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Thread: Bending Wood - Ideas Needed

  1. #1
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    Default Bending Wood - Ideas Needed

    I want to make an oval uke, and I have a mold/form made from layers of plywood about 3˝" thick. I made a complete oval the size of the netting on a tennis racket, so that will give you an idea what I'm doing. Then I cut that roughly down the center to make it easier to clamp. I got a wood set from Stew-Mac, and I'm trying to figure out how to clamp the side wood in place.

    I figure I'll borrow an idea from YouTube (see picture below) and use a turkey roasting pan on the stove to steam and heat the wood. I also have a heat gun available. I could use clamps, but I would have to cut holes in my mold for the other end of each clamp. That would be a lot of cutting/routing. I could also use two ratcheting straps and wrap them around the form, but I wouldn't be able to use the heat gun. I can't use clamps and straps because each would interfere with the other.

    So, if you have any suggestions, I'd be glad to hear them.

    Bending Uke Wood 1.jpg
    Too many ukes, but I can't stop buying!
    https://www.catskillukulelegroup.com/

  2. #2
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    Check the Luthier forum. There have been a few threads about steam bending recently. The roasting pan seems tricky since you can’t fit the whole thing at once. A longer enclosed tube may be better: I haven’t used it for instrument type woods, but ages ago I set up a steam bender from a length of black pvc or abs or such pipe from the big orange store and fed it from a wallpaper remover. There are similar setups with details on YouTube. I think the Wood Whisperer has some good videos on steam bending.

    To make room for your clamps you could drill some holes for a lot less effort than routing them. A picture of your mold will give the experts more info for specific suggestions.

  3. #3
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    I think Mya Moe and Ono ukuleles had some videos about their processes. Usually steaming the wood around a pipe and then fitting it into a form. I think they inner and outer forms that clamped together around the sides. But I could be wrong about that. It's been a while since I saw them.

    Some builders use a million thick rubber bands instead of clamps. But I think that was after the top and back were attached.

    Good luck Jerry. Sounds like an ambitious, and fun project.
    There is a subtle yet profound difference between the learning of something and the knowing of that thing.
    You can learn by reading, but you don’t begin to know until you begin to try to do.

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  4. #4
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    I honestly think you would be better served to use your heat gun to heat up a section of water pipe and bend it on that. Or bend an electric barbecue starter to fit inside a piece of pipe, or a propane torch. The problem with steam is unless your system is pressurized, you are limited to 212 degrees F max. The minimum temperature I will use to bend at is 250F. Bending on a hot pipe is really very easy, just experiment a bit with a few scraps of wood and you are good to go.
    Brad
    Bradford Donaldson
    Kekaha, HI and Cannon Beach OR
    bradfordj48@outlook.com

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Arcy View Post
    Check the Luthier forum. There have been a few threads about steam bending recently. The roasting pan seems tricky since you can’t fit the whole thing at once. A longer enclosed tube may be better: I haven’t used it for instrument type woods, but ages ago I set up a steam bender from a length of black pvc or abs or such pipe from the big orange store and fed it from a wallpaper remover. There are similar setups with details on YouTube. I think the Wood Whisperer has some good videos on steam bending.

    To make room for your clamps you could drill some holes for a lot less effort than routing them. A picture of your mold will give the experts more info for specific suggestions.
    Thanks. The wood is several inches longer than I need, so if an inch doesn't bend enough, that's okay. The pan is pretty big. Another problem occurred to me last night. I'm making the sides from two separate pieces, and each piece will have to meet the other exactly at the base of the bout. I'll check each one for squareness, and I may have to allow a bit of room for sanding.

    I tried drill a hole, but I had to drill two 3/4" holes side-by side. Then I had to drill another hole behind those two to allow for the Irwin clamp. I think I'm going to make a female mold to press up against the form I have now. From what I've seen online, the form doesn't have to be solid. I can use several pieces of thin wood with spacers in between.

    It sounds like I'll have to spend more time on YouTube.
    Last edited by Jerryc41; 05-11-2020 at 12:32 AM.
    Too many ukes, but I can't stop buying!
    https://www.catskillukulelegroup.com/

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by BuzzBD View Post
    I honestly think you would be better served to use your heat gun to heat up a section of water pipe and bend it on that. Or bend an electric barbecue starter to fit inside a piece of pipe, or a propane torch. The problem with steam is unless your system is pressurized, you are limited to 212 degrees F max. The minimum temperature I will use to bend at is 250F. Bending on a hot pipe is really very easy, just experiment a bit with a few scraps of wood and you are good to go.
    Brad
    Thanks. I'm not going to be doing this on a regular basis, so I don't want to invest a lot of money into this. Maybe I'll experiment with some kind of hot pipe.
    Too many ukes, but I can't stop buying!
    https://www.catskillukulelegroup.com/

  7. #7
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    Please excuse the debris currently in my shop....

    Here are some images of a mold I used for a similarly shaped uke. I used a heat gun & heated the mold thru the holes on the bottom of the mold.
    the mold is hollow, and I used sheet metal for the bending surface. I didn't need a hot pipe with this shape.On a uke with a tight waist, I use a hot pipe to ben the waist, then clamp into a mold to bend the upper & lower bouts.

    I hope this helps...

    IMG_0965.jpgIMG_0967.jpgIMG_0966.jpg

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by uke51 View Post
    Please excuse the debris currently in my shop....

    Here are some images of a mold I used for a similarly shaped uke. I used a heat gun & heated the mold thru the holes on the bottom of the mold.
    the mold is hollow, and I used sheet metal for the bending surface. I didn't need a hot pipe with this shape.On a uke with a tight waist, I use a hot pipe to ben the waist, then clamp into a mold to bend the upper & lower bouts.

    I hope this helps...

    IMG_0965.jpgIMG_0967.jpgIMG_0966.jpg
    That's quite a setup. For one or two ukes, I want to keep it simple. I'm going to make the other half of the mold today.
    Too many ukes, but I can't stop buying!
    https://www.catskillukulelegroup.com/

  9. #9
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    I need some advice/explanation. I made a mold very similar to the one in the video, but the wood for my sides is tapered - wide at the neck and narrower at the bottom. I want to keep the original narrow ends so they will match perfectly at the base of the uke. Like the man in the video, I will have to cut both pieces of the sides, and I'm not sure how to do that. Ideally, I would have the narrow end flush with the end of the mold when I bend it, but I can't imagine being able to get it lined up like that while I'm bending it. If I could do that, I would cut off the excess on the wider end.

    In the video linked below, he marks the center of the uke on the mold and then transfers that mark to the side to cut it. This starts around 2:25. Since I bought this wood from Stew-Mac, I'd rather not mess it up. Pictures below.

    03.jpg 04.jpg
    Too many ukes, but I can't stop buying!
    https://www.catskillukulelegroup.com/

  10. #10
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    I have been down this road. I learned a bit about steam bending wood some years back while working on wooden boats, so this seemed like a natural way to get started. It was fun, I learned a few things but really more of a pain and production than is needed or desired.

    I recently bought a bending iron from Amazon - $100. I have so much more control than I ever hoped to have using steam and a form. I can immediately bend to a line without even thinking about spring back.

    I was told this, but I had to figure it out on my own: there really is a reason so many do not try to steam their sides.

    Also, if you insist, there are very easy and cheap ways to make a steambox. I also tried the turkey baster but it really did not work out so well.

    Good luck!

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