Woodworkers often avoid doing projects with curved wooden shapes because they don't believe they have the tools or skills necessary to bend wood. But even for novice woodworkers, this type of project shouldn't be intimidating. With a few clamps and a good saw, you will be making arches with ease. There are several techniques for bending wood laminate, but one of the simplest is placing the prepared wood into a form.
- Skill level:
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Things you need
- Wood laminate
- Plywood or particle board
- Bandsaw or router
- Wood glue
Draw a full scale model of the curved form you want to make on a piece of plywood or particle board. Use a bandsaw or router to cut the curve out. Make the form 1 inch thicker than the prepared stock, and no more than 3 inches wide. If you want to make a positive/negative form, double the same cut for the single form, one to clamp the stock from the inside of the curve and one for the outside. You may need to make a plywood form thicker by nailing two or more precise forms together. Run a sander over the curves to make sure they are all even.
Cut your wood stock at least 1 or 2 feet longer than you need, as longer strips are easier to bend. Choose wood stock based on its ability to bend, colour and ease of shaping. Depending on they type of curve you want to make, you may choose a more flexible wood such as ash, hickory, elm or red oak. Using darker woods limits the visibility of glue lines.
Soak the stock in boiling water for 4 to 6 hours. For single-curve forms, use a spare strip of wood that has been waxed on both sides to place between the stock and the form. This will keep the form from scratching or marring the surface of your final curve. Quickly press the hot stock into the curve of the form and clamp them together. Do this as quickly as possible because the stock will begin to set as it cools. Place the clamps at close intervals with the spare clamp length extending past the outside of the curve. This will keep the clamps from touching and gripping the form unevenly. Depending on the type of curve you've created, different types of clamps may be necessary to hold the forms in proper shape. You may also choose to spread paste wax on the inner curves of the form for easier removal of the stock. Let the stock sit in the form overnight. If you are using multiple strips, place them all in the form at once in the order that they will align in the final curve.
Remove the stock from the form and lay it in the order of placement on a work table. Begin with the bottom strip in the stack. Use a paintbrush to paint glue evenly along the top and bottom of the strip to be placed above it. Sealing both surfaces in glue will assure a solid bond. Do this for the remaining strips as quickly as possible and replace the stock into the form. Do not forget to put the waxed guard strip between the stock and the form to protect the piece from damage.
Allow the glue to dry thoroughly and then remove the new bend from the form. Use a sander to remove excess glue that may have squeezed out between layers.
Tips and warnings
- Construct a steam box to heat your stock.
- Always wear safety gear to protect eyes, ears, nose and mouth when working in the wood shop.
- Follow instructions for use with individual power tools.
- Wash your hands after contact with glues to prevent skin irritation.
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