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Thread: Soak or spray Mahogany prior to bending?

  1. #1
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    Default Soak or spray Mahogany prior to bending?

    My research has shown there are differing opinions about this. Some say soak overnight, some say soak for 10-15 minutes and some say never soak but just spray with water before bending. I'm talking about using a bending iron, not the other gizmos.
    What the general consensus? Thanks Mike.

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by mikeyb2 View Post
    My research has shown there are differing opinions about this. Some say soak overnight, some say soak for 10-15 minutes and some say never soak but just spray with water before bending. I'm talking about using a bending iron, not the other gizmos.

    What the general consensus? Thanks Mike.
    When I bend mahogany sides in the Foxy Bender I just spray ..
    Same with the bending iron .. But when I heat bend the arched back in the Acme Bender I do it dry ..if I bend it wet, it just ripples .
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    When I use modelling grade mahogany for sides, I let it sit in a tray of boiling water for a minute or two, then into some foil before it goes into my lightbulb heated form. I might use an iron to persuade it around some of the bends too.

    Max

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    Well I tried bending sides for the very first time the other day with partial success. The sides were soaked for around 30 minutes. There was a slight splitting on the inside waist(surprise!), but it has glued up reasonably well, so overall I'm pleased with my first effort. The second set was more of a disaster. They were just dipped into water and wiped down, spritzed when drying out, but were splitting everywhere and rippling. They seemed a lot more difficult to bend than the first set, which might account for the splitting, by me using too much pressure. I can't explain the rippling though.
    I'm not really convinced the first set was better because of the soaking, because I did notice the woods looked different despite being from mahogany guitar sets. So before I try the 3rd set, I'd like to know which would be easier for a complete novice like me, soaking or just spraying. I would also like your opinions on the use of a bending strap, is it pretty much essential?Thanks again, Mike.
    Last edited by mikeyb2; 10-24-2015 at 11:35 PM.

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    I've only made about 20 instruments (all using a homemade bending iron) so I'm also a novice at this. It's definitely something that takes a little practice to master.

    I have checked your posts to date and see that you have been reducing guitar tonewood sides to 2 mm. I'm wondering if you are being cautious and, despite this being your target, have left them too thick? (that makes them difficult to bend). If they really are uniformly 2 mm or less, it could be that the iron isn't hot enough, or that you are being impatient and forcing the wood rather than feeling for the point when its ready to yield.

    I don't soak, I spray and then try bending. Some wood yields fairly quickly, some takes time and needs to be sprayed periodically as you patiently persevere. I don't use a strap, though that may help you. I concentrate on keeping the sides square to the iron. You definitely need to learn to feel when the wood is ready: its not about applying a lot of pressure, its about applying enough pressure when the wood tells you it's time to try. If it's not bending it's because it's not ready rather than that you are not applying enough pressure.

    Good luck!

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by greenscoe View Post
    I've only made about 20 instruments (all using a homemade bending iron) so I'm also a novice at this. It's definitely something that takes a little practice to master.

    I have checked your posts to date and see that you have been reducing guitar tonewood sides to 2 mm. I'm wondering if you are being cautious and, despite this being your target, have left them too thick? (that makes them difficult to bend). If they really are uniformly 2 mm or less, it could be that the iron isn't hot enough, or that you are being impatient and forcing the wood rather than feeling for the point when its ready to yield.

    I don't soak, I spray and then try bending. Some wood yields fairly quickly, some takes time and needs to be sprayed periodically as you patiently persevere. I don't use a strap, though that may help you. I concentrate on keeping the sides square to the iron. You definitely need to learn to feel when the wood is ready: its not about applying a lot of pressure, its about applying enough pressure when the wood tells you it's time to try. If it's not bending it's because it's not ready rather than that you are not applying enough pressure.

    Good luck!
    Thanks, I take all your points and will concede that you could be right on all counts. Although my target was, as you rightly say, 2mm I did settle on something more like 2.2mm. I am going to take the last set down to 2mm or slightly below, and see what happens. I am tempted also to buy a bending strap. Cheers Mike.

