Want to design a furniture piece or interior that incorporates bentwood, but don't want to deal with the hassle of steaming? A company called Pure Timber produces Cold-Bend™ hardwood, which lets you skip right to the clamping/bending step. Check this stuff out:
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So how is that possible? Is this stuff real wood? As the company explains,
Cold-Bend™ hardwoods are…indistinguishable from clear, straight grained hardwood because that's what it is. It has just been subjected to carefully controlled, but intense, longitudinal thermo-mechanical compression. The hardwood has been engineered to be extremely flexible (as long as it is moist). Once cold-bent by hand (or with jigs, clamps and fixtures), Cold-Bend™ hardwood is dried to fix the shape.
Why does it work? It works because it can stretch. When wood bends, it has to stretch on the outside of the curve, which gets longer. Wood can't stretch, so steam benders use a steel backing strap on the outside of the curve to force compression to the inside of the bend (the inside gets shorter, but the outside stays the same length). With Cold-Bend™ Hardwood, the wood is compressed before it is bent. Therefore it can stretch on the outside of the curve during bending - no steam or backing strap needed. Since the wood is first plasticized in an autoclave and then compressed in a hydraulic press, very tight radiuses can be bent. We can bend it in any direction, make S-curves, twist it, and bend it on edge.
You can learn more about the stuff here.
h/t Popular Woodworking