Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Rubber bands and carrots

Last week I had the pleasure of having a local in the workshop making a continuous arm chair with me. It was a great week and Woody was a natural with most of the chair specific hand tools. I guess that's what you would expect from someone who is carving an arched back guitar in his spare time. He even took to the carving of the complex curve on the underside of the chair with the drawknife with ease. Nice work mate.
Although my chair classes are anything but rigid in their structure, I do like to ensure that we get the crest rail carved and steam bent by the end of the second day. This gives ample time for it to set in the drying box prior to being drilled and fitted to the chair at the end of the week. I carved one at the same time as I have an order for a continuous arm rocker.

So while our crest rails were steaming away in the kiln we readied our bending forms over a cup of coffee. At the time I thought it would be pertinent to let Woody know that sometimes the crest rails delaminate or worse still, fail completely. Such is the joy of working with the natural product that is timber...... and steaming it like a dim sim!

To ease Woody's mind, I retrieved my crest rail first, wedged it into the form and .........snap. Just like a carrot. I kept bending, to check if it was just a fault in that part of the crest. Snap, snap, snap. Nope, it was the whole thing. Having bent literally dozens and dozens of these things it was just a case of c'est la vie. Woody on the other hand was not looking entirely pleased or confident

A few minutes later we bent Woody's crest. It bent like a rubber band. Not even the slightest delamination and with the exception of a slight compression on the right side, a near perfect bend. Interesting part? Both blanks were from the same board, a 60mm thick, quarter sawn, green, Blackwood blank. Both had absolutely no visible inclusions or defects. Just to check, I shaped and bent another 3. Same deal, two snapped like carrots and the third compressed so badly it was unusable.

So I'm putting this episode down to an exacting diagnosis of 'buggered if I know?'  This Blackwood is good stuff. As you can see above, it splits very well. It's certainly strong enough before steaming. But whatever the reason, it's all good. It's a constant learning curve and I've yet to meet or even hear of anyone who has absolutely mastered the art of steam bending.

However, for the last few days I've been back on the sawmill and milling all sorts of Oak and if anything bends well it's Oak. More on that soon.


  1. Things are going well thanks Glen- plenty of work. Some nice projects in progress which I'll send you some pics when finished.
    So impressed you're using blackwood for your chairs, save some for me.

  2. Great to hear Wayne. Look forward to seeing some pics soon. I've got Blackwood coming out of my ears down here Wayne....how many cubic metres do you want? Cheers Glen

  3. I find steaming failures one of the most frustrating conundrums in furniture making. I can normally manipulate wood to do exactly as I want, but when one bends six perfect hoops and then the following six (all from the same log and with everything else equal) fail in varying degrees, it's enough to make one drop an expletive or two!


    1. Expletives were the order of the day after the fourth incident Jack. I'll be trying some of the Oak on the weekend though, so fingers crossed.