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How to Bend Dowels

Craftsmen, especially woodworkers, sometimes need to bend wood without breaking it in the process as part of the aesthetics and foundations of a project. If your project calls for bent wooden dowels, you won't need an industrial-sized pressurized machine. You can bend wooden dowels using a steam chamber to heat them. The dowels, once bent, can become the backs of wooden chairs, decoration on bed posts, the bottom of boats or other objects found around the house.

  1. Drill a 1/2-inch hole at the top end of the steam chamber and place a cork inside it. If the steam chamber overheats and builds up too much steam, the cork will pop out of the hole and you will have to lower your heat source.

  2. Place your dowels inside the steam chamber. Do not let the dowels touch the walls of the chamber. Do this by placing smaller block pieces of wood inside the chamber to raise the dowels from the bottom of the chamber. When steaming multiple dowels, do not let the dowels touch each other.

  3. Seal the steam chamber but do not glue it shut. If too much steam builds up, the ends will pop off to let out the steam.

  4. Connect your steam chamber to the heat source. The heat source for bending dowels can be a wallpaper steamer with its hose attached to the steam chamber. It can also be a regular stove or hot plate with a teakettle filled with water, with copper tubing connecting it to the steam chamber. Cut a hole on one of the sides of the steam chamber using a hole cutter. Insert the tube or hose of the heat source on the hole and secure it with duct tape.

  5. Steam your wooden dowels according to thickness. For every inch of wood, calculate about an hour inside the steam chamber.

  6. Remove the wooden dowels from the chamber with thick leather working gloves. The wood will be very hot, so use extreme caution. The dowels will also begin to lower in temperature immediately after being taken out of the chamber, so work quickly.

  7. Align the wood in a mold. You can make the mold based on the shape you want using MDF wood boards and clamps. After drying, there will be some sort of springback so take that into consideration when bending wooden dowels.

  8. Lay the wooden dowels on a flat surface and clamp them down to shape. Use woodworking clamps to secure the dowels. Let the dowels dry out for an hour.

Warnings

  • Be careful when handling the wood before molding, it will be extremely hot and can scald you.
  • The steam chamber must not build up extreme pressure inside as this can result in an explosion. Make sure to keep the pressure of the chamber at a minimum so do not plug the cork in too snug.