How to Arch Wood


Arched and curved wood adds a dimension to woodworking to create pieces that are undeniably dramatic. Standard right angles are fine, but an arch or rounded frame adds depth, flair and another layer of beauty to the pieces you build. Some things like a garden trellis or a head board for a bed are much more interesting with an arch. The technique to arch wood is relatively simple; however, creating the end result requires practice and patience.

Things You'll Need

  • Arch form
  • Steam box or extra large PVC tube with cap
  • Drill
  • 2 inch plastic or rubber tubing
  • Clamps
  • Heat source
  • Design the arch you want to achieve. You can create a form to mold your wood by either cutting a larger piece of lumber with the curve you desire if the curve is something that can be cut into a plank, for example. Another form is to put wood dowels or pegs into a peg board that the wood can be curved around after steaming. The wood can be bent over a barrel and secured with bricks for a larger arch.

  • Set up a containment chamber that will fit the wood you want steamed. Purchase a long tube of PVC larger than the wood. Cap the end and drill one or two small holes in the cap to release pressure. An alternative is a steam box, which is really any large wood or metal container that can hold the wood and retain steam.

  • Place the wood into the PVC tube or steam box. Attach the tubing to an entry point. If using PVC just lay the hose in the open end. If using a steam box it should have a fitting or create a hole to put the hose into.

  • Heat the water in the pot or kettle. If using a kettle the method is simple, attach the other end of the tubing to the spout of the kettle and bring the water to a boil. Continue boiling and adding water to create steam. The steam will pump through the tubing into the containment box and permeate the wood.

  • Steam the wood for one hour for every inch of thickness in your piece of wood.

  • Remove the wood from the steam box or PVC and put it in the form. Bend the wood carefully and secure or clamp in place. Allow it to dry. If you can't get the wood to bend completely it may take more than one steaming to bend the wood all the way.

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