Hands On

MAR/APR 2004
Volume 47/Issue 2

Project Articles
Strip Laminate Bending
The Turned Hall Tree
Two Great Kitchen Gift Items

Ask Smitty
Owner’s Gallery
Letters from Owners
New Baby Workshop Calendar
Academy Notes
Clean Cuts - Pt. 5 - Sharpening Jointer, Molder & Shaper Knives
Service Pointers
Troubleshooting the Shopsmith Lathe Duplicator
Safety Tips
Safety Cans for Flammable Liquids

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Strip Laminate Bending

At one time or another, you may have avoided making a project with curved components, simply because you didn't know how to go about bending the wood. Perhaps you wanted to create some curved legs for a table or a curved arm for a chair. Strip laminating gives you a simple, down-to-earth way to form curves in wood...without belching steamers, toxic chemicals or Rube-Goldberg-looking apparatuses.

Actually, strip laminate bending is nothing more than ripping or resawing thick stock into thin strips, then reassembling them into the shape you want. In other words...turning straight wood into curved wood. It's a process that not only throws wide the doors to your project design capabilities...but also creates projects that are far stronger and more durable than those crafted by cutting curved pieces from solid stock.

Step 1: Getting Started
Perhaps above all else, strip laminate bending requires careful planning. Whether you're using someone else's plan or designing your own project, a full-scale drawing is essential! Next, use this drawing to create a full-scale template of your curve, using a rigid material such as 1/8" or 1/4" tempered hardboard or hardwood plywood containing no voids. Use a Bandsaw or Scroll Saw to cut out your template.

Figure 1
Fig. 1 A Single-Piece Form

Step 2: Designing Your Form
Strip laminate bending can be performed using either a Single-Piece Form or a Positive/Negative Form.

With a Single-Piece Form, clamps are used to hold the laminated strips tightly against the curved form (See Fig. 1).

With a Positive/Negative Form, the laminated strips are “sandwiched” between two mating forms, which are then clamped together.

As you can see in Figure 1, when using a Single-Piece Form, it's best to position your clamps with their bars on the outside edge of the curve to keep the clamps from interfering with one another.

Figure 2
Fig. 2. A Positive/Negative Form

Figure 2 clearly shows how a Positive/Negative Form requires fewer clamps and spreads the clamping pressure more evenly. However, it will require more time to make.

Step 3: Fabricating Your Form
The best materials for making bending forms are dense particleboard or plywood. To reduce flex and provide rigidity during clamping, forms should be no less than 3" wide and about an inch thicker than the stock to be bent.

For smaller forms, glue and nail the layers of particleboard or plywood together, then trace your curved design onto the top layer and use your Bandsaw to cut out the form. Use your Disc Sander and Drum Sanders to obtain your final contours.

Tip: The up-down motion of Shopsmith's Oscillating Drum Sander Attachment will help you achieve greatly improved results when sanding forms that are 3" or more wide.

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