How to Bend Wood

Updated: Dec. 08, 2022

Bending hardwood trim for a countertop

FH99MAY_BENDWT_02-2 bending woodFamily Handyman

Curved hardwood nosing on a countertop can really make your project stand out. Here's how to make a 3/4-in. laminated hardwood nosing that bends perfectly around round countertop corners.

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First, buy or make the strips

There are several ways to tackle this tough chore, but bending wood and laminating several thin strips to create 3/4-in. nosing will give you the best results. The first step is to buy or make thin stock (1/8 to 3/16 in.) for the nosing. For the counter shown in the photos below, we planed 1/4-in. x 2-in. red oak down to 1/8 in. thick. You can also create thin strips by ripping 2-in. thick stock on a table saw with a high-quality, smooth-cutting ripping blade. The strips should be at least 1/8 in. wider than the finished nosing to allow for sanding. They should also be long enough to leave tails that will run a few feet along the straight part of the countertop where you’ll splice in the remaining nosing.

Be sure to select boards with fairly straight grain and no knots so they can bend without breaking. To make the boards even more pliable, we soaked them in hot water in a 10-ft. aluminum gutter. However, if the radius is large enough, you may be able to skip this step. Just make a few extra strips and do a dry test to find out.

Next, glue up the laminated trim

Prepare the hardwood strips

After cutting and soaking the hardwood strips, apply a coat of polyurethane glue to one side of each strip.

Gluing up the laminated hardwood trim

Using three-way edge clamps, begin clamping the stack of strips at the center of the half-circle.

If you soak your boards, use polyurethane glue to laminate them together. Polyurethane glue, which needs moisture to work, gives a long working time and fills gaps well. Be sure to wear gloves; this stuff tends to make a mess.

Spread the glue, stack the strips together and attach them in one step. Using three-way edge clamps (available at home centers), begin clamping the stack of strips at the center of the half-circle. Leave all the clamps in place for at least 12 hours. Remember, you can’t have too many clamps, especially for this job.

Bending Wood with Water: Finally, keep it wet while it dries

Periodically run a wet sponge over the finished assembly

Since the outside dries first, it’s a good idea to wet the outer face frequently for the first three or four hours.

If you soak the strips, it’s a good idea to wet the outer face frequently for the first three or four hours. This will help prevent the outer strip from cupping away from the face, since the outside dries first. An even better option is to clamp an unglued sacrificial strip on the outside so the layers can dry evenly.

Even though this wood-bending technique is time-consuming and challenging to master, it’s so cool that once you’ve tried it, you’ll probably find some excuses to try it again.

Tip: The polyurethane glue will begin to foam as it cures. You can easily scrape the foam off when it’s dry.

Required Tools for this Project

Have the necessary tools for this bending wood DIY project lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration.

  • 3-way edge clamps
  • Air compressor
  • Air hose
  • Belt sander
  • Brad nail gun
  • Clamps
  • Miter saw
  • Paint tray
  • Paintbrush
  • Sawhorses
  • Table saw
  • Tape measure

Required Materials for this Project

Avoid last-minute shopping trips by having all your materials ready ahead of time for bending wood. Here’s a list.

  • Hardwood boards or strips
  • Polyurethane glue