Lee Valley Tools Woodworking Newsletter
Vol. 2, Issue 6
July 2008
The Easy Curve

When most woodworkers start out, the world is a very square place. Every cabinet door has four 90° corners and straight rails and stiles. Every table apron is a rectangle.

However, as their skill levels rise, woodworkers are exposed to new design styles. Curves take projects from plain to dramatic. Arched top doors and gentle flowing components add a sense of movement. This new design feature brings up the question, what's the easiest way to draw it to arrive at a flowing, fair curve?

Many woodworkers will turn to an existing curve template to lay out the cut line. If you have ever used a paint can, a trash can lid or some other round item to draw a curve, you have used a template. Other woodworkers rely on tacking some brads into a piece and using a flexible strip of Masonite or thin plywood to draw the curve. This is okay, but it might not be able to hold the flowing line that sets a perfect curve apart from a good attempt.

The way to obtain that ideal arc is to jump into, yes, math! But I promise (especially for those who aren't terribly mathematically inclined), this math is easy and you'll be happy with the results.
  Side table
Using arches in your project can provide design interest.

Say you have a piece of wood you want to cut an arc on, in this case, a stretcher for a table rail. I carefully mark out the maximum height of the arc at the midpoint of the curve and the total distance of the arc. Here, the arc is 24" long and 2" high at its maximum.

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