During the summer my steam box took its last hot breath. The interior bits had rotted away, as had the door and its hinges. I pitched the thing, planning to build a replacement.
Then I thought: Am I really happy with the Earlex wallpaper steamer that powers it? It’s fine for small chair parts, but I probably need an additional steamer to keep the temperature constant when dealing with thick armbows.
I did some math in my head and decided to try something different.
I bought a stock tank – a steel watering trough for farm animals – that measures 1’ x 2’ x 6’. Then I put it on my gas stove in the kitchen to heat the water.
Boiling your bits is just as effective as steaming them. On Monday I bent my first two arms (1” x 1-3/8” x 51” in red oak) using the new setup. The tank is bigger than I really need, but I might teach a chair class in the future where we bend the arms.
How did it work? Fine, as expected. The only pain-in-the-butt part was removing the water from the stock tank. This one doesn’t have a drain (yet), so I had to scoop out the water into the sink.
I also had a constant worry that the cats were going to jump in the hot tank, and I’d find three floating carcasses in there. (Actually, I was only worried about Wally. He’s both curious and dumb.)
So for the next batch of arms, I’m probably going to buy a propane camp stove ($150) and do the operation outside.
Bonus: For our next party, I’ll have a great place to chill the beer in the stock tank. And I’ll have additional cooking facilities for making chili (with black beans, not Wally-flavored) as I smoke some ribs.
— Christopher Schwarz