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How Do I Choose the Best Wood Steamer?

Dan Cavallari
Dan Cavallari

Various woodworking projects, especially those concerning furniture building, may require the builder to bend curves into various pieces of wood. In order to do this, a wood steamer will be necessary. Most carpenters will make a wood steamer from scratch, as very few pre-assembled models are available on the market. Making such a steamer is not especially difficult, but it will take some planning and will require the builder to seek out certain parts that will help create an effective steam box. Before beginning the project, it is important to determine how large of a steamer will be necessary; this will be determined by the size of the materials to be bent.

Once the length of the box is determined, the outer shell of the wood steamer can be built using spare pieces of wood in a wood shop, or pieces of water-resistant plywood from the lumber yard. A piece of pipe will also need to be cut to a shorter length than the overall length of the box. PVC pipe can be used, though copper pipe is a better choice. The pipe should be crimped or sealed at either end, and holes will need to be drilled along its length. A larger hole in the center of the pipe should be drilled to accept the hose that will allow steam to be pumped into the box.


It is a good idea to create slats for holding pieces of wood in the wood steamer. This will keep the materials off the floor of the box to more effectively allow steam to soften the wood from all sides. These slats can be nailed to the box floor, or glued; be sure to choose a glue that will not soften due to the heat and moisture within the wood steamer. One end of the wood steamer should feature a door with a latch to allow the user access to the wood inside quickly and easily.

An electric tea kettle can be used to produce the steam that will be transferred through the hose into the wood steamer. An old wallpaper remover can also be used, though these are less common and harder to find. Remember that thicker pieces of wood will need more steaming, so it is a good idea to have a standby pot of water that can be added to the tea kettle during the steaming process. Wood should be bent immediately after being removed from the box.

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