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Hans Weehuizen Bentwood Bones

Steam bent in a little Dutch shipyard by Hans Weehuizen and his good friend Rik Homan.

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Bentwood Bones From the Zuider Zee

You don't see bentwood bones every day.

Commercial products made of bent wood are few and far between. That's because special equipment and techniques are required to produce them.

The Art of Bending Wood
The woodbending process requires a bending jig plus the application of water, heat, and pressure. For most cottage industry woodcrafters, the return on investment just ain't worth the effort to produce such goods. That is why these rare bentwood products would make a very special addition to your musical bone collection.

We are certainly lucky to have two skilled woodbenders in our midst. They are Dutchmen Hans Weehuizen and his good friend Rik Homan. "Rik has a little shipyard and builds beautiful classic open boats," says Hans who lives in the picturesque coastal town of Enkhuizen in the Netherlands. The two craftsmen steam-bend their musical bones in a 'pressure-cooker' at Rik's shipbuilding shop. The shipyard is located at the tip of a small Dutch peninsula that juts into a freshwater lake that was once the Zuider Zee.

Durable Wood Made From Exotic Wenge
Wenge (pronounced: wen-gay) is a tropical tree from Africa. The heartwood is very dark, dense (specific gravity: 0.88), durable, and resistant to wet weather and termites. Its medium to coarse texture and pattern of dark brown, mostly black grain, with fine, closely spaced, very dark veins and white lines is characterized as expressive. The tree is native to Congo, Cameroon, Gabon, Tanzania, and Mozambique. Prices are often in the high range.

Alembic guitars of California uses the wood for custom instruments. Warwick, Gmbh of Germany uses wenge for electric bass fingerboards. The wood is also popular in woodturning because of its dimensional stability.

Two Styles
I prefer the full-size bones. Kids, or folks with a smaller grip might like the Old Dutch style, which are slightly shorter and reminiscent of bones from the nautical whaling days.

How Hans and Rik Make Bentwood Bones

"We steam the bones in a pressure-cooker," says Hans. "At the bottom is some water." The bones are placed on a grillwork, he explains. "We steam them very hot, plus or minus 30 minutes. Then quick to the workbench - bend the bones quick with special tools."

Next the bones are dried with industrial strength forced hot air. After 45 minutes the bones are removed from the tools and finished with "round corners, sandpaper, polishing etc."

Take a look inside the factory...
Click image to enlarge

Wood is cut to proper width using router jig.
Bone blanks in clamping jig.
Hans Weehuizen tends bending jig. Will sailing ship outside serve as bone fodder for their next batch?

Rik Homan applies forced hotair dryer.

Ends carefully shaped with disk sander.

Edges smoothed with sanding wheel.
testing the bentwood bones
Product testing and quality control department.

Genuine Hans Weehuizen bentwood bones are die-stamped with the letters RHB (for 'Rik Homan Bones').

Playing the Bones with Hans Weehuizen
...Hans shows how to rattle the bones—and sing a sea shanty too!