Plywood Bending Techniques

By Donna Armstrong

You can use plywood that has been bent to a radius to cover many surfaces that it would not normally fit. Learning plywood bending techniques gives you useful skills that you can use in a wide array of carpentry projects. Craftsmen use two techniques to bend plywood: kerf cutting and steaming. You can use these bending techniques with any thickness or grade of plywood.

You need a saw for a kerf cut.

Kerf Cutting

Step 1

Measure the surface where you plan to install the plywood and determine the center of the curve. Determine the radius and mark the plywood at the center point of the curve, then measure outward from the center and mark the length of the radius on both sides of the center. For example, if the radius of the curve is 3 inches, you will mark the plywood 3 inches on each side, measuring from the center.

Step 2

Mark the plywood in 1/2-inch intervals from the center to each outside mark. First-timers can use 1-inch intervals until comfortable with kerf-cutting.

Step 3

Cut the plywood on the ½-inch marks. Since a kerf cut is a partial cut, cut through only 2/3s of the thickness of the plywood. Cuts should not exceed the width of the saw blade.

Step 4

Place wood glue in all the cuts and along the inside edges of the plywood.

Step 5

Bend the plywood to the shape needed; clamp the panel in place until the glue dries.


Step 6

Find the radius and center of the bend needed by measuring the curve. Mark the center point on the plywood panel. Mark the length of the radius on both sides of the center mark.

Step 7

Stack the wood blocks on sawhorses or a table to simulate the curve you wish to achieve. For example, if the curve has a 5-inch radius at a 30-degree angle, set up the block to have a base of 10 inches and stack the middle blocks high enough to provide a 30-degree angle to the outside blocks.

Step 8

Soak the rags with hot water.

Step 9

Line up the plywood with the blocks so that the center mark on the plywood is balanced on the center block.

Step 10

Lay the wet rags on the plywood in between the two outside marks. Allow the water to seep onto the plywood.

Step 11

Re-soak the rags every six to eight hours and reapply them to the plywood for two days. Do not allow the plywood to dry.

Step 12

Bend the plywood over the blocks and clamp it to the wood blocks. Remove the rags and allow the plywood to dry.