Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Time To Get Steamy

This week I will be running an art experiment!  They're my favorite!  I will be constructing a small steam-bending chamber to explore the feasibility of embossing wood flooring planks.  My earlier work with wood flooring involved staining images into the boards and working subtractively with sand paper.  I remember hearing a comment about how a pattern on one of my pieces looked embossed, and from then on I began to seriously consider embossment as a process.

Steam boxes do not have to be constructed with NASA precision.  All one needs to do is make sure it will not catch fire or explode from over pressurization.  This is avoided by not being an idiot about flammable things near open flames.  Also, one must drill in exhaust holes to allow the steam to flow evenly and continuously through the chamber.  I will be using a 3" diameter PVC pipe that is 4' long with a removable cap at one end and an adapter that will join to a 1.5" pipe.  The 1.5" pipe will have a 90 degree elbow that will connect to a funnel over a boiling pot of water.

The wood needs to be steamed for an hour per inch of wood thickness.  Once the wood is steamed and ready to be bent, one must move very efficiently.  Once the wood is removed, a person has only a dozen seconds to place the wood in the mold.  I will be using clamps to push the design into the wood.  I am glad that the ideal wood for bending is oak since that is the species of wood I use anyway.  I will build the contraption in a few days and have photos/updates as well.

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