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I just saw a YouTube video where a guy was easily bending cedar strips for his canoe with a heat gun.

The temperature of a heat gun is very hot (over 1000 degrees) but how hot does the wood itself have to be before it can be bent so easily? The motivation for my question is that suppose you don't have a heat gun but you have an oven, you would need to know what oven temp is going to be enough to plasticize the wood.

Do you need to bring the wood to the melting point of lignin, softening point, etc.?

  • To follow up on what @jdv said, you can't really do this in an oven — trad bending techniques involve heating in steam, to both heat the wood (plasticises the lignin) and drive in more moisture (moist wood has more 'give'). If you only heat the wood you run the risk of drying it out further, and dry wood doesn't typically bend well :-) – Graphus May 8 at 5:53
  • Maybe tell us exactly what you are trying to bend as an edit. What species, dimensions, and what you want to achieve. Are you bending a small area, like a guitar body. Or bending a whole piece, like for a canoe? The difference is huge, and totally changes how you would go about doing things. – jdv May 8 at 14:19
  • BTW, welcome to the site. It's common for new folks to not quite get what SE sites are all about, so if you have not already, I encourage you to take the tour so you can see what this is all about, and also get some free rep. – jdv May 8 at 14:23
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The heat gun works because it is localized. You would not bake the wood in a household oven as one piece, but rather apply heat to the places you want to relax so you can form it. Guitar makers use the same techique when bending sides.

For bending larger pieces, you would build or buy a specialized steam oven sized appropriately.

That being said, there are classic techniques for wood-bending and they all involve heat and moisture. There are previous Q&A that might give you more ideas.

As for the exact temperature, I'm sure you can find a reference somewhere, but no one doing this as a hobby cares. You heat it until it feels right, and then apply it to the form. Rinse and repeat.

Certainly you want to stay far away from the flash point of wood, which is ~300C. The idea is to use a pretty hot heat source to quickly get the wood up to some temperature below that so you can work it.

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  • Thank you, but that doesn't really answer my question. – Pam Gifford May 8 at 2:24
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    @PamGifford, I believe it does. Your open-ended Question got the only type of Answer it can reasonably receive, a generalised one with some related facts and further stuff for you to follow up on. There is no firm answer on your main query — what temp the wood has to be — because it depends. It depends on all the things you haven't specified incl. the wood species, the cut of the wood (QS v FS don't bend the same), the moisture content of the piece to begin with, the width and thickness. And FYI if enough of those aren't ideal the answer is it doesn't matter, because you simply couldn't do it. – Graphus May 8 at 6:01
  • @PamGifford you are encouraged to edit your question to make it clear what question you need answering, because I answered the main question even though it isn't relevant (temperature for bending wood), and answered the real question (no, you don't bake wood in a household oven) and described what you would do for bending bendable pieces (apply heat and moisture, either in a steamer, or with a focused source of heat and start bending). – jdv May 8 at 13:58
  • (Unless you have a factory and an industrial steam oven because yoiu are in the steam bending business, in which case you should ask the material scientist you have on staff, or experiment until you get the results you want.) – jdv May 8 at 13:59
  • OK, you are right, I'll figure it myself by trial and error. – Pam Gifford May 8 at 19:59

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