Bending Wood and Salt Water
Date: Winter 2009-2010
Before steaming wood to bend it, I was told to submerge
the oak in salt water. Can I just use fresh water and add salt?
Although I know nothing about steaming wood, I see no reason why making
your own salt water using 35g of ordinary salt per liter of water, would not
work just as well as real seawater. Of course, seawater contains other salts
as well, but very little compared to its content of sodium chloride (ordinary
table salt). So whatever the seawater soak is supposed to do, it is sodium
chloride that is doing it, so there should be no difference between using sea
water or your saltwater substitute.
But I really wonder if pre-soaking in salt water will make any
world's most famous chair made from steamed and bent oak (and
sometimes other wood) is the "Thonet Chair". You can see details here...
"http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/No._14_chair". Some 50 million were made
between 1860 and 1930, and all were made by steaming and bending the
wood. There is an ancient video of these chairs being made, that is shown at
the Vitra Chair Museum in Weil Am Rhein, Germany, and one can clearly
see the wood is being put into the steamer, with no presoaking. So I suggest
you first try steaming without the presoaking, before you assume you must
soak the wood first.
I live in Virginia and the watermen often sink their new boats in the
brackish water to swell the wood and reduce the space between the seams of
That is, they soak them in the estuaries that have approximately half the
salinity of the sea.
I do not think it matters whether you soak your boat in fresh or salt water,
But yes, you can add salt to the water to meet your need to soak it in salt
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Update: June 2012