View Full Version : Bending Method for us beginners?

10-10-2009, 06:03 AM
Is this a bending method we could use? If we don't have money for other bending methods?


10-10-2009, 06:25 AM
looks like it worked...you just need the right sized container for the piece you wanna bend. hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

10-10-2009, 06:38 AM
He has a whole series on making a stick dulcimer... Kind of like Dave G's videos (http://www.wsukes.com/plans.html) (bottom of the page) from Waverly Street Ukes :)

Pete Howlett
10-10-2009, 06:56 AM
Michael lives down the road from me and his working methods are ideal for kitchen building. I reckon you could do a pineapple with this method but not a figure 8. You could build a simple steam box and achieve the same result but I like his bottle method - very clever.

10-10-2009, 07:05 AM
Thanks for the info Pete, what is the reasoning for not being able to use this method for the figure eight? Just wondering, if I was to submerge all of the wood in the water as opposed to only part of it? Or is that what you meant by steam box?

10-10-2009, 07:30 AM
I always wondered why luthiers didn't steam bend.
I just figured I was missing some bit of information.

15 years ago I used to make clocks.
I bought a metal trough from a hardware store that was about 36" long (it was meant to be used as a flower pot). I placed it on my BBQ, filled it with and inch or 2 of hot water and turned on the flame.

The water never boiled but it was steaming hot. I slipped in the stock and after about 5-10 minutes I would place them in a jig (kind of like the one in the video)

This has a 6" radius, which was my biggest seller. It has 5 layers of wood... cherry, walnut and maple. As you can see I was able to accomplish very tight bends, even with 1/8" cherry which is prone to cracking when bending.


I never tried a figure 8, but if you can make the jig, I believe it would work.

What I don't know is this "Does soaking the wood change it's tone?"

Pete Howlett
10-10-2009, 07:50 AM
It's the speed with which you have to work. Also if you boil koa you are going to really affect the colour of it - it will go a muddy grey/green.

Moore Bettah Ukuleles
10-10-2009, 08:47 AM
I've found that bending very curly koa is pretty sensitive to the amount of moisture you use while bending. If I steamed fiddleback koa I'd have a bowl of koa oatmeal. I have best success in using very little water when bending curly koa.

Pete Howlett
10-10-2009, 09:24 AM
That would be about right for curly koa Chuck - we have had speaks about this and it is a fraught subject. Much as I adore the look of curly koa I have kittens every time I bend it and often resort to my bending iron where I can fcontrol by feel the bend, rather that risk it going in the Fox bender...

10-10-2009, 09:59 AM
I've had some success bending fig. 8 sides in spruce and in maple using a steam iron. As Pete says, you have to work very quickly, and I've never managed it without a couple of minor scalds - but it works.

A damp cloth above and below the wood, get it stinking hot with the steam iron, then into the former ASAP, hoping it doesn't split, and that you don't burn yourself TOO badly. No pain, no gain!


10-10-2009, 02:48 PM
I never worked with koa, it seems steam bending this wood is not a good idea.

In the past I have regularly steamed 5 pieces of wood, glued them together then bent them. I sure there is enough time to just bend a single piece of wood.

From experience, steam bending doesn't effect the color of cherry and walnut. This may be a viable technique for these woods.

As suggested, and all things considered, I think the easiest way for a beginner to start out would be to bend with an iron.

Thanks Chuck and Pete

10-11-2009, 01:36 AM
Hi, a bit late to drop in on this discussion, Just a few things I wanted to add.

I have been making the stick dulcimers off and on for 10 years, I promoted them for a few years when I had a shop in a craft centre in the Forest of dean but I am mainly making "early music instruments" to commission these days.(also I play the uke more now...) I always use my guitar Bending iron to bend ribs, though when I was a student I did bend my first ukulele sides with an adapted soldering iron and copper tubing based on the idea from in George Buchanan's book on violin making.

The easy bottle method I presented as part of my stick dulcimer making series is itself based on Irving Sloanes side soaking vat idea from his book on classical guitar making. It takes a few days to dry sufficiently to glue on the linings so it is far from a production method, but a nice thing if you have no bending tools or experience(but ppplease see my note to pre-warm the jar though.......I always did this without thinking...but it took a year for a youtuber to remind me...)

