You might be wondering why I am leading with a picture of a dishwasher. I’ll get to that.
My first experience with bending wood took place when I was not working in the shop. I was like many of you, ham and egging it out of my garage at home for fun.
I had come across some wild cherry wood, deciding to have it lumbered rather than find its fate the way of all the other non-descript logs into firewood. Transporting whole logs to the sawyer, and then transporting wet lumber to the kiln, and then transporting the dried stock back to the garage is another story in itself. Getting back to this one, my father wanted an end table build – more like a lamp table – more like a drum (round) lamp table….with drawer….and a shelf. Get it?
Being the dutiful son, I agreed. After months of thinking about it, I plunged in, shaping legs and making jigs for the round body from which I was going to use as both the apron and the drawer face. But when I was ready to bend the wood around the form, I kept breaking it. The wood wasn’t thin enough. The radius was too tight. The curve got brittle. Crushed and defeated, I did like any man would. I got a beer and complained to my wife about how hard my life had just become.
After several minutes of consideration, she asked me a few questions about the problem. She understood that I needed a steamer to heat up the wood and inject moisture to make it more pliable, but the idea of buying one was prohibitive, and the idea of making one was more than I could mentally process at that time. Heat and moisture…a lot of heat, and a lot of moisture.
After a bit more contemplation, my wife suggested that I use the dishwasher to solve the probem. Thanks honey, and I’ll try not to mess up the dishwasher.
After a few attempts, we got the dishwasher on the correct setting, and voila, a set of pliable thin pieces of wood that were wrapped around a form, glued into place, and held with band clamps (straps). Once the glue set up, I trimmed the rough edges, cut the drawer face out, and move on with life.
Hardwood Artisans has been doing solid wood laminations for a few years now. The round aprons under our round and oval tables, and more recently, the Linnaea dresser drawer faces and the Linnaea chair back splat. These are thin layers of solid wood that have been sandwiched together and glued, then placed on top of a curved form, and then set inside a vacuum bag. The bag has a pump attached, which sucks all the air out. The wood has nowhere to go except to follow the flow of the curve. Four hours later, it’s like a brick. Rather than needing to apply steam to assist in the curving, the vacuum bag has helped considerably. It draws the wood down evenly and slowly. The air is exhausted slowly, so the wood has time to relax as it conforms to the jig. It is quick, clean, and precise.
Though in some small way I miss the old dishwasher trick.
If all of this sounds like a bit much for you, head on over to our website, where you can order dining tables, dining chairs and bedroom pieces that feature bent lamination.