Bending Dry Wood – Testing the Noumenon

I took a 10-foot piece of 3-inch PVC pipe and cut it into three 40″ pieces and glued on end caps to use as my re-conditioning chambers for the dried wood in preparation for steam bending it.  I filled each of the three with “modified” distilled water.

In the first case I added 1% Everclear 151, if you recall I have a lot laying around, to do nothing more than reduce the surface tension of the water and induce greater and quicker penetration.

For the second tube I added 1% of a mild detergent to act as a surfactant.  I would have used some Kodak Photo-Flow, an artifact from ancient days when photography was a film-based process rather than the electron aggregation it is now.  I could not find my bottle of Photo Flow (ordering more now) so I added some mild soy-based detergent, fairly neutral in its properties.  Were I being anal retentive I would have used Triton-100 pH neutral detergent but I don’t have all that much of it left and it is pricey.  Like the ethanol the purpose of the detergent is to act as a surfactant “wetting” agent and induce greater and quicker penetration of the water.

The final tube of distilled water was enhanced by 1% Downy fabric softener, to impart lubricity to the wood fibers.  I have to assume that the Downy has some portion of surfactant/detergent in it for the same purposes I am using, namely penetration and induced lubricity between the wood fibers.

I added one more of the modifications to this exercise, namely the increase of the wood surface area via a toothing plane.  Using one of my toothing planes I worked the flat sides of the wood strips until they were completely toothed, thus doubling the surface area.  Combining the expanded surface area with the surfactants in the modified water I can envision excellent penetration and wetting/re-conditioning.

I prepared a couple of each of the bent wood elements, serpentines, arms, and uni-splats, and stuck them into the tubes of wetter water.  To make sure they were completely submerged on the top end I cut and stuffed pieces of hardware cloth into the ends then topped off the tubes.  What I’m reading from the interwebz and private correspondence the pieces need to stay submerged for a week, so it’s looking like Friday morning will be Steam Bending Day.

I await the event with anticipation.  Even if everything is a complete failure I will have learned something important.  But, if everything is successful I will have the necessary parts in hand to begin L’il Gragg.  Probably not in time to finish before L’il T’s birthday, alas.