The longer bends (up to 16ft) are now coming out of the steamer and seem to be behaving very nicely.
I decided to add a steel backing strap to each bend. The boards do free bend without a strap pretty easily. But when I was bending the shorter 8ft lengths, I had failures on several of the bends; even the less extreme ones. Also, occasionally, a single board will twist and warp while its being bent and there is no way I can supply sufficient torque to pull it back out of wind before it cools too far to be elastic. I think that the back-strap will maintain a more consistent compression throughout the board, help constrain twisting, keep the board warmer (and so flexible) for longer, and will give me a more consistent bend following the form laid out by the jig.
I love the steaming process. It has a nice rhythm to it. The work can’t be rushed. There is an precision to it that can only be discovered not predetermined. Its all dependent on the weather, the particular board being bent, the vagaries of the particular days work, and the individual curve that needs to be followed. Its a bit like baking bread!
I like to imagine that I’m following in the footsteps of the great 19th Century cabinetmaker, innovator, inventor, industrialist Michael Thonet. I always start my History and Theory of 20th Century Furniture class at CCA with Thonet; his discoveries, set-backs and the development of his company makes such a great story. It’s the perfect exemplar of the industrialization of furniture production based on innovation; from technology and production methods right through to social engineering and international marketing. Apart from the fact that I’ve got on my trusty Blundstone boots, what I’m doing isn’t very far from these Thonet workers a century ago.