can be curved to add to the design of any room. (courtyard image by rrruss from

To add a stylish and quirky element to a roof or room space, you may consider bending wooden beams and affixing them to the ceiling. Curved wooden beams can transform an area by giving it a new dimension and look. However, it is not easy to bend wood. Unlike metal or glass, which can simply be heated up, bending wood requires many different steps and components. Consequently, consider seeking help from a builder or outsourcing curved wooden beams instead.

Set up the mould in preparation for bending the wooden beam. Construct it from medium density fiberboard (MDF). First, glue together enough MDF boards that gives the same height as the wooden beam. Let it dry, and then square up the ends using a saw.

Draw the desired shape curve for the wooden beam onto one side of the block of MDF. Then, clamp the block between clamps on a workbench and use a band saw to cut along the curved line you drew.

Use a fine grade sandpaper, and thoroughly sand along the curved edge of MDF. This will leave you with a smooth surface. Then, glue sheets of cork to the surface. Make sure that the cork is aligned precisely with the curve so that the bend of the wooden beam will be accurate.

Build a wooden box from scraps in your workshop, or sourced from a builder's yard. Make the box big enough to hold the wooden beam and remain airtight. However, leave one end of the box open -- this will be stuffed with cloth later on.

Put the wooden beam inside the box, and then put one end of the hose inside, entering from the open end of the box. Pack cloth and old rags around it. It does not have to be airtight, as it needs to allow some of the steam's pressure to be released.

Place a filled kettle on a hotplate, and connect the other end of the hose to its spout. Switch the hotplate on.

Wait for the kettle to boil and generate steam. The steam then transfers to the box to heat up the wood. Keep the water topped up in the kettle so that steam is being fed through to the wooden beam continuously. You need to supply the wooden box with steam for at least an hour per inch of wood. Make sure you allow enough time to do this during the day.

Put on some thick gloves, and when the allotted time has passed remove the beam from the wooden box.

Place the beam immediately inside the curved MDF mould. Get a friend to help, or use your strength to bend the wood into the mould. Clamp it into place using at least five clamps distributed evenly along the beam's edge.

Wait for 24 hours, or until the wood has completely dried out, and then remove it from the clamps.

Things you need

  • Medium density fiberboard
  • Clamps
  • Cork sheeting
  • Band saw
  • Glue
  • Pencil
  • Fine grade sandpaper
  • Scraps of wood for wooden box
  • Nails
  • Hammer
  • Cloths or rags
  • Hotplate
  • Kettle
  • Water
  • 4-foot length of hose
  • Gloves

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