Trial and Error… and Error… and Error

Just keep reminding me how awesome it is to have a turret.

I KNOW it is. It’s probably the same feeling that people with children experience. You love them, and you are willing to do anything for them, but every once in a while, you have no idea what to do with them and you’d really like to yell at them (and you do). This isn’t the first time I’ve compared restoration to parenthood. And probably not the last.

I love my turret. I DO. But I am DONE with it.

Sadly, by “Done with it,” I mean emotionally. Physically? Not even close.

Be prepared for zillions of pictures. Doug did science, and with that, comes a lot of documentation. I’m going to try and translate it the best I can!

Science in Renovation

“The Steambox Turret Saga of ’16!”

(Part One)

First, it’s not technically a box, which troubles me. It’s more like a Steamtube. So, what’s a steambox? It’s a device to allow you to steam wood, to make it more pliable, to allow it to curve, which is what we needed to do to recreate the woodwork in the turret. It’s not easy.

You take a large piece of PVC piping, and use a cap for the end.


You drill into the cap, and attach the hose from a wallpaper steamer.



You connect it all together with a cap on the other end, which you drill a hole in to vent. VERY IMPORTANT, so it doesn’t explode from the pressure.





We set it up in the basement, and tried a test piece.

Here’s the Steambox put together. First, you need a dark, damp cellar of a basement, that’s cluttered and messy and has horrible lighting for any type of picture. Next, we used a plastic generic work table to set the steambox on, and also the wallpaper steamer (sitting behind it). Underneath the vent hole, you need a bucket or something to catch water. The lime-green bucket definitely adds a bit of brightness and whimsy to such a depressing environment. 🙂


The test piece went in – fingers crossed! Once it’s in, we left it for about 90 minutes.



The test piece came out soaked, from the water pooling on the bottom. So, Doug used some wire to build a platform / strainer to set the wood on.




Meanwhile, while steaming, he built some curves, to use as the forms. These are in the same diameter (or with a little more angle) of the turret. We’ll clamp the steamed wood to these forms to make the correct (correct enough?) radius.


Second try? Not so good, either.


Third try seemed to have some movement, so we went to clamping. Again, this is still a test piece.

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Once the test piece came out, it was straight to the forms to bend and clamp!






We let it sit for 24 hours before pulling it off. And, it was definitely curved! But not enough. It sprung back a bit from the form. Blargh.

Next up? Part two, where Doug takes what he learns, and applies it to the actual reproduction moulding. Which is as terrifying as it sounds! But, it does get better. But still – this is a really, really tedious process. And I’m not the best at tedious… I’m going to be exceeding glad when this is over.


  1. I, too, have a turret.

    After reading your Turret Woes posts, I have a new appreciation that all my curved bits are intact.

    1. I’m also very glad for you – your turret has a much steeper diameter! Ours is much shallower – I can’t imagine doing all of this with your more dramatic curve!

  2. Oh my. I drive by your house all the time via Main Street and I’m always loving that turret (and the copper that gleams on your roof. I’m guessing that’s copper anyway). I’m always thinking how I would love a turret. Maybe not so much anymore! I think I’ll just enjoy yours:)

    1. You are too kind! At least it looks good on the outside, right? I keep reminding myself that if it’s not perfect, there will be curtains and furniture to hide it, right?

  3. It makes me wonder — how in the world did they curve the woodwork originally, when these tools weren’t available?

    And by the way: Your husband’s woodworking skills amaze me — and your photography and writing skills amaze me, too. It’s not easy to get a clear photo in a dark basement.

    Last but not least: Your perseverance amazes me. Your house is lucky to have you both lavishing your time, attention, and skills on it.

    1. Your comments made me smile – and gave me a much needed boost today. THANK YOU!

      The curved wood there originally looked to be laminated – several SUPER thin pieces of wood, that would have been glued together after they were bent into place – since they were thin enough to have bend in them. That’s one of the things we’re considering doing for the tall / flat part of the baseboard – but to do that, we’d need a giant bandsaw to be able to cut the baseboard into very thin layers. Since we don’t have something like that, we’d have to find someone who does, and would be willing to do it for us. Today’s mission is to figure out what we’re doing. We’ll see how that goes. 🙂

    1. I asked Doug your question, and he told me he did both – and apparently I didn’t know there was a second hole on the bottom. Certainly not the first time I didn’t know everything. 🙂

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