Mad, bad and beautiful…

First there were some mad bends, and then some successful smaller bends…

25. Making some mad shapes

Before we finally got the process down almost to a fine art. Just in time for a visit from the Architectural Association students.

28. Passing on the knowledge


Something a bit different for them to see!

31. The bends pile up and the AA students come to visit 1 copy

The curves were beginning to pile up.

27. Divulging the secrets

Time to talk them through the process while the wood is steaming.

29. Letting off steam once the wood is bent

Very relieved to do a perfect bend in front of an audience! Here you can see the steam box cooling down after being hoisted on the pulleys off the hot plank. The steam bending arm has come all the way round and the end of the piece of wood is clamped round the former. The cell structure of the timber has now been altered and will cool to its new shape.

24 Drying in the new shape

And here is one we did earlier. We just keep it clamped into shape until the design of the pavilion will do that for us.


Success at last!


I’m so pleased to be able to show full-length smooth bends at last.  It has been a stressful few days trying to get this wood to bend without cracking. Our former is much stronger than it was and modified in many ways having been rebuilt after every attempt.  Not sure why I always have to push the boundaries and set myself such very difficult targets!

The simplicity and strength of these lines are going to be very striking in the finished sand-dune inspired pavilion for Tom Hoblyn’s garden at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show.



Getting ready for some serious steam bending


All set to steam bend these beauties in an exciting project to design and build a pavilion for garden designer Tom Hoblyn at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show.


Steam bending is an ancient boat building technique, I learnt building traditional wooden boats in Norway. For this project we have built a very long steam box which lifts off once the wood is up to heat. You can see the piece of wood inside the box and the pulley to lift the box off quickly. Once the wood is hot, it is very hard to handle but it is malleable – if you are strong and bend it quickly before it cools down.


This is the former we are bending the wood around with my good friend Jim Tory in action.


This is the arm we use to push the wood round.  It gives good purchase but takes a lot of strength.  Most of the rings and arcs I make for my furniture are turned with a mechanised Ringmaker which I built with my brother-in-law James Powell who is an engineer.


Here it is before the steam box went on. A lot of fine-tuning is going on now to get the wood to take the form without cracking. The knots in the wood are knot helpful.

Great to have this wonderful barn to work in and a great team with Jim, Christoph Kurzmann and some others who are coming along to add muscle power for the bends.

Love a challenge – especially if it involves steam bending solid timber!

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I’m thinking I should start a blog to record some of our more exciting projects!

Here I am in our temporary workshop in the Dorset hills taking on a gargantuan steam bending project to build a pavilion for the Chelsea Flower Show.