|Pegs on which to lay the work to be steamed.|
Because I need to bend long thin strips of wood, I needed something in which those strips can be housed and then bathed in steam sufficient to raise the temperature above 200 degrees. I remembered seeing an old This Old House or the New Yankee Workshop program years ago where Norm used a chamber made from PVC to steam some work. A quick Lougle search and there was tons of info on such apparatus as well as steam production units. In terms of steam production units, the easiest approach would be to take a hot-plate and a tea-kettle and plumb the steam into the steam chamber. There were hundreds of variations of that premise out there using everything from wood-fired rigs to turkey-friers. I decided to purchase a self contained unit that was specially designed for this and came with everything required except the chamber.
|Fitting for steam hose and steam delivery.|
One note on principle here when dealing with steam. Captured steam is really, really dangerous. For one it is hot, above boiling as we all know. It also pressurizes and can generate enormous power. Remember, they used it for powering locomotives and also recall the first steam heater that they produced without safety blow-off valves, which would trip when the pressure got too high, lead to come catastrophic failures. I think Mythbusters did a segment on them as well. So, this means your steam chamber should not, ever, be air tight. There should be no pressure building in it at all. Rule of thumb is that if you have a 1" hose delivering the steam to your chamber, you should have at least a 1" hole to expel the pressure.
|Clean-out end with removable vent peg and thermometer.|
|Finished unit, non-drive end.|
Why did I put the dowel in? I had one chunk left over and it isn't in my nature to leave it unplugged. It just felt wrong. Maybe I'll put a leash on the dowel and attach the other end to the chamber so that when removed, you can't lose it. All about closing the loop. I'm thinking that I may redo that and put a threaded fitting for a garden hose on, which I could then run out the window so the unit could be used indoors without releasing all of the steam inside. Putting all of that moisture in the air would make for a wet mess. The flip side though is that you want to chamber to be hot and trying to keep it warm outside in the New England winter could be a problem.
Just because I could, I added a thermometer to the unit so I could tell what the temperature was inside the chamber. This was a simple BBQ grill thermometer that was intended to bolt onto the top of the grill. To affix it to the pipe I simply bored a hole near the far end of the chamber that was slightly smaller than the OD of the threads on the thermometer. I then screwed it into place on the outside of the pipe.
|Hung in place for storage.|
I've yet to use the unit as I don't actually have ant material to steam at the moment. I think that the next time I may try some different wood, depending on what I can come across. Maybe some maple. I'm not sure how well oak will bend though I've seen plenty oak furniture with loops built into it. Hopefully it all works out. Pretty simple design so I'm sure that it will.