Tom is working the guitar shape into his flamed maple sides on a bending iron. This procedure takes a bit of time to learn, but with some guidance and patience even a beginner can bend wood into most guitar shapes.
This particular bending iron was given to me by my neighbour Günther Steckel in Markneukirchen, Germany. He is a retired double bass maker, and this bending iron has evolved a lot since he gave it to me. It now features a probe that measures temperature, and most recently was converted to run on MAPP gas. The advantage over electricity is that the bending iron heats up much quicker (5 minutes vs. at least 45 minutes previously), and it appears that the iron is also more evenly heated and provides a better bending experience (and results). In fact the use of a flame for heating bending irons was a typical technique used by the older luthiers in Markneukirchen, and I am happy having retrofitted my tool to continue in their tradition.