I would never use this method for the tight bends on a soprano uke, but as Pete said a pineapple might be fine. The hard part is getting the piece in the jig as soon as it comes out. In the video you can see what boiling water does to the timber, the colour is leached out a little, not a problem really on cherry or black walnut as RonS said, but please don't use a lovely air dried set of volcanic grown Koa!!!

Matt Clara
10-11-2009, 02:12 AM
No one's mentioned DaveG's method involving a metal pipe and a 100 watt bulb and a couple forms. This is the method I intend to try, mostly because his video makes it look easy.


The rest of his vids can be found here, towards the bottom of the page:

Pete Howlett
10-11-2009, 03:37 AM
dan, dan, dannnnn "The video made it look easy..." The 6 most dangerous words in the luthery lexicon! Do not be fooled by the facility of an experienced hand - I thought finish gypsum plastering was easy until I tried it and spent the first hour skimming off plaster instead of smoothing it in a glass like manner onto the surface of the small wall...

Honestly there is no easy way of doing this or an easy answer to it. Building is craft and craft requires skill. When I do my weekly search of the luthier vids on YouTube there is always stuff on Fox bending and hand bending. I trained on a hand bend pipe and only do my sopranos on a Fox bender. Hand bending is satisfying and making a propane pipe (my first was a mains gas heated pipe) is no big deal. With Fox and similar methods a very HIGH degree of skill is required to make the forms; this is why Blues Creek Guitars and their videos is such a good resource . So one way or the other, this is not an 'easy' process. And a caution - building instruments ain't easy either - it just looks that way :rulez:

10-11-2009, 04:52 AM
I've been bending today..Six Soprano sets.. 3 Mahogany 3 Sapele..all went well this time..no cracks or anything bad..it's nice when you have a good day.

Pete Howlett
10-11-2009, 05:22 AM
I see you have gone over to the dark side Ken. Get in touch if you want some real mahogany...

10-11-2009, 06:49 AM
I see you have gone over to the dark side Ken. Get in touch if you want some real mahogany...
Your Right Pete ..There's so many diferent types of Mahogany from all over the Globe ...I don't know which is the true Mahogany tree.

Pete Howlett
10-11-2009, 07:00 AM
Swietenia Macrophylla is generally considered the 'true' (but not - that one comes from the Carribean) mahogany and comes from Honduras or Brazil, sometimes Belize - all countries which no longer export to the UK. Sapele strictly isn't a mahogany and is typical of a specie's name in that the area or port it comes from is Sapele in Africa. Some time you must try Makore. The dust is quite toxic (like all tropical hardwods i suppose) but you can get some nice stuff out of it and it looks like mahogany but is a legal export.

10-11-2009, 08:19 AM
Nice Ken


Sapele entandrophragma cylindricum is in the mahogany family and has many similar characteristics of Honduras mahogany swietenia macrophylla

Anyone want to buy a couple of hundred guitar sets of sapele?

Pete Howlett
10-11-2009, 08:54 AM
They use sapele veneer for interior doors here in the UK. It's quite a nasty wood... tho I have got a few sets of quilted for uklectics - building one now in fact!

10-11-2009, 11:05 AM
Have you noticed that the "Sapele" has less spring back from exactly the same heat treatment as the other.???

10-12-2009, 02:46 AM
They use sapele veneer for interior doors here in the UK. It's quite a nasty wood... tho I have got a few sets of quilted for uklectics - building one now in fact!

:eek: You are putting pickups on a laminated doors? :eek:

You are an innovative old codger! :);)

Pete Howlett
10-12-2009, 07:02 AM
You seen Ry Cooder's floor slide? Well you get the idea :)

10-12-2009, 04:58 PM
lol You all and your luthier jokes... Thanks for the extra insight on this!

10-18-2009, 03:25 AM
[Sapele is] quite a nasty wood...

Pete, we use sapele quite a lot and haven't had any trouble with it. What makes you say it's a "nasty wood"? Just wondering...

Cheers :cheers:

Pete Howlett
10-18-2009, 04:37 AM
It is one of the few woods I don't 'chose' to work in as it is masquerading as a true mahogany. Plus all that 60's furniture :eek::eek::eek::eek:

10-18-2009, 11:26 AM
It is one of the few woods I don't 'chose' to work in as it is masquerading as a true mahogany. Plus all that 60's furniture :eek::eek::eek::eek:

Piece of work