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I am working on a DIY wood project and want to bend a piece of wood similar to the curves seen here by the artist Gustav Reyes, who is known for his jewelry pieces such as this finger ring:

Click photo for more examples
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How does one go about bending a piece of wood like this?

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He uses mainly Cherry, Hickory and Walnut woods. Steam box and patience. The first time or two you could just place the wood alone in the steam box, after that, you should probably use a form to hold it in place so it doesn't curl back out. –  Jason Aug 6 '13 at 21:47
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4 Answers

Wood can be plasticized by various methods ...

http://www.fpl.fs.fed.us/documnts/fplgtr/fplgtr190/chapter_19.pdf

"Wood members can be readily molded or shaped after immersion in liquid ammonia or treatment under pressure with ammonia in the gas phase. As the ammonia evaporates, the lignin resets, the wood stiffens and retains its new shape. Plasticization of the lignin matrix alone can be done using chemical modification technologies, which are covered later in this chapter."

http://www.google.com/search?q=wood+plasticizing+wood

However, in this video interview of Gustav Reyes published about a year ago, he states (at 1:50 min) that he makes his wood jewelry using steam and compression.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oq-zsyL3vZ8

However, he goes on to claim that the process was created 10-15 years ago.

Bending any wood, steamed wood included, puts compression on the fibers along the inner radius, and tension on the fibers along the outer radius. The tension acts to splinter the outer fibers. The compression acts to buckle the inner fibers. The solution, long known, is to apply a metal compression band while the wood is still straight before bending. The strap is placed on the surface that will form the outer radius. The strap greatly reduces the tension (splintering) of the fibers on the outer radius, which is good. But in doing so, it also increases the compression on the fibers along the inner radius, which can be problematic.

If the technique he uses is indeed 10-15 years old, then it is not mere steam+compression and he's told only part of the story. Plasticizing, as detail in the above PDF, is also and old technique, as is PEG impregnation. So the jury is out.

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I'm pretty sure you can't. Wood of that thickness simply can't bend to that degree no matter how much you steam it.

More likely, it's a laminate, glue, form process where you take thin sheets of wood, steam them if necessary, then put them on a form. You then apply glue, grab another thin sheet, apply on top, and repeat to build up the thickness you need.

Essentially, you're building plywood by hand--just not flat plywood.

But one of many examples on YouTube of the process:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TXAeLwJ8fcw

(Actually, I stand corrected, I didn't realize the scale of some of those pieces. They are a lot thinner than I thought...if so, they may very well be thin pieces steamed, then bent into shape via a form)

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It is done utilizing a tool called a steam box.

from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steam_box:

A steam box is a long, sealed container used to steam wooden planks for the purpose of making them pliable. Once steamed and then fastened or clamped into the desired position and left to dry, the wood will hold the new shape. Steam boxes allow for much more efficient use of wood. Instead of cutting the desired shape away from a large and more expensive piece of wood and leaving much scrap to be discarded, steam boxes allow for a smaller piece to be bent in the general shape and leaving much less scrap. Steam boxes also allow the wood to bend beyond its dry breaking point, which is useful in making extreme curves with the wood. In many cases, the bent piece is stronger than an identical piece cut from larger stock. Steam bending wood allows the wood grain to follow the bend, leaving it strong where a piece cut from larger stock would snap across crosscut grains or laminated joints.

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This site claims the artist (Gustav Reyes) uses a 'cold bend' forming process.

I know the 'hot' process uses steam, a cold process may use lamination, but that is a guess.

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