How to Steam Bend Oak

Written by jonah morrissey
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How to Steam Bend Oak
Learn how to bend oak to make curved furniture parts. (Jupiterimages /Polka Dot/Getty Images)

Oak is one of the best woods to bend using steam because it becomes plasticised when heated and exposed to steam. Both red and white oak are ideal species to bend. You can steam oak using a steam box. Select oak that is green or that has been air dried. Kiln-dried wood will not bend even if it is steamed because it has been heat set. Wood in general needs to be steamed for one hour per 1 inch of thickness. Bending oak is a versatile skill to learn because it can be applied to make parts for furniture and other decorative parts.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Steam box, with heat/water source
  • Oak board, slightly longer than needed for final product
  • Bending mould

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  1. 1

    Insert the oak board onto the rack in the steam box. The rack will allow steam to penetrate all sides of the wood while it is inside the steam box.

  2. 2

    Connect the heated water source to the steam box. Turn the heat on and allow the water to heat until it produces steam.

  3. 3

    Allow the wood to steam for approximately one hour per inch of thickness for your oak board. Turn off the heat source and remove the board.

  4. 4

    Move the board into the mould. Start at one end of the bend and work the board carefully around the bend until you have inserted it completely into the mould. Allow the wood to completely dry before removing it from the mould.

Tips and warnings

  • Use a slightly longer board than you need for your final part. It will allow the board to bend easier due to the added length.
  • Wear heat-protective gloves when bending oak.

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