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bending wood - steam vs boiling

johnzeitoun's picture

Hey all,


I make birch bark canoes and to bend the ribs I boil them in a tube angled over a fire. I am getting into cedar canvas canoe buiding in the near future, and am wondering if anyone has any input on whether or not boiling is not the best way to go.


Steaming is more popular, of course, but my experience tells me it takes longer and the wood does not bend as obediently.


Is there a drawback to the boil method?


Thanks for your input!


John (www.riverwoodworks.com)


www.riverwoodworks.com custom cabinetry and canoes


Edited 6/26/2006 7:01 pm ET by johnzeitoun

www.riverwoodworks.com custom cabinetry and canoes
jazzdogg's picture

(post #83677, reply #1 of 2)

Sue Spray makes some truly remarkable canoes; to call her a perfectionist would be an understatement!


http://bigbearlakewoodworks.com/suescanoes.html


My own woodbending experience tells me that so-called boiling is OK for small stuff like Shaker-style boxes; I don't get the water boiling hot, which could cook the lignin.


For larger pieces, I prefer to steam - clamping the work to bending forms a week or two until they take a set, or immediately securing it in its permanent position.


If you have enough gloved helpers to secure each piece before it has a chance to cool down, either method could work under the right conditions.


Good luck,


-Jazzdogg-


"Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive." Gil Bailie

-Jazzdogg-

"Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive." Gil Bailie

Lataxe's picture

(post #83677, reply #2 of 2)

John,


I know little of boiling, except that of oak before splitting into thin laths for making woven baskets (swills).  The boiled pieces are very much more pliant than steamed items (I steam chair parts) but the wood does dry to a very stiff and dry-feeling condition.  When it's been cleaved along the grain, it remains strong; but pieces that have gone across the grain break easily.


I was watching a display of chestnut trug-making (another basket type) at Holker Hall Show a couple of weeks ago.  That chap had pre-made slivers of chestnut a couple of inches wide and about 1/8" thick, which he simply dipped into boiling water for a minute before taking them out and bending them to trug-shape; often through 90 degrees using 12 - 18 " long pieces.


As to cedar, my experience of using it for drawer bottoms, at 1/4 " thick, is that it's quite a brittle wood, easy to crack.  I never steamed or boiled it though; and there are many different cedars.


Sorry for rambling on.


Lataxe