How to bend oak wood

Written by randal thomas
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How to bend oak wood
You can bend a plank of wood for a variety of projects. (Michael Blann/Digital Vision/Getty Images)

Oak is a hardwood used in a variety of applications, from floors to furniture. Because it's so hard, working with it requires the proper techniques. Bending oak wood correctly allows you to frame arches, gates or other shapes with a single strip of oak. Bending oak incorrectly can shatter the wood, potentially injuring yourself or others.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

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Things you need

  • 10-foot trough
  • 2-inch by 8-foot piece of oak wood
  • 0.907kg., rubber-cased dumbbell
  • 8-foot by 8-foot work table
  • Pencil
  • 1/2-inch drill bit
  • 3 iron rods, 4-inch by 1/2-inch
  • Red electrical tape
  • Black electrical tape
  • Green electrical tape
  • T-square
  • Assistant

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Instructions

    Soak the Wood

  1. 1

    Fill a 10-foot trough with water.

  2. 2

    Place the wood in the water.

  3. 3

    Submerge the oak board by laying a 2-pound dumbbell on the wood. The dumbbell weighs enough to submerge the board but not enough to crack it. The rubber casing will ensure that you don't scratch the wood.

  4. 4

    Allow the 2-inch by 8-foot piece of oak to soak for 24 hours.

    Prepare the Work Table

  1. 1

    Draw a line lengthwise across your work table using a T-square as a straight edge. Position the line from the top edge of the work table.

  2. 2

    Draw additional lines lengthwise across your work table, spacing them 2 inches apart. Make sure to keep the lines parallel by pressing the "T-edge" (top) of the T-square against the table's edge.

  3. 3

    Draw a line that runs widthways across the work table, using the T-square as a straight edge. Position the line 1 inch from the left edge of the work table.

  4. 4

    Draw additional lines across your work table, spacing them 2 inches apart until you've crossed all the vertical lines and reached the table top's right edge. Keep the lines parallel by pressing the T-edge of the T-square against the table's edge.

  5. 5

    Drill 1-inch-deep holes at every point where the lines intersect, using a drill fitted with a 1/2-inch drill bit.

    Prepare the Bending Plugs

  1. 1

    Wrap each of the 4-inch by 1/2-inch iron rods with a strip of different-coloured electrical tape: one with black, another with red and the last with green. The black plug represents the "base" plug. The red plug represents the "pivot" plug, and the green plug represents the "pressure" plug.

  2. 2

    Insert the black base plug into any hole at one end of the work table.

  3. 3

    Insert the pivot plug in the centermost hole of the column adjacent to the hole where you inserted the base plug. Make sure 48 inches separate the pivot plug from the base plug.

    Bend the Wood

  1. 1

    Lay the soaked wood between the base plug and the pivot plug, making sure to position the pivot plug at the centre of the oak wood.

  2. 2

    Ask your assistant to help you slowly push the oak wood against the pivot plug by gripping the end of the wood opposite the base plug until you've bent the wood a distance of at least one column.

  3. 3

    Insert the pressure plug that will hold the wood in place, making sure the pressure plug rests against the same side of the wood as the base plug. Together, the base and pressure plugs exert pressure against the wood and curve it around the pivot plug.

  4. 4

    Allow the wood to dry completely in this position for three to five days. Allowing the wood to dry will help the board retain the slight bend created by the three metal plugs.

    Advanced Shaping

  1. 1

    Resoak the wood for 24 hours.

  2. 2

    Lay the bent wood on the work table between the base plug and the pivot plug.

  3. 3

    Remove the pressure plug.

  4. 4

    Ask your assistant to help you bend the wood an additional 2 inches.

  5. 5

    Insert the pressure plug in a hole, making sure that the pressure plug rests against the same side of the wood as the base plug. Keep the wood plank in place for at least three to five days, until it dries.

Tips and warnings

  • You can make further bends by resoaking, bending and repositioning the pressure plug. By adjusting the position of the pivot plug, you can bend the wood into just about any angle.
  • Bending oak requires patience. Don't try to bend more than 2 inches at a time, or the strain may snap the wood.

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