Physics has proven me wrong.
Steaming the wood before bending it has turned out to be the way to go. Wouldn't you know it, it also takes longer.
This is my steaming contraption: Four inch ABS piping, capped on both ends, connected to a hacked teapot. That small piece of wood in the photo is holding down the lever that pops up when the water starts to boil, enabling the teapot to boil indefinietely. The wood goes inside and gets nice and steamy for about an hour. Burning myself has been kept to a minimum.