Bending the Sides

Now on to something more intimidating: Side Bending. I borrowed someone's light bulb-heated bending iron and had practiced a little with the rosette pieces, so I was ready to attempt bending the rosewood sides.

After much thought and a few different approaches, I found two methods that worked well for me. The first was to soak the wood in warm water for about 30 minutes, and then SLOWLY work the bend, constantly checking it against a template. The rosewood becomes surprisingly limber once it heats up. The second method--which worked much more quickly--was to spray water onto the side, then wrap it in 1 layer of aluminum foil. The foil creates a steam bath the quickly loosens up the wood. The only caveats I found were that it loosened too quickly, so you have to be careful not to over bend and tear the wood, and it can be hard to check your progress without seeing the exact side wood.

In the end I bent each side using a different method, and concluded that the bare wood, extreme patience method is best. It took me about 3 hours per side to really get it.

Here's one side clamped into position on the template while drying overnight.

Once the wood is bent, it will look like hell. Mine looked burnt (but they weren't), some grain lines were really dark, others not so much, and the once smooth wood was now rough and "fibery" looking. Sap from deep within had come to the surface, and there were nasty water marks meandering everywhere. I even split the end when I first started (I stopped that piece and super glued it to stop the split--that worked perfectly--and it will get trimmed off later anyway). Since I'm back-posting these blog entries, I can tell you now that after the sides are assembled and scraped smooth, all of those imperfections disappear and the sides look beautiful.

The above pictures show both sides, after they've dried, just sitting there waiting to be trimmed and fitted. The lighter sap wood on the top edge of the sides will be trimmed away eventually.