This new steam bending technique is revolutionary! A friend of mine, who’s not even a wood worker, uploaded this video on FaceBook and all I could say was “WOW”. It’s one of those ideas that’s so simple yet so helpful, you have to wonder “why didn’t I think of that”. The video features Shipwright Louis Sauzedde demonstrating how he uses polyethylene plastic bags, rather than a traditional steam box, to bend the outwales on his dory.
This alternative steam bending method has multiple advantages over a traditional steam box. First among them is increased working/clamping time. The biggest problem with a traditional steam box is that the minute you remove the wood from the box it starts to cool, limiting your working time and often making for a hurried job. With this method you can actually clamp the gunnel in place while the steam is still being applied. No more frantic dash to beat the cooling wood. You can keep the steam on until everything is clamped into position.
The second big advantage is you’re not limited by length. How many of us have an 18 foot steam box? This method is also inexpensive and one doesn’t have to spend time building a steam box. All you need is a source of steam, a length of heater hose, some fittings and a role of builder’s poly.
Louis uses 6 mil polyethylene melted together. However 6 or 4 mil poly is also available in tube form (It’s used for packaging). A quick search on Ebay for Ebay for “6″ 4 mil poly tubing” will provide you with a list of suppliers. For my own purposes, I’m simply going to buy a role of 6 mil poly from my local building supply shop, cut it into 12″ strips, and double fold and staple it. The seal doesn’t have to be perfect.
How to steam bend wooden boat frames in plastic bags instead of a traditional steam box
Louis Sauzedde’s YouTube Channel “Tips from a Shipwright“.
WoodnMetalGuy’s “Scamp #243: Steam bending” post.