Sunday, January 30, 2011

Sunday ToolFoolery: Building An Improved Steam-Bending Box

Hot on the heels of its inaugural run, I thought I'd post the design of my improved steam-bending box.  I really wanted to "turn it up to 11" -- both to remove any doubt about whether I was getting the wood pliable enough for chair leg bending, but also with an eye to building a nice little high-transomed rowboat for our pond.

The first decision I made was to move from electric to propane power.  This came at a cost, as it forced me to move my bending outdoors (I've moved it to the shop for glam photos.)  The intensity and number of warnings on the instructions convinced me that stoking this thing up under cover -- even in the garage, was a death wish.  So out it went.

The only real "innovation" is the sliding box-within-a-box that allows it to go from three feet to six feet in length.

A short run of galvanized, 2" pipe attaches to a rubber doohickey that couples the 1 3/4" spout of the petrol can to the OD of the 2" pipe.  Needless to say, this is a new petrol can, and I was surprised at how robust it was under fire.  It holds two gallons of water.  Much to my surprise, this was not enough for the 2 1/2 hour burn.  Refilling it with boiling water was easy via a funnel.

Although I've been referring to it as the "Bayou Burner", the heat source is actually a Bayou Classic High Pressure Burner that I found on Amazon.  All of the fittings should be available at your local home center, and I don't see why you couldn't replace the steel with PVC.

When in full flight, it maintained a constant temperature of 200 degrees F and belched out a goodly amount of steam.

Feel free to shoot me any questions.  Thanks for reading!


  1. There's something you don't see every day: a gas can sitting on top of a burner. ; )

    I've never steamed anything before, so I'm going to show my ignorance here; does the steam affect the wood steam box? Not that important just curious.

  2. My question is along the lines of Alex's. Is the inside of the box treated in any way to protect it from the steam?

    Nice looking steam box. Hope you get plenty of use from it.

    Fyi- That rubber doohicky is a Fernco reduced.

  3. Looks like it should bark and wag it's tail from the shape of it.

    Did you make this via plans or did you think this up? You may have mentioned this in an earlier post, but my memory escapes me - either way an impressive piece of engineering.

  4. Thanks guys. It is made out of exterior plywood, and I've read that it should hold up, we will see.

    I looked at a number of other boxes, the sliding thing is the only thing I added. I'm keen to reduce the amount of space that it needs to heat, so it made sense.

    Fernco reduced, Thanks Dyami!

  5. That's a goodly looking set-up, good luck with it.
    Does the sliding section of the box extend automatically as the pressure builds?

  6. I like the demountable legs and extender both look like good performance enhancements. Let me know how the extender leaks steam and if its a problem. I made my box from left over "melamine" board. I figured if it doesn't last I would just make another one. It doesn't owe me anything.

  7. This is GREAT!

    I'm new to the blog, but a return reader from this point forward.

    Good call moving the burner outside. I've used a similar one for brewing beer inside. Not good.

    Looking forward to the next installment!

  8. Jason- Thanks so much for those kind words. I've found the blogging thing to be highly rewarding. I've met a bunch of great people and it really helps keep me honest ("Do I really want fellow woodworkers to see me take that shortcut?") Plus, I've learned so much from others.

  9. don't use PVC, it'll change shape. My 1st steamer got chucked. I've used an aluminium entendable vent pipe, 8" diameter, with a wallpaper stripper and airline bayonet fittings. Definatly not pretty enough to photograph though.

  10. I like the demountable legs and extender both look like good performance enhancements. thanks for your sharing sist