Help straighten my lamp...
July 9, 2007 6:58 PM   Subscribe

Bending a piece of wood... how?

Okay, so I've got an L-shaped piece of wood that's probably 40 years old.

If I lie the L down on it's thin edge, there's a bow to it. The bow is about 1.5 inches, which I think is significant. I'm worried the weight of the shade will make it more significanter over time. Any way to un-bow it?

It's the main wood bar in this lamp. (You can even see a slight bend to the left in the photo).


And no, nothing else in that picture is mine so no comments on my decor skills, pls. ;)
posted by dobbs to Media & Arts (11 answers total)
Wood is typically bent (warped) by soaking it in water to loosen it up, then reshaping it and letting it dry... here's a google search that yields lots of info on how to bend wood, which should be equally effective in unbending wood.

I'm not sure if that's a good idea, as I don't know if doing this would actually weaken it even more than it already may be... that's a risk you'll have to weigh.
posted by twiggy at 7:05 PM on July 9, 2007

It looks like it's laminated wood, so there is probably no way to bend it back.

If it's a solid piece of wood you could try steaming it.
posted by 517 at 7:06 PM on July 9, 2007

Each time the wood is soaked enough to become flexible, it also suffers permanent reduction to its dry strength.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 7:24 PM on July 9, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks for the answers so far.

Hmm. If I lie it on its thin side so it looks like an L drawn on the floor and then pile books and boxes of stuff will it go back to shape eventually or snap or... ?
posted by dobbs at 7:30 PM on July 9, 2007

I've seen someone on TV put a piece of wood in a steamer or steaming device for a few minutes and found it to be rather pliable after that.
Then again, it may not work with your particular type of wood.
posted by itchie at 7:35 PM on July 9, 2007

Dry wood breaks, wet wood bends. It won't change shape unless you get it wet. You'll have to either soak it or steam it, while also applying lots of force in the direction you wish it to bend.
Piling weight on it on your living room floor won't work; but putting it in a very tight "splint" (strong spring clamps? a come-along strap?) to a piece of unbending pipe and then leaving that contraption in a tub of water for some time possibly might. Or it might ruin it.

It would be much much easier it you wanted to shape it longways (bowing the lamp closer to the base) than laterally (move lamp to left or right). The former IS possible with plywood - the latter, I dunno.
posted by bartleby at 7:48 PM on July 9, 2007

how about planing it down until the remainder is straight?
posted by penciltopper at 7:53 PM on July 9, 2007

If it is laminated, I wouldn't try anything: any sort of permanent bending will involve water and the glue used may very well not be waterproof. If it is solid wood you could soak or steam it as others have suggested above, but you'd probably have to strip the finish first to get the water to penetrate at all.

The bending that you have now is probably a result of the particularities of the wood grain, rather than the weight of the lamp. There probably isn't much to be done about it.
posted by ssg at 8:01 PM on July 9, 2007

There isn't really anything you could do without damaging whatever finish is on the wood.

The lamp does appear to be laminated, with two thin layers of veneer sandwiching a thicker core - is this correct?

Based on my experience with wood, there isn't too much that you could do that would correct this bend without risking damage to the lamp.

I'd even hazard a guess that the bend was in the wood when the lamp was manufactured.

I would leave it alone, and live with it as it is.
posted by davey_darling at 8:07 PM on July 9, 2007

Response by poster: Upon closer inspection it's 18 pieces of wood--2 thickish ones and 16 thinish ones all stuck together. :(

davey, your suggestion that it was this way when manufactured didn't occur to me but seems kinda likely now that you mention it.
posted by dobbs at 8:21 PM on July 9, 2007

For future reference, when steam bending solid wood or gluing laminate you sometimes want to sandwich it between two layers so that splinters don't pop up on the convex side.
posted by BrotherCaine at 3:54 AM on July 12, 2007

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