In 2016 I finally figured out the secret to bending kiln dried wood...............which is to first soak it in water and Downy fabric softener for 7 days before you steam it.
I then successfully made 2 clocks with steam bent main components. When I got them done, I then decided to make about 6 of the steam bent baskets that Rockler sent a pattern for when I bought the steam box.
As of May 2021, you can still download this plan from the Rockler website under their listing for their steam generator. You can also download it using this link.
In the plan article, it says the author tried kiln dried ash for steam bending the handle, and several pieces broke. Then he got air-dried ash, and it worked. But, the article also says he did not have the steam chamber hot enough when he did the kiln dried. He also did not use a steel bending strap.
Based upon my experience with kiln dried white oak, I am going to do the following:
1. Buy kiln dried ash from Rockler. I have no known source for air dried ash.
2. Design a bend fixture that does use a steel strap/clamp set-up.
3. Soak the ash in water and Downy for 7 days before steam bending.
I think this is the most robust process design I can come up with, to be successful.
I redrew the plan in Sketchup, because I need to design a new steam bend fixture...........because the fixture in the plan is not designed to be used with steel clamping.
I redrew the straight view of the ash handle, so I could print out a pattern to use to make them.
This old dado set was an economical one, but it has a lot of tear-out, or blow-out when the dado set exits the work-piece.
I made a trial box out of pine, to make sure the settings were all correct. I did get tear-out on the pine........so when I switched to the cherry wood, I inserted a piece of sacrificial Luan thin plywood behind the cherry work-piece. This prevented any tear-out.
I used the string and nail (or bolt) method of clamping up the box. I made sure it was square using a small machinist square.
The plans call for changing out the dado set for a saw blade, then cutting 45 degree angles on the edges sticking out on the box. I just took my Dremel with a 1/2" diameter drum sander and put on the chamfers.
The plans called for an 1/8" chamfer, but I used a 1/8" round-over router bit all around the top and bottom of the base piece.
I set the box on top of the bottom plate, then made sure the gap all around between the box and the plate was about even. I put pencil marks on the ID and OD of the box, at 4 points in the center of each side. I drilled a pilot hole about 1/8" in the center of these marks. Then I set the box back on the base plate. Holding it carefully, I flipped it over, making sure the plate did not move with respect to the box. Then I countersunk drilled the 4 holes for the wood screws. This method worked pretty well.
Out of curiosity, I wondered how much the inner part of the steam bent handle compresses.
With the bending strap, the outer length in theory does not change during bending, it stays at 29 inches. In reality, the plumbing straps have a little give, but we are going to assume 0% practical length change.
Using Sketchup, I calculated the amount of compression the inner radius sees during a bend.............
At first, I looked at the entire 29 inches length, and only got 1.19% compression. This is true over the entire length, but does not accurately reflect the compression just at the bend radii.
So, just at the bend radii, the compression is a whopping 12.7%. It is amazing that wood will compress this much. However, it will take almost no tension on the outside of the bend before it splinters. The Veritas steam bending booklet says that tension greater than 1/2% on the outer radii will break the wood.
Next step was 3 rounds of 220 grit and pure gloss polyurethane. On future models, I could try mineral oil also. Mineral oil worked good on previous cherry animated toy models.