Wood Bending

I became interested in the process of bending wood with the idea of making a comfortable chair seat. The process is fairly straight forward and detailed video instructions are available here. Unfortunately I do not have a router or band saw, and ultimately decided it was too dangerous to try and clean up the finished product on a table saw. None the less I will document the simple test sample that I made as a proof of concept.

First I created a form out of MDF to bend the wood around.

MDF Bending Form

MDF Bending Form

Using a jig say I cut multiple pieces out a MDF sheet using a pattern. As you can clearly see each layer of the form was slightly different. While it would have been nice to have a perfect form like in the video instructions, this approach was good enough for a simple test. Each layer of the form was glued together and then sanded to make a smooth surface to bend the wood around.

Using my table saw I cut six 1/8″ thick strips off a piece of scrap 2×2 I had in the shop. Each strip was about 9″ long. I applied wood glue between each of the strips and carefuly clamped them onto my form. If my project had been any bigger I would have had problems with the glue setting up before I could clamp everything to the form.

Clamping to the form

Clamping wood strips to the form

It would have been easier to test this technique out on longer pieces of wood and use a larger radius of curvature. In my first attempt (not shown) I cracked some thicker pieces of wood trying to bend them too aggressively.

After letting the glue dry while on the form overnight a rough product is formed.

Rough Shape

Wood bent into the rough shape of the form

Mismatch among the layers after gluing

Glue that was squeezed out from between the layers covers the side of the now curved wood and needs to be cleaned up by finish cutting the wood. Also the different layers are no longer flush at the ends since they were bent at differing radius’s depending on their position in the sandwich.  Ideally you would used a band saw to clean up these problems. I attempted to clean up the edges on a table saw. I would not advise this approach and eventually quit trying myself because I could not find a safe way to cut the curved shape. I tried to cover up the ugly parts that I could not trim off on the table saw with some extensive sanding, but the result was unsatisfying. The unfinished final proof of concept was fun to make, but for now I will not be trying to scale up this technique for any other projects due to the safety issues.

wood bending

Unfinished proof of concept for wood bending

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About Ryan

Ryan is currently a National Research Council Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Air Force Research Laboratory. His research area includes Prognostic Health Management of Electronics. For more information please visit: www.rdlowe.com
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