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I tried to upload a photo with no luck... anyway. I want to make a sofa that's curved. Not flat and cut in a curve but bent... how do you curve wood for minis? Do you steam it? 


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In the past, I've boiled wood in a pan of water, made it conform to a desired shape, a form made from pine, placed it into the oven at a temperature a little over the boiling point, 230° to 240°, until I felt it was dried out, and then had at it...


Now, in the case of an "S" curve, like that above, the wood was sandwiched between two forms, but you only have to make one cut into the pine.  I think I used wire, something heat-proof, to hold the "sandwich" together, and tightly.

Incidentally, I made the handles out of cherry, too, and had boiled and notched them for their curves.

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Thank you! Do you find that some woods bend easier than others? I read Ash is quite flexible. Might you have a good source to buy small pieces of wood? Thanks again. That dresser is fantastic! 

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Thank you.  That is a lady's lingerie chest, and at 5" in height.  I had stained that one.

Cherry isn't too difficult; mahogany may be more so.  It all depends on the tightness, the steepness, of the curve desired.  This tight curve of mahogany required notching it in addition.  You can see the notches on the underside of the bonnet...


I made that back in '94.  I would fill in, disguise, the notches if I made it today.  When bending, do it slowly, allowing it to flex back as you go along, and until the desired shape is reached.  You may even have to pop it back into the boiling pot, depending.  The grain may splinter some, but that's easily sanded away after the wood is dry.  If the splintering leaves gouges, then you have to start over; I would at least, as I don't like to fill wood, specifically the precious woods.  The mahogany you see there was sealed only; unfilled and no stain...


For veneer in 1/32" and 1/40" thicknesses, and thicker in 1/16" and 1/8", I've found Constantine's in Fort Lauderdale to be something of a goldmine for the better woods...


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Hello again Miniature Studios!

Thanks for all the info. If you can still see the photo of the sofa I added.... are you able to tell me what thickness veneer I should order? 

If it's going to be painted should I just get the least expensive and most flexible? I very much appreciate  your help!


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Hi Kathe,  

I admire your ambition to make a sofa like this as your first furniture item in wood, although as you are painting it, you could consider using 3mm (1/8") plywood. A much cheaper way of trying out miniature woodworking. Rather than bending the rails I would cut them 'in the flat' and shape them by sanding the edges (actually I would still do that if I made it from 'proper' wood). You then angle the ends to fit higher at the back and lower at the front post.  That way you can first make the seat then the rails and the internal upright bits. Look for some photos of what it looks like without the upholstery. The upholstery I would do using panels made of card and some quilt wadding on the inside first and finish off with panels on the back. 

just for info: you could bend veneer up to 2mm (3/32") by making a mold. I've done this with ladderback chairs. The added advantage is that they all end up the same. Just a block of wood that you saw in half with a slightly deeper curve than you want, that you can clamp together with rubber bands.  The grain of the veneer has to be in the same direction as the curve. 

As the sofa will be painted I would only use carvable wood where it is necessary for carving.  Carving works best on lime, steamed pear and boxwood. I prefer steamed pear.  I've tried mahogany, but it splintered too much. You mentioned Ash, but I think it has too course a grain for miniatures.  I started carving with a short scalpel and a very cheap set of miniature screwdrivers (£3-£4 then) that I angled and sharpened on sandpaper to make mini chisels with 220, 320 and 1200 grit, just because I had these. I had no prior knowledge of these kind of tools or how to use them. These mini screwdriver chisels don't last long as the metal is quite soft, so you have to resharpen them quite often, but trying this first gives you time to investigate a good set of micro or mini chisels and gouges or learn to make your own.  

There is a series of 3 YouTube videos, by Patrick Sullivan, titled Making Detail Carving Tools. He makes it look easy and you don't need much in terms of tools and prior knowledge of metal working. 

There is also a YouTube video of David Hurley working on a set of miniature carved and bent chairs on Lee Stoffer's channel from about a year ago.  I was amazed at his tiny workspace!

Good luck with your sofa!



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In case you are not aware, Lime wood is basswood in the USA, here is a link to the wood database.  Basswood is inexensive hardwood if you are in the USA, and easily available to hobby stores nationwide.


I was in a class with Nancy Summers at Guild School and she used Cherry Wood for our project that year.  The class was upholstering, not creating the furniture, but I'm sure my curved piece was solid wood, not veneer as it is easily seen in the end grain.

My personal preference when I am painting something is to use basswood.  If I am staining I like cherry or walnut as it is easily obtainable in our 'neck of the woods'.

Remember to review wood toxicities too, especially, if you have allergies and to wear a dust mask with power equipment.  I probably would not wear a dust mask when I was using hand carving tools, only when using electrical equipment...

If you want steamed pear or boxwood, you can import, find online and/or at hardwood lumber suppliers or purchase from Steve Goode.  I have purchased from SHGoode in the past.  


The advantage of working with Steve is that he is a minature lumber supplier.  If you purchase online, you are not likely to get the thickness of wood that you may desire, so it has be resawn on a bandsaw, or planed to the correct thickness for your project.




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On 9/19/2017 at 4:54 PM, Kathe said:

are you able to tell me what thickness veneer I should order?

IMO, anything less than about 1/16" thick isn't going to be sturdy enough for your sofa.    However - you can get much thinner veneer and glue together several layers.   This is called a lamination.   Thick wood doesn't bend easily but thin wood does; and a lamination allows you to get tighter curves.    Your sofa looks like it has fairly tight curves so you might need to use a lamination.  Your form will need to cover the wood on both the inside and outside of the curves (so you can press the lamination between the two pieces of the form).   Put one layer of boiled/steamed wood around the "inner" form, slather another layer with glue, smooth it onto the first layer ...   keep repeating until you have the desired thickness, then put on the "outer" form and clamp it all together until it is dry.   Since it will be covered by the form on both sides it will dry slowly - leave it at least overnight if not longer.  Waxed paper on both faces of the lamination is a good idea - keeps the lamination from getting glued to the form.   Shape your upper rail after the wood comes out of the form - you won't be able to perfectly line up all the lamination layers and you will have to trim/shape the edges. 

You will get some amount of "springback" - when you remove your formed wood from the form, it will relax somewhat (i.e., spring back) and will be larger than the form.   Best plan is to make the curves on your form a little tighter than your desired end piece.   It's not to hard to force the bent wood into a slightly wider curve after it's formed, but it you try to force it into a tighter curve you're likely to break it.   I can't tell you how much it's going to spring back - there are all kinds of calculations to predict that and I find that most of them aren't accurate with very thin layers of veneer. 

BTW, when you boil your wood, more is not better.   Boiling it too long removes all the lignins from the wood and then it will crack/break and not bend.  You will have to experiment with your wood to get the right timing - for 1/16" thick cherry 10 - 15 minutes seems to be about right for me.  Longer than that and you are risking breakage.   For thinner veneer I would guess 5-8 minutes - but that stuff cools so fast that you will need to have all your tools, supplies, molds, glues, etc. all arranged and laid out before you take your wood out of the pot. 


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