Homewood uses the age-old technique of steam bending to achieve strong and seamless bends in their solid wood furniture – bends which cannot be achieved through the use of typical woodworking machinery such as bandsaws.
Over the past four years, Homewood have been keeping the craft alive to bend a variety of woods, ranging from soft woods such as ash to denser woods such as oak.
The trick to this craft lies in keeping in steaming the wood at exactly the right temperature to render the wood soft and supple enough to bend into shape. However, due to the complexity and the difficulty of implementing it on a level of full-scale production, steam bending is not a craft that is widely practiced.
What Makes Steam Bending Superior?
Although this technique posed a major challenge in that Homewood had to make up their own steam kilns, set up bending and clamping jigs and had to literally change their entire process, founder, Ian Perry, believes that the benefits of steam bending were well worth all the effort required to set it into motion.
“After hours of painstaking research and many failed attempts, we pushed forward and found a way to bend woods with different densities and woods that were harder to work with, such as Ofram and Australian Blackwood.
“We ultimately decided to continue with this technique and are proud to say that our furniture pieces are much stronger and more durable than competing products due to this decision,” says Perry.
Strength, of course, is a major benefit since specific furniture components such as curved armrests or backrests usually require multiple pieces of wood to be cut and pieced together. But because steam bending allows a single piece of wood to be curved, there is much less waste in the way of offcuts.
Other benefits, such as having the freedom to add curves into their furniture designs at will and having reduced power demands (since steam bending requires less energy) were also heavy influences in Perry’s decision to employ the technique.
Today, Homewood continue to develop this technique and improve on it, where possible. Currently, the custom furniture manufacturers are searching for ways to incorporate steam bending into more of their solid wood pieces, ensuring consistent quality across all ranges.