Small Stand is a Lesson in Curves
Cut joinery first, then saw the curves
Synopsis: Here’s a challenging project for woodworkers weary of flat surfaces. Furniture maker Stephen Hammer leads readers through the construction of a small stand, with detailed plans and instructions. This article addresses designing curves into a piece, constructing and shaping coopered panels, joinery techniques for curved frame-and-panel doors, and shaping curved drawer fronts.
From Fine Woodworking #163
One way to add interest to a case piece is to add a gentle curve to the front plane. I wanted to explore this element of furniture making while attending a 12-week class at the Center for Furniture Craftsmanship in Rockport, Maine, so I designed and built this cherry cabinet, finding ways to curve the door and drawers that did not require steam-bending or veneering. The drawer fronts and the door frame are sawn out of thicker stock, and the door panel is coopered to match that curve—methods well-suited to the average small shop.
Arriving at a final design for a piece of furniture is often a laborious task. However, a few preliminary steps made this process easier and more successful. First, small thumbnail sketches allowed me to visualize the overall form quickly and easily. The thumbnails led me to a curved-body design with an overhanging top. Next, I drew the cabinet at quarter scale, where I set the top height at 35 in., then determined the width of the piece.
The appearance of this cabinet depended upon the leg shape being correct. I based the leg shape on the classical column, which curves slightly inward, starting one-third up the column height. Called an entasis, this narrowing is meant to keep the eye from thinking that the column is concave—an optical illusion that happens when a column’s sides are parallel.
A piece often changes when you take it off paper and…