Steam Tube

Steam Tube

I read an article in Fine Woodworking a while back about making oval boxes Shaker style. The boxes seem like they would be great gifts for family and friends so I planned to make a few this year. Well, November is already here and I haven’t made a single box yet. Since I have never made the boxes before I’m guessing that there isn’t going to be much gift giving this year.

But I did manage to make a steam tube this weekend which will allow me to bend the wood to make the boxes—when I get around to it.

The tube is simple 6” diameter schedule 40 PVC with an endcap attached at one end and a clean-out attached to the other. I drilled a series of ¼” holes down the side and inserted stainless steel all-thread through the holes. When inserting the all-thread I covered them with a piece of Pex. I’ve heard of metal supports heating up and burning wood but I wanted the support of metal. I don’t know if covering them will help or not but we shall see. I used ¼-20 nuts on the outsides.

To finish up I drilled a couple of ½” holes on the bottom to allow water and air to escape and attached the brass fitting that came with the Earlex steamer that will supply the steam. I also drilled a hole in the top to stick in a cooking thermometer. I’ve heard that schedule 40 pipe gets pliable at 212° so I may have to add a few wooden supports.

I’ve never steam bent anything before so I a anticipating a learning curve.  As long as the tube doesn’t explode I think I will be okay.

Now on to making the forms for the Shaker boxes!

2 thoughts on “Steam Tube

  1. Have you used the steambox yet? I suspect that the PEX will soften and deform under the heat of the steam. It probably won’t matter, though. I used 1/4″ wooden dowels in my steambox to achieve the same result. Yours looks nice, though! What’s the steam source?


    • I have used it and it works fine. I was concerned about the PEX too but was reassured by a friend who is a pipe fitter that it could adequately handle the heat. So far it’s been perfect. I am using an Earlex steam generator as the steam source. However, I’ve only had it a little while so I can’t speak to the longevity but otherwise it works well. When I build another box I’m going to use plywood and make an actual box. I find that I’m limited by the tube. Overall, I’m happy with it and it works well for the small stuff…I’ve yet to make a chair leg that is thicker material. When I do that I may find the PEX melting. Thanks for commenting!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s