Steam bending

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Basics of steam-bending wood

A wallpaper steam-stripper is an appropriately sized source of steam for smaller items.

Pop the item to be steamed into a polythene bag (a clear rubble sack is a good choice).

Tape closed the mouth of the bag (gaffa tape) including the hose from the steamer.

Make a small exit hole for the steam at the opposite end of the bag (best to have the bag folded to only have sufficient volume for the piece being steamed).

Let rip with the steam! (Or just turn on the steamer and keep an eye on it).

Once ready, take the piece out (gloves) and quickly clamp it to a former in the desired shape (may be better to overbend it, as some spring-back will happen).


The length of steaming is trial and error until you gain some experience.

Green wood steams better than dry.

Steaming is somewhat "one shot", and will not steam well a second time (you may notice the wood ends up considerably drier than it started out)

It is possible to "over-steam".


The method also works with some thermoplastics. If a very thin piece of plastic goes soft and floppy quickly when held in kettle steam, it can be bent by softening with steam or boiling water. Boiling water is more effective as its easier to keep the whole piece at the right temperature, if it fits in the water bath. Plastics worked this way stiffen up very quickly when removed from the water.

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