Steaming wood is an age old tradition, which lets you bend wood within certain parameters dependent upon species and thickness of wood.
Here I am going top show you how to make a simple steamer, with junk from the workshop (too good to throw away bucket).
This entire project took about 4 hours to make and cost less than $20. This should last a number of years or more.
This steamer is 4’ x 8" x 8" (external dimensions) and made from low grade ¾" ply wood. It consists of a simple box which is screwed and glued, some dadoes (across the width to support the copper pipe and to suspend the wood to be bent above the bottom of the steamer).
The copper pipe used in 10 mm diameter, with some 2.5 mm holes drilled along its length to help the even distribution of steam. The ends are just crimped in the vice. The live steam is fed into the center and distributed evenly left and right
The supports are glued into the rabbets, using polyurethane glue. PVA would have a problem as it would be reactivated because of the heat and moisture present.
The fully assembled box. Both ends have a cover which is hinged (just to make life easier). The cover at the far end in normally closed and fixed with 2 screws. The open end is held closed by a catch, so very quick to open and remove the hot wood. Neither of the two ends are sealed - so a little stream can escape, which aids circulation.
The complete set-up mounted on the wall. The box is tilted downward on the left side by about 2°, this allows the condensation/water to flow to that end and out through the exit pipe.
The hot water from the steam box is collected via the water pipe on the left.
The steam is generated and passes through some plastic water pipe (this pipe is designed for under floor heating systems or internal hot water supplies.
In the bottom left corner, you can see part of the jig that I will use to form the bent laminations.
The water heater/steam supply is an old wallpaper remover set. The canister will hold about 5 Lt (5.2 quarts). This may be a little small for longer periods of steaming, time will tell ( I have a kettle of boiling water in reserve for a top up if necessary).
On the left the waste water collection.
There is plenty of literature about the specifics of steam bending available freely on the Internet, do some searches, follow some links and you will find exactly what your looking for with regard to species and thickness of wood that can be bent. Have fun, this will open a whole new world to your woodworking.
CAUTION: Live steam is extremely hot and if under pressure the temperature can be much higher that 100°C (212°F), protect your self, wear the appropriate safety equipment, which includes thick gloves and safety glasses -
Jigs & Tools