Steam bending simplified
I live in a house that is about 100 years old. It was remodeled and given an addition some time in the 1980s. It hadn’t been touched since. Needless to say, it was a bit dated. Not long after we moved in, my wife and I started to renovate the house. The kitchen has been a huge project. Over the winter I took down part of a wall to create an opening into the dinning room. The stove is on the kitchen side of that opening and I made a countertop that fits around the stove and moves into the dining room to become a breakfast counter. I then installed a new rangehood, framed out for a small bookshelf, etc. This past weekend, I tackled the other side of the kitchen, putting in a new window (really, my colleague Patrick McCombe put in the window), did some demo to get rid of an ugly tile backsplash, moved some plumbing, made and installed new countertops, and installed a new sink and faucet. It was a busy three days.
I didn’t figure to get much woodworking in, but I was wrong. The new countertops are laminate with solid cherry edge banding. One section has two tight curves in it and I had planned to make thin plys of cherry and laminate them to the countertop one at a time. That didn’t work, the curves were too tight. So I decided to try steam bending for the first time. It worked great and really wasn’t hard. I think what made it go so well was the fact that I combined bent lamination with steam bending. Each ply needed only about 20 minutes of steam. And because they were so thin, they were easy to bend. It was also nice that I could glue them directly to the countertop, rather than putting them in a form, letting them dry and then gluing them down.
|More on Steam Bending
• Free-Form Steam Bending
• Video Demo: Hot Pipe Steam Bending
• Steam Bending
Here’s what I really want to stress: Don’t be afraid to just try something. I had never done any steam bending. I was flying by the seat of my pants. I’m sure that someday my willingness to just give something a try will let me down, but based on past experience I know that it works out way more than it doesn’t. So don’t hesitate to try new techniques or even to cook up something new.
One more thing: In case you’re wondering, the cabinet boxes are staying, but I’m making new inset doors and drawers. Then we’ll paint the cabinets.
Steamed beauty. To make this tight corner, I had to steam bend thin cherry plies.
The ugly. It was hard to look past the kitchen when we bought the house, but we knew that the ugly was only cosmetic.
Almost there. This was Monday morning. The counters and sink are in. The section closest to the camera is the one that needed steam bent edging. I rehung the wall cabinets Monday night.