Richard Brown

Ok guys. Need help with curving oak

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I’m making a replacement seat and back for a antique chair. The back is curved. I’m making a piece that goes from seat to top of back and it curves with the chair back.
 

my problem is I tried to make thin panels to laminate together over a form. However the oak keeps splitting as I get thin with it.
 

So I was going to try and steam it to bend that piece is around 5/16 thick but again Zi have a crack in the middle. 

I’m now thinking of curf cutting two pieces on opposite sides bending over a form and gluing them together. 
 

any help would be appreciated. This is just another reason I hate oak. 

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Oak can be a bugger to work with but I love it. White oak that is. The only way you are going to bend it is by lots of steaming then quick to the mold. Oak and other dense woods need lots of persuasion to change shape.

And of course you have to find another piece that isn't cracked; that one simply won't work for what you want to do with it. I'd look for something with pretty straight grain for steaming.

Is the wood you're using kiln dried? Seems cracking with thin pieces shouldn't be that bad, but you may need to cut thin, steam and layer it up for lamination.

People with more knowledge and experience will no doubt be here shortly. :)

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Check out Engles Coach Shop on YouTube. The link takes you to a dozen or so of his videos on bending wood. The guy is incredibly talented & you may get sucked into hours of watching if you're not careful.

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It sounds like you are bending the piece across its width, rather than along the length? If so, I think you will have a very difficult time steam bending oak that way. I believe laminating thin veneers to a form would be more successful. Alternatively, you might carve the curved piece out of a thicker piece of flat stock.

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2 hours ago, wtnhighlander said:

It sounds like you are bending the piece across its width, rather than along the length? If so, I think you will have a very difficult time steam bending oak that way. I believe laminating thin veneers to a form would be more successful. Alternatively, you might carve the curved piece out of a thicker piece of flat stock.

Carving it out was my other option that I did not list.  So no one thinks kerf cuts is a option

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Oak is much more likely to fracture when bending force is applied across the grain, as opposed to along it. You may be able to achieve a bend with kerf cuts, but unless the kerfed side is hidden, you will probably need a veneer layer to make it presentable.

If the curved section is 'simple', meaning it is cylindrical or conical, you might also reach your goal by coopering staves to make the form. Chances are that a coopered form will be stronger than the kerfed bend, as the edges glue together with full contact, rather than creating triangular channels filled with glue, which contact only at a single point.

If the curve is complex / compound, I'd go back to laminating veneers.

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The term you are looking for is “coopered.” Cutting thin strips to edge join for a curve will be fine. Honestly, oak steam bends very well. I’d be tempted to start with oversized blanks, then cut any split out and rejoin the pieces before trimming to size. Just thoughts without actually seeing the piece. 

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