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Steam bending gunnels

Discussion in 'Tips and Tricks' started by Paul Miller, Jan 10, 2015.

  1. Paul Miller

    Paul Miller Canoe Nut

    Hi Everyone,

    I've been bending gunnels flat on a table with a very small "Form/jig" for years but don't think I've posted anything about it.

    I mill the the inwales and outwales completely including tappers and rabits.

    I soak in a long tube hanging in the ceiling of the workshop that is 30' long and set on a downward slop to the open end. I usually soak 3 plus days no mater what I'm bending; Mahogany a week.

    The table is a steel welding table on wheels but it need not be that strong but wheels are a must. There are 2 or 3 holes in the table to hold down the jig which is made of 3/4" MDF and need only be 3 to 4 inches wide. (see pic)

    You do the usually measuring to make sure you know where the end of the bend must be on both ends and mark with a pencil. The jig has a pencil mark to match to.

    I don't bolt the gig to the table, only use them as pins to keep the gig in place while bending and then pull the jig and piece off the table with clamps attached and put the other end in the steam box and support the bent end by straps from the ceiling.

    The second end is bent while clamps are still in place so you need a second person to hold that end (wife in most cases). You will see I do use a metal bending strap covered with duck/duct tape to avoid staining the wood. Your partner will hold the other end of the piece as you clamp the piece to the jib bit by bit starting as the joined marks. In the rare case you might need to clamp the tip down if it attempts to roll but once on the jig the piece will not roll off. You rotate the table and the person holding the other end doesn't need to move around as much.

    I do need to make 4 jibs but they are small and easy to store on a pipe on the wall. You really only need the most radical bend form because I only leave them clamped for one day and then return and clamp them to the canoe, top of the inwales, or on the outside for outwales. The wood will easily be opened if the bend is to much as the wood is still a bit pliable.

    I use the same method for stem and must say I got this idea from a picture in a post I saw here years ago but don't recall who I should credit.

    Pics attached

    Let me know if anyone has questions


    Attached Files:

  2. Hummy

    Hummy Canoe Dude

    Pretty ingenious...
  3. robin

    robin LOVES Wooden Canoes

    Hi Paul,
    How long do you steam before you attempt to bend?
  4. OP
    Paul Miller

    Paul Miller Canoe Nut

    Hi Robin,

    The rule of thumb is to steam 1 hour per inch so they were in the steam box about 45 minutes.

    Don't forget to soak them long enough,

  5. Dave Osborn

    Dave Osborn LIFE MEMBER

    I recall you soaking some spruce in kerosene during a Great Rivers Chapter outing at your shop several years ago. It may have been a trial.....We bent them that day using the method you described earlier.
    Are you still soaking in Kerosene?
  6. OP
    Paul Miller

    Paul Miller Canoe Nut

    Hi Dave,

    I have only used Kerosene for soaking Mahogany; that was a tip from Jack McGreivey.

    I find that if I soak the Sitka for a week or more it bends fine.

  7. samb

    samb LOVES Wooden Canoes

    Can you give me more info about soaking mahogany in kerosene? The inwales soaked in water for a week and steamed for 50 minutes (1 hour per inch) and were a real struggle. If kerosene makes it easier, I'll give it a go on the outwales
  8. OP
    Paul Miller

    Paul Miller Canoe Nut

    Hi Sam,

    Not much to it, I hang a 4" PVC pipe from the ceiling pitched toward the open end. The end has a "Y" fitting so I can put them in from the end and fill them from the top of the "Y".

    Then you soak for a week, drain out the end into a bucket to recapture and reuse the kerosene.

    The kerosene seems to permeate the wood more than the water and does not stain or discolor the wood.

    Good luck,

  9. samb

    samb LOVES Wooden Canoes

    No magic then . . . it's just as it sounds. I'll give it a go. Thanks


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