Fun with Steam


Wooden Canoes are in the Blood
In Memoriam
I have been in the process of making new inwales and stems for the D.B. Neal canoe. The 3/4 inch square ash stems were pretty straight forward and bent relatively easily with clamps and Steve Lapey's extra set of hands.

I wanted to try a new approach to the inwales and see if I could bend them all in one shot. I built a 20 foot long combination rail soaker and rail steamer out of PVC. I fired her up today.

I had mixed results. The open end didn't seem to get hot enough. I had a rag stuffed in there. The middle and far end of the tube seemed adequately hot. With a bit of finagling and perhaps leveling of this PVC system it may work yet, especially for cases when you are building a new canoe and clamping the inwale to the form. Maybe a heat source near each end would also assist.

When it came to bending, I was just too busy trying to clamp both ends of the rails to my inwale forms.

I did manage to bend one end (the hotter ends) of each inwale. I'll go back to my pine steam box tomorrow and do up the other ends. The PVC also seemed to lose heat quickly. Wood is a better insulator.

I'd be interested to hear if other folks steam and bend the entire inwale/outwales.


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My experience of using black PVC for a steam tube is that it deformed significantly.
Are there different grades/specs/formulations for different applications?

Hi Rob:

As far as I can tell, PVC is only good to about 140F (you will have to convert to Canadian, because the engineers on this side of the border won't commit to the metric system like the rest of the world), but I digress. I did get some bending of the PVC and that is why I had it supported on a piece of ash. An internet search suggests that there are "chlorinated" PVC pipes, (hmmm polyvinyl chloride - aren't they already chlorinated?) that will take heat near the boiling point.

I still like my wood box.

PS. Great Pick-Up Line in College - "So, do you think we'll go metric"? Still might work!!:D

HI Fitz

I've tried the pvc pipes and they collapse on me. I really like using camper sewer hose. I can't find a photo at the moment but essentially I can put it over the outwale and retract it as I fasten or I can steam the entire inwale and install it on the form. Check Randy Hunt's post on his PY Rainbow restore. we did his keel that way. I set it up on my long bench and run a good amount of steam through. because it has the wire inside the plastic, it doesn't collapse. It will develop holes after a couple years, but the stuff is readily availble at camper stores and walmart, etc. It is easy to store and no trees are harmed in the making of the steamer itself. I insulate it with towels but not sure if that is needed. I've got a video of the process that I maybe could send as email?