Woodworking - Working with Curves

     One of my hobbies is wood working.  I don't spend all of my spare time remodeling, sometimes I build stuff in the shop.  

      I like the look of curved wood and decided to build a couple of curved top trunks.  One has the look of a pirate chest and the other is a cedar chest with neat box joints that hold it together.  The box joint is a really cool looking joint; and easy to make with a dado head and sliding jig on your tablesaw.  I'll try and cover this in a how-to article down the road.

      The compound curve of the Pirate chest was really a pain to make.  I had to first make a solid form to use as a base that would be sturdy enough to use in a vacuum clamp and not deform.  The next step was to cut out veneer and glue and clamp it, so that it would have the appearance of being a solid piece of wood.  The veneer plies were all cut out of the same board on the tablesaw so that after the glue dried the grain would match and give the appearance of being a solid piece of lumber, not a piece of plywood.  After all of that comes sanding and cutting the pieces to that they can fit and be assembled.  This all sounds like a lot of work, doesn't it?  Well it is!

    Well . . . Last week I bought some doors that were advertised on Craigslist, here in Gig Harbor.  I went over to pick them up and the guy had a shop full of amazing curved and twisted wood sculpture and objects that were unbelievable; and to my trained eye, simply impossible.  I have built and installed curved bars, desks and staircases over the years  and know how much work is involved.  This guy had solid hardwood over an inch thick bent like a ribbon on a Christmas Present.  All types of hardwoods were represented . . . Maple, Cherry, Red Oak, White Oak and more.  These are woods that do not bend well even after many hours of steaming.

     Who is this wood magician, and how does he do it?  That is what I had to find out.  I made an excuse to come back the next day, because the owner wasn't there when I picked up the doors.  I just had to learn more about this Crazy Bent Lumber.

     The next afternoon the owner, Chris Mroz met me at the shop. We shook hands and he gave me a tour that amazed me.  His company Pure Timber LLC. manufactures structural components, furniture parts and sells the wood directly.  They have branched out into musical instruments and can bend solid snare drum bodies, that are state of the art and highly desired by musicians. 

      I took a couple of samples out of their waste bin and played with them.  The wood almost had the properties of leather; It is that pliable.  The piece of wood in the picture is almost 1/2" x 1/2".  There is no possible way that you could tie it in a double knot like this, with steam bending.

     Chris Mroz has the only machine of its' kind in North America.  It compresses the wood under extreme pressure.  A board starting out at 10' length will be compressed to 8' in length upon completion.  It is kind of like one of those bendy straws.  It will just crimp or fold up when you try and bend it, but add the accordion compression's and the straw will bend there with ease.  The machine compresses the cellular structure, so that the wood cells overlap, kind of like the accordian structure in the straw.  It is probably a lot more complex than that, but that is my simplified explanation of what happens.

     Anyway, next time I need to bend some wood, I'm going to call on Chris and make my life and project a lot easier.   You should also, this is a link to purchase his products:  http://www.puretimber.com/videos/