Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Side Bending the Old Fashioned Way

Bending the non-cutaway side went well with no breaking or cracking. That's the definition of "well" when it comes to bending wood: no cracking or breaking. the upper bout the curve wasn't, well, curvy enough. More exactly, it curved where it should have been straight and was a little bit straight where it should have been curved.

Unacceptable, but it just needed some touching up. So I stopped by Home Depot on the way home from church on Sunday and bought a six-inch section of pipe 2" in diameter, and a blow torch. In the old days, sides were bent by hand on a heated pipe. I've seen some guys use a pipe filled with charcoal, but I've seen and heard of the blowtorch method as well, and it was pretty cheap, so that's the route I took. Here's the pipe in the vice and the blow torch ready for action.

It's a little scary using things that, you know, can blow up, so I was pretty careful. I went outside, lit the blowtorch, and then brought it in and stuck it in the pipe:

It didn't take long for the pipe to get nice and hot.

Since it takes two hands to bend a side on a pipe I can't show you any pictures, so you'll just have to imagine the process from my words. To prevent scorching the wood I took a small hand towel and sprayed it with distilled water, then laid that on the pipe. Wearing work gloves (because the wood gets hot!) I hold the side on the pipe and begin gently rocking it from side to side over the section I want to bend. After a few minutes I could feel the wood starting to relax, and then I began to press down, wrapping the wood around the pipe. Actually, the first "bend" was to straighten the little hump that appeared, then I flipped it around and started bending around the pipe.

The mold is on my workbench so I was able to check my progress often. While the wood is hot it's actually fairly flexible, so I bend farther than I need to and then allow it to spring back to the shape of the mold. When it fit in the mold perfectly, I clamped it in there and let it cool.

After cooling, this is what it looks like:

Now that's what the upper bout curve is supposed to look like! I was impressed with how easy this was considering it was the first time I had ever tried it. Who knows, maybe the next time I'll give bending the sides the old fashioned way a shot.

By the way, the matching cutaway side bent well, so that's what I'll be using. Here's a shot of the sides in the mold with spreaders keeping them tight to the mold:

Next up: radiusing the sides, then making and gluing the end block.

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