Bending Wood Without Steam
Here’s how to bend wood using a solution of hot water and Downey fabric softener. First build a container of black 6-in. ABS pipe by cementing a cap on one end and putting a removable cap on the other. Don’t try regular PVC pipe; it won’t hold up to high temperatures. The length of pipe can be whatever fits your need.
Mix one part Downey to twelve parts water, and heat the solution to boiling. Put the wood to be bent in the container and pour in the hot solution. Seal the open end of the container. It is important to keep the container warm. Here in California, I set the pipe out in the sun. On cloudy days I’ve sat the pipe next to a mirror and heated it with sunlamps. Leave the wood in the hot solution for a minimum of one hour. You’ll find that wood softened in this solution will hold its shape better and not snap in the bending process. The solution turns thin wood to spaghetti.
David Ferguson, San Clemente, Calif.
Fine Woodworking Magazine, December 1982 No. 37