I'm taking a break from cataloging the archives to show off my new spindle bending forms. Lately, most of my designs have been incorporating curved spindles. Once I became satisfied with the specific bend, it was time to come up with a means to achieving it with ease and consistency.
My early methods for making the curves generally took a lot of clamps, awkward wrestling and too much space eaten up in the kiln. The early forms were the negative shape of the curve that I wanted on the inside of the spindles. I chose that, versus shaping via the back of the spindles, because that is the part that actually touches the sitter and I wanted the most consistency I could get.
I decided to make a form that captures both sides of the spindle both for consistency, but mainly to be easy to use and fit in the kiln. Of course, making each spindle a consistent (that word is getting thrown around a lot here!) thickness is vital to ensuring that the form can do it's job.
I shape my spindles 9/16" thick and later relieve the back so that all but the bottom tenon is 3/8" thick. It has a nice flex that helps the gentle curve custom fit to the sitter.
The new forms offer some surprising benefits. Because the spindles are captured front and back, they take longer to dry (I bend them fresh from the steamer), but because the spindles lose their moisture evenly from the two compressed sides, there is no problem with them shifting after coming out of the form. Perhaps I'm imagining this, but it seems that when I pull a piece off a one sided form, that the piece could shift due to differing moisture contents between the exposed side and the covered side. I've seen something like this with continuous arm bends that actually close tighter than the form once removed from it.
Another benefit of the forms is that I can used the edge of the forms to line up the spindles and straighten them side to side at the same time that I bend them front to back. This saves me a lot of time with this wily white oak. But I think that my favorite part of these forms is the ease of loading them and moving the around. I can also easily fit 4 forms with 8 spindles (one extra for shaving mishaps later) in the kiln.
I like to let the spindles air dry in their forms for a few days and then keep them in the kiln to "set" the bend until there is little or no springback.
Of course the final judgement is how they perform in the chair. The consistency is definitely at a new level for my work. Even sitting in a thin shirt, the back feels like a "solid" shape.
Boy, it sure is easier cataloging these posts as I write them, I'm still lost somewhere in 2007!