The other night I finished up the steam box and made a set of little standoffs for the bottom. I wanted to keep the wood off the bottom of the box to allow air circulation, but also allow water to run back to the low point at the rear. I got a little lazy and didn’t put in dowels like most plans show.
Tonight I loaded it up with eight cap strips and let it run for 45 minutes while I went out and hung some outdoor lights on the deck. When I came back I found that the door had developed a pretty good curl — concave from the outside – and was venting a lot of the steam past the door seal. The spruce inside was fairly pliable, so I clamped three pieces in my bending form and put four more in the rib jigs. They would only fit partway down in the jigs, since the wood is swollen. While the wood cooled down I got all of the geodetic braces ready to install. I’ll glue these two ribs up tomorrow night.
I did email System 3 about their epoxy. Some of the ribs were assembled with the capstrips not pre-bent. They’re fine, but the wood will spring out of shape if it gets hot enough for the epoxy to soften. I don’t want that to happen. so I was thinking about clamping them in their current shape and steaming them to relieve some of the stress in the capstrip. Of course that will soften the epoxy, and I wanted to know what that would do. Their answer is that T-88 will begin to soften at around 120 degrees, but once returned to room temperature will be at full strength. That’s great news.
I’m definitely not in love with the geodetic rib bracing design. 24 braces, no two alike, and I’m having to hand-fit them all. It takes for-freaking-ever. I have to wonder how much heavier 3/32 plywood would be with suitable lightening holes. A guy could pop sets of them out on a CNC router in no time, save a ton of time and effort on the ribs, and probably end up with much stronger ribs too. But, I don’t think I’m going to re-engineer the ribs right now.