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Intro to Bent Lamination

Intro to Bent Lamination with Mike Poorman

Mike Poorman 

This live video class was made in partnership with Bessey Tools North America.

Bent lamination is a woodworking technique that involves bending thin strips of wood and gluing them together to create curved shapes. This method is versatile and allows woodworkers to achieve complex and elegant designs that would be difficult or impossible to create using solid wood. This video will walk us through the process of using a form and clamps to get the curve needed for a project, but there are quite a few other ways to yield a similar result. We were shocked to see the difference in bendability between two different species of hardwoods that Mike compared in the video.

If you haven’t yet, you may want to go back and watch this 3-part series from Mike Poorman of Woodshop Mike where he showed us how he went about building a round pedestal table.  In the third video, Mike details how he went about making the curved apron for the table and also tells us what he would have done differently. When we joke about never having enough clamps… it becomes very real when doing a large bent lamination glue up! Trigger clamps are extremely nice to have on hand when doing this type of work because you really need to be able to have one hand bending the wood while the other one manages the clamping action.

Bessey Trigger Clamps
Bessey Trigger Clamps

Depending on the circumstances and what you are building, there are a handful of different approaches you can take in order to get the radius you need for your project.

Single Curve Bent Lamination: In this technique, a single strip of wood is bent along a curve and glued to a form. This method is relatively simple and is often used for creating gentle curves such as chair backs or table aprons.

Double Curve Bent Lamination: Double curve bent lamination involves bending the wood in two directions simultaneously to create complex curved shapes. This technique is more advanced and requires a carefully constructed form to achieve precise results. Double curve bent lamination is commonly used for furniture components like chair arms or sculptural pieces.

Compound Curve Bent Lamination: Compound curves involve bending the wood in multiple directions, creating intricate and irregular shapes. This technique is the most challenging but offers endless design possibilities. Compound curve bent lamination is frequently employed in the production of artistic furniture, architectural elements, and decorative objects.

Cold Bent Lamination: Cold bending involves bending the wood without applying heat. This method is suitable for certain types of wood species that are more flexible, such as ash or oak. Cold bent lamination can be achieved using forms and clamps or vacuum bags to apply pressure during the glue-up process.

Steam Bent Lamination: Steam bending involves exposing the wood to steam to make it more pliable before bending it around a form. This method is ideal for bending hardwoods that are less flexible, such as walnut or maple. Steam bent lamination requires a steam box to heat and soften the wood fibers, followed by bending and clamping the wood to the desired shape until it dries. 

Hot Pipe Bent Lamination: Hot pipe bending utilizes a heated metal pipe to soften the wood fibers before bending. The wood is carefully heated using the hot pipe, making it more flexible and easier to bend around a form. Hot pipe bent lamination is often used for smaller, more intricate curves and details in woodworking projects.

Kerf Cut Bent Lamination: Kerf cut bent lamination is a woodworking technique that involves creating precise cuts, known as kerfs, along the length of a piece of wood to facilitate bending. Use a saw such as a table saw or bandsaw to cut shallow, evenly spaced kerfs along the length of the wood strip. The depth and spacing of the cuts should be consistent to ensure uniform flexibility. This particular technique is commonly used in various woodworking projects such as furniture making, architectural millwork, and decorative accents.

If you are curious to learn more about aspects of bent lamination, check out this additional video from Woodshop Mike where he shows this process as he makes the body of a guitar. You can find Mike on instagram at Woodshop Mike or message him right here through the chat feature with questions you may have. In the meantime, here are a few tips to get you started with bent lamination:

  • Keep in mind that, due to the grain structure, flat sawn wood is easier to work with than quarter sawn lumber when attempting to bend wood

  • If using a form to bend your wood, coat the form with a few layers of shellac and/or wax so that your lamination can easily be removed after glue-up and clamping

  • Glues with longer open times are going to be better to use to give you more time to place clamps; a general purpose epoxy is also a great option to give you more working time

If you want to learn more about how to grow your creative abilities, market yourself, or to start making more money, consider joining TMCU today.  Check out our enroll page and invest in yourself… besides, it’s a write-off! We’ll be here to help you create, learn, & connect.


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