On Tuesday the 29th we finished bending ribs. "We" being Juan and me—Juan demonstrated with a couple ribs and I tried the others.
The very last rib, the top left, I did all by myself. (I'm such a big girl.) I really started getting picky with it and after trying to perfect the curve with absolute precision I realized I needed to just stop messing with. Like a painting you can't stop dabbing at when you need to call it finished and just step away. It actually turned out really well with a good curve to fit the mold.
The tricky thing with the bending iron (really, there are many tricky things) is getting the right amount of moisture on the wood balanced with the right amount of pressure, time pressed into the heat, moving around to keep from getting kinks or flat parts, avoiding burning the wood if the iron is too hot, figuring out where to place the wood in the bending strap so the part curving the opposite way is poking out the handle. You know. All that.
We tried a trick from my violin making textbook that was new to Juan--using a little piece of damp cloth (we didn't have fabric and used a piece of damp paper towel) to place between the rib and the iron to steam the wood a little, infusing it with some moisture, before removing the cloth and continuing with the bending process. It worked really well—I like the even distribution of steam it provides.
A trick of Juan's that was helpful and more comfortable to me than the awkward bending strap was a thick piece of cork padding you could use to press the wood onto the iron with just your hands. That was helpful for touching up small areas where the curve needed correction or smoothing out in a fairly localized spot.
Next step: glueing and clamping these on place, then linings. It's finally beginning to look like something!