Some time ago, I discussed how much I enjoy adding curves to my designs and how influential the bandsaw has been in guiding my work. However, curves cut from solid timber have their limitations. If the curve has too much of an arc, the piece is no longer structurally sound because of the changing grain direction. Also, it’s unlikely to be visually appealing because the curve can only follow the flow of the grain up to a point. This is a point worth stressing, because matching grain direction to the shape of a component is crucial to the harmony and balance of the entire piece.
Another limitation is in designs that call for a helical shaped component – a component that curves in more than one plane, such as the handrail on a staircase at the point where the staircase turns or this Tango Lamp. There are a few methods for creating components like this and for the this lamp, I decided to use a technique called bent lamination.
The idea behind creating curves with bent laminations is rather simple. Since thin pieces of wood (say 1/16″ or 1/8″ thick) bend a lot more readily than thicker pieces, fairly extreme curves can be achieved by stacking thin strips together (with a layer of hard setting glue in between) and bending them around a form. If the strips are kept in order, the edge grain matches reasonably well – particularly in darker woods where the glue line is less noticeable. Better yet, since the face grain is very similar between successive pieces, it’s easy to make multiple components appear almost identical by using strips cut in succession as the face laminate for each component.
As always, thanks for reading.