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    Mike
    I am one of the few professional builders who still hand bends - I use a machine to 'set' the bends and it is this reverse method that maintains the shape; there is no spring-back!
    With mahogany you need three conditions:
    • Hot iron
    • Thin sides
    • Dry bend
    Like all woods there is a fine line between scorching and just right. Some mahoganies, particularly the African varieties bend well. Very light-weight mahoganies can crease and the fibres crush and no amount of soaking and steaming will get rid of the ugly lines across the grain that result form this. 2.2mm is a good side thickness for larger instruments like guitars and baritone ukes ( although some of Martin production guitars are less than this). May I suggest you get down to at least 1.8mm for instruments smaller than this so you have a good chance of getting the bend. Only use water to stop scorching. Steam is created just above 240 degrees F. Your iron should be 300 degrees plus... It seems to me that water if it is used it only softens the fibres because any steam produced does not 'help' bending. You also get reactions to the minerals in the water and if using an iron pipe this is a recipe for some frustrating after sanding of iron stain. Water is also a killer if your wood is figured and you are hand bending (answering the post question...)
    As you are in the UK and it looks like you will be making more instruments invest in a Camarillo iron, Brady hybrid pattern. These are British made to order irons that are light years ahead of the Ibex model (I am on my second Ibex having burnt out the first) and cost less. You will have to wait about 5 weeks for one...
    My next instruction video will be on hand bending but I need to make some surplus before I can fund another week in the studio

    Last edited by Pete Howlett; 10-25-2015 at 10:40 AM.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pete Howlett View Post
    Mike
    I am one of the few professional builders who still hand bends - I use a machine to 'set' the bends and it is this reverse method that maintains the shape; there is no spring-back!
    With mahogany you need three conditions:
    • Hot iron
    • Thin sides
    • Dry bend
    Like all woods there is a fine line between scorching and just right. Some mahoganies, particularly the African varieties bend well. Very light-weight mahoganies can crease and the fibres crush and no amount of soaking and steaming will get rid of the ugly lines across the grain that result form this. 2.2mm is a good side thickness for larger instruments like guitars and baritone ukes ( although some of Martin production guitars are less than this). May I suggest you get down to at least 1.8mm for instruments smaller than this so you have a good chance of getting the bend. Only use water to stop scorching. Steam is created just above 240 degrees F. Your iron should be 300 degrees plus... It seems to me that water if it is used it only softens the fibres because any steam produced does not 'help' bending. You also get reactions to the minerals in the water and if using an iron pipe this is a recipe for some frustrating after sanding of iron stain. Water is also a killer if your wood is figured and you are hand bending (answering the post question...)
    As you are in the UK and it looks like you will be making more instruments invest in a Camarillo iron, Brady hybrid pattern. These are British made to order irons that are light years ahead of the Ibex model (I am on my second Ibex having burnt out the first) and cost less. You will have to wait about 5 weeks for one...
    My next instruction video will be on hand bending but I need to make some surplus before I can fund another week in the studio

    Thanks Pete, that's great and much appreciated. I've considered the iron you mention, although the one I've made seems ok in terms of reaching and maintaining the required temperatures. 5 weeks though makes me think of a little Christmas present, hmmm? What are your thoughts about a bending strap? Should I need one if all your other criteria are met? Mike.

  9. #9
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    you can soak it over night, or just sprits it. or just soak for 10-20 minutes, even just bent it dry, your main property for bending is heat source. But also the thickness of the wood type. for a beginner you can go 1.6mm for the sides. at 1.6 you can use your wifes curling iron and will work flawlessly.

  10. #10
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    Well I took the advice, hot iron ,dry bending after thinning down to 1.8(ish) and the bending was a little bit easier( but certainly not easy). Unfortunately, there was still rippling across the width. I experimented with some scraps, and it seems that the wood with the most visible obvious heavy grain bends more easily, but the wood I'm having the most trouble with is plainer looking. I have used a guitar set, but used the intended back wood for my sides and the intended sides have been edge joined for my top and back( hope that makes sense) The intended guitar sides are very heavily grained, and the back pieces are plainer. I'm wondering if sets are chosen that way, for a reason. Maybe I should have used them as intended. Anyway, I'll have to buy another set now, before I can try some more.
    Last edited by mikeyb2; 10-26-2015 at 07:51 AM.

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