Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Steam Box Testing

  I put together a steam box from 2" rigid insulation about 26 inches long and 5 x 5 on the inside. I just wanted to try things out so maybe it would be best to keep things small.

Box started to come apart after an hour.
  Well it worked pretty good, there was no waiting to reach 200 degrees. The box was pressurizing and needed more venting holes. I drilled quite a few then things seemed to be under control. The temperature went much higher in there than the temperature gauge would read. The box began to melt and swell on the inside (see below). The venting soon stopped that. I am going to try a plywood box next time and add insulation to the outside if it takes too long to bring the box to temperature.

Kinda looks like what Jonah saw before going into the whale eh?
   For generating steam I purchased a fabric steamer from Doug at the local Home Hardware. It holds about 2.2 litres of water and will steam for an hour before using all the water. The water reservoir can be removed for refilling during operation so there is no interruption to the steam. They no longer carry this model but the next one down (2 litre) should do just fine.

Steam is dangerous, use heavy gloves, long sleeves and keep your safety glasses on at the very least.
Conair brand fabric steamer.
   The steam box pressurizing caused the steamer to backup to the water reservoir. (The safety instructions warn of gurgling noise and steam backup so I was ready just in case) The water began spilling out and the jug began to heat up. I took immediate action to shut things down by cutting the power to the steam generator. Live steam is very dangerous. Take all safety precautions. I always do this outdoors next to my shop. More room around the setup the better. Remember the hottest steam is the that which is invisible. It only becomes visible as it cools.

  All in all the test was successful at making a 1 x 1 inch by 24 inch long piece of walnut pliable enough to bend around a form. I was not burned in the process, my largest concern.
  I need to work on a new more robust steam box and I am sure I will find some inefficiencies in my bending procedures next. Lee Valley sells a nice steam bending setup with a ratchet at there store. Strap and ratchet make a nice father's day gift.

  The weather is starting to heat up too. It was like 34 Celsius with the humid ex today, looking to be 41 tommorrow. Thankfully I was able to get some help cooling down.

Humidity is a real pain when woodworking. Everything swells, finish takes longer to dry, etc. Usually I shut things down during a heat wave but check out the gauges below. I was pushing it a little. Coat anyone?

Mr. Freeze's results in the shop.
Thanks for looking

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