Bending Wood To Create Rounded Arbors

Bent wood garden structures and furniture have long been favored by gardeners, naturalist and lovers of the rustic look.

In fact, this very old form of creating garden accents and practical pieces is also a wonderful way to recycle fallen trees and pruning remains.

There are many different methods to build rounded garden arbors from natural materials. When using rough wood, smaller branches can be notched to prevent them from snapping when bent. Of course fresh wood is more pliable than dried wood. If more extreme curves are required, it may be necessary to soak the wood to increase its malleability. The length of time the wood needs to soak depends on how thick it is. Once wood is bent to the desired degree, it should be secured in place until it is dry.

If your prefer a more polished look for your arbor and still want curved wood without notching it, there are other methods that may work, although they do require some specialized equipment and a bit of practice. These methods also involve the use of heat and steam, so use precautionary measures such as gloves to protect yourself from burns.

Bending irons utilize constant, controlled heat to help bend wood against an aluminum or stainless steel bending strap, and are typically used to bend small, delicate pieces. Smooth, fragile wood can also be soaked in sheets and placed onto a cooling form to help it achieve the desired shape as it dries. The form can be as simple as a rack made from plywood and dowel.

Keep in mind that wood from some species of trees is more difficult to bend than other wood. Some of the easiest woods to bend include Indian rosewood (which has plenty of resin to make it pliable) and maple (because it is tough). Mahogany and walnut are less easy to manipulate, while Brazilian rosewood is very hard to bend.

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