Creative Steam Bending

Making Unique Wooden Floral Arrangements by Steam Bending WoodI see everything in curves and undulations. Most of my life has been spent in landscaping, tree farming and Bonsai. Everything is a reflection of the creative beauty of nature. A landscape design should tell a story. A dry creek bed in the plant bed disappears under the fence to an unseen world in the neighbors yard. A 5 foot pruned Scotch pine mimics a 200 year old tree. I have always appreciated the Japanese ability to celebration the simplicity and grace of an old majestic tree, or a picturesque garden scene. I always wanted to move my landscape and garden planters away from “craft” and more to “art” and add trellises to the line of things I make. (You can see these at www.sawdustbyjake.com) So my planters started looking like old weathered furniture and the trellises… well I got sidetracked on the “feng shui” type concept of floral arrangements with wood.

Making Unique Wooden Floral Arrangements by Steam Bending WoodSo much for the why, let’s talk about the how.Here’s where it all starts. There are countless articles, books, videos and YouTube’s on steam bending wood. This is a picture of what I came up with, after much research. Just remember, you need enough heat, steam, and air movement to keep the temperature at 212 degrees.

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Making Unique Wooden Floral Arrangements by Steam Bending WoodAs you can see, I had to insulate my box to sustain that temperature.

Making Unique Wooden Floral Arrangements by Steam Bending WoodFor some projects an assortment of bends will do. This jig was used to create twisted spires for arrangements. Only 3 pieces broke. While I still had a full head of steam, I made some random 90 degree bends.

Making Unique Wooden Floral Arrangements by Steam Bending WoodNotice the use of clamps and straps to “pull” things around to make the bends.

Making Unique Wooden Floral Arrangements by Steam Bending WoodThere will always be spring back, but these gave me something to work with.

Making Unique Wooden Floral Arrangements by Steam Bending WoodAfter exchanging and rearranging pieces for a few minutes, I came up with these.

Making Unique Wooden Floral Arrangements by Steam Bending WoodI’d call that a successful bending session.

Making Unique Wooden Floral Arrangements by Steam Bending WoodAnother approach is the “planned design”.I had this design laying around for a while, so this article was the perfect motivation to put it to wood.

Making Unique Wooden Floral Arrangements by Steam Bending WoodFirst step, I laid it out and enlarged it to full scale as a pattern for the bend.

Making Unique Wooden Floral Arrangements by Steam Bending WoodThen I had to cut it up…

bend pattern in jig…and place the pieces in the bending grid.

Making Unique Wooden Floral Arrangements by Steam Bending Wood word about the grid: 1/2″ plywood base, strips of 1/2″ plywood (1-1/2″ wide) are used as a rail system to attach upright pieces of plywood, blocks of wood, or custom forms, as “bend points” in the designs.

Making Unique Wooden Floral Arrangements by Steam Bending WoodWith the design layout in place, it was time to set all the bend points and plan the bend. The next 3 pictures show close ups of the grid, bend points and special forms added during the planning stage of the bend.

Making Unique Wooden Floral Arrangements by Steam Bending WoodPreparing the wood was made easy by running strips of oak through the thickness planer. Notice, I used a piece of old counter top as an auxiliary bed to support the shorter thin pieces and protect the planer knives. I think it is a real must when planing thin pieces.

Making Unique Wooden Floral Arrangements by Steam Bending WoodNow for the bend. I had the grid set up close to the steam box so I could start bending the wood when it was at its hottest.

Making Unique Wooden Floral Arrangements by Steam Bending WoodThis is what the grid looked like after all the bends were made. Plan on a lot of “in flight adjustments”.

Making Unique Wooden Floral Arrangements by Steam Bending WoodTo quote the Rolling Stones, “you can’t always get what you want…”

Making Unique Wooden Floral Arrangements by Steam Bending Wood…but if you try, sometimes…”

Making Unique Wooden Floral Arrangements by Steam Bending Wood…”you might get what you need.”

My wife named it “Syrinx” after a nymph in Greek Mythology. Legend has it that Pan changed her into a reed because she rejected his romantic advances. He did give her a song that you are supposed to be able to hear when the wind blows through the reeds. Cool huh?

Making Unique Wooden Floral Arrangements by Steam Bending WoodAnother example is this piece. I call this one “Sweet Aroma”. It was made for an aromatherapy candle shop. Imagine the two upright spires are the flame, the curved piece is the aroma of the scented candle rising in the heat, and the partial circle is the glow of the candle. See, as an “artist” you are allowed to rationalize anything!

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