Learning the art of Wood Bending
A Sunday trip to Modasa with my fellow classmates , Learning the craftsmanship of wood bending by the masters at Windsor Wood India Pvt. Ltd.
While Sundays are usually deemed for one to wake up late, I was up and ready by the break of dawn. With my glass of chai and the staple breakfast of Bun maska in my hand, while waiting at the gate for my friends to arrive I was wondering like a curious child about the new processes we’d get to learn about during the course of our day.
We left for Modasa and embarked on 3 hour journey of falling asleep and waking up till we reached our destination, Windsor Wood India Pvt. Ltd. The first glimpse of the factory was a story in itself, rusting interiors which spoke of how old the establishment has been and survived in the industry, battens of wood stacked upon one another and traditional woodworking tools scattered on the old workshop tables. We were introduced to Mr. Shashwat Suthar ,(CEO of Windsor Woods) who gave us an in depth tour of his factory parallel to familiarizing us with the process of wood bending.
The entire experience of learning about wood bending was more like a whimsical fantasy come true! Imagine seeing this hard piece of wood, thinking about how it could possibly be bent turning into a beautiful curve or even a spiral with a plasticity of its own. The team of carpenters at Windsor weren’t mere woodworkers; they were artists and craftsmen of the highest order.
So here it is, sharing my scribbled notes about the process of wood bending with you, hoping it helps everyone just as much it helped me increase my knowledge base about it.
Types of Woods used-
· White Ash, White Oak, Yellow Cedar, Maple, Cherry and Pine
· The woods used at this establishment are primarily American woods.
Types of Wood Bending
1. Steam Bending
The process of bending wood through steam formed by boiling hot water in a steam chamber.
· It’s important to maintain straight grains, wood retrieved for bending should be from freshly cut logs.
· Quarter sawn and rift sawn logs are preferred for this process
· For a 1 “ thick piece of wood, 40 to 45 minutes of steaming is required
· The moulds for bending the wood are to be cast of metal (M.S) and should be kept ready. As soon as the wood is steamed it is to be set on the moulds for it to gain the desired curve or shape.
Problems with steam bending
· Flexibility as compared to cold bending is low
· Have to set the steamed wood in a span of one to two minutes on the mould immediately its out of the steam chamber.
2. Cold bending
The process of cold being involves slightly changing the cellular composition of the wood in order to provide it with superior plasticity for it to bend and form curves.
· Straight grains of wood and wood from freshly cut logs are an important aspect.
· There are no restrictions for time in cold bending as seen in steam bending.
· White ash, White oak are used more for cold bending due to its porous nature.
· AT least 25% of moisture content should be there in the wood for the process to be successful.
· When the wood is completely dried it will have flexibility in it which is not seen that much in steam bending.
Problems with cold bending
· Difficult in rose wood and mango wood.
· The wood needs to be covered properly with plastic or it will stiffen with time and lose its flexibility.
Apart from all the above processes, we even got a chance to see few of the classic Windsor Chairs with high backrests, sofa, cricket bats and baseball bats at Mr. Suthar's ancestral home near to the factory.
We learnt as to how the Windsor chairs weren’t painted by any artificial paints rather they were painted in original mill paint made out of milk protein and vegetable dye. Not only that we even got to see a piece of burnt wood as a part of the Japanese finishing style of "Shoi Sugi Ban" , where the wood is burnt from above to form a protective layer of charcoal and soot which doesn't let borers and termites feed on it.
The entire trip was a beautiful learning experience, full of interaction and in depth exploration of processes, Our Sunday was surely productive!