Best Practices for Cutting and Shaping Curves
In this project video on building a bookcase, you'll learn how to lay out, cut (with a bandsaw or jigsaw), sand, and smooth curved surfaces.
In this episode of Getting Started in Woodworking, the sixth in our series on building an oak bookcase, we demonstrate how to cut curves with a bandsaw or jigsaw. We also show you a few tricks for drawing, sanding and smoothing curves.
To determine the locations and dimensions of each of the curves on the bookcase featured in this series, use the free woodworking plan available for this project.
Laying Out Curves
Their are two main types of curves in furniture design, radius curves and changing radius curves, also known as fair curves. A radius curve is just like it sounds. The curve is a section of a radius and can be drawn using a compass. A changing radius curve isn’t a section of a circle. This type of curve can be drawn with a variety of drawing tools, including french curves and battens. We use both of those tools to draw the changing-radius curves in our bookcase project.
Bandsaw versus Jigsaw for Cutting Curves
The bandsaw is the ideal power tool for cutting the curves on our bookcase project. A bandsaw has a smooth cutting action and produces a square smooth edge that’s easy to clean up with a sander. Because of the flat table on the bandsaw, it’s also easy to control your cut. If you don’t have a bandsaw in your shop, the next best tool is the jigsaw.
With either tool, the trick to cutting curves in your furniture is to mark out the curve and then cut roughly 1/8-in. from the line. The remaining waste can be removed with a power sander or by hand sanding.
To sand and smooth curved surfaces, we show two techniques: The first is with a belt sander; the second uses a curved hand sanding block made from a scrap piece of lumber.
If you have a question about this episode send us an email or post a question in our Q&A forum.
Videos in the Series
Build a beginner-friendly bookcaseAugust 5, 2019
Buying Hardwood LumberAugust 5, 2019
How to Rip Lumber Safely on the Table SawAugust 5, 2019
How to Crosscut Lumber Safely on the Table SawAugust 5, 2019
How to Cut Rabbets and Dadoes with a RouterOctober 16, 2019
Hand Sanding and Power Sanding BasicsOctober 16, 2019
Best Practices for Cutting and Shaping CurvesOctober 16, 2019
Create Strong and Simple Joinery with Screws and Hardwood PlugsOctober 22, 2019
Build a Simple, Sturdy Workbench, Part 1October 22, 2019
Build a Simple, Sturdy Workbench, Part 2October 22, 2019
10 Ways to Use a Workbench – Start Woodworking S2:Ep10October 22, 2019