Model of a bending jig
Pine, oak, ash, hickory
Winterthur, An American Country Estate
Gragg used steam heat to shape the curved parts of his chairs.
There are two keys to bending wood: lots of steam, and freshly cut straight-grained wood. Gragg used specific woodsash, oak, and hickorythat were easily split instead of sawn and well suited to bending. Gragg first made his chair parts flexible by placing them in an enclosed box that was filled with steam (1), and then he removed the heated parts and bent them over curved jigs, or molds (2).
After cooling and drying, the pieces retained their new shape.
To learn more about wood-bending techniques used in chair making, please watch the video in the Making American Furniture gallery on this level.