Curvy French Curves




Introduction: Curvy French Curves

Hello and welcome to my first ever Instrucatble. This was a bit of an afterthought to a small project I was doing, but I thought that it would be a nice thing to share, as an introduction to woodworking and to get a very useful drawing tool at the end. French curves are a drafting tool used to draw smooth curves of varying sizes. There are many different shapes and sizes of french curves and you can use this method for all of them, so today I'm going to show you my way of making them out of wood.

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Step 1: Tools

This is a simple project, so you will need simple tools:

  • A saw
  • A coping saw
  • Files - a half round and round will be the most useful for this
  • Rotary tool/Dremel - This isn't needed but does make sanding quicker
  • Safety glasses - Because nobody like losing their eyes
  • Sandpaper or sanding block - For the fine work, the sanding sponges work really nicely for stuff like this
  • A knife
  • A try square
  • Pencil
  • Scalpel
  • A plane
  • A Black & Decker Workmate - If you don't have one of these then there is something very wrong.(any workbench will do really)

Onward and upward!!

Step 2: Obtain Wood

You can use any wood for this really, take some time and choose a wood that you like, this tool should last a while. If you really want to cheap out though, pallet wood is nice and strong and easy to work with. It looks pretty good too.

Step 3: Print Templates

Now of course you're not going to just go and cut some wood curves and call them french! Thankfully, someone has kindly created a set of vector curves for download, kudos to him, and here's where they are:

They are in illustrator format so you're going to have to buy that too if you don't have it.

Just kidding, you can download the photo if you need to, it's print ready.

*Disclaimer: I take no credit for the creation of the template, download from Joshua Certain's website*

Step 4: Marking Out

First cut out the template you wish to use from the sheet, doesn't have to be exact, just so it is separate from the others. Now place it on your wood to check for size and make a mark at the end of the paper for length.

Now this is where your knife comes in. Using your try square and knife mark a line around the width of the board as a cutting guide, you use a knife because it is more precise than a pencil and doesn't wear off.

Once that is done you should have a cut mark all the way round your board, although it might be difficult to see in the photo, it is there.

Step 5: Cut Wood

Now get your piece of wood and cut it to length, making sure you cut on the waste side of your material. Simple.

Step 6: Optional Extra Cutting

If, like me, you have a piece of wood that is thicker than desired, you might want to trim it down a bit. This can be tricky depending on how thick it is, so you can either use a plane and trim the wood to the right thickness or saw along the edge. Both work.

If you don't have a plane, I'd highly recommend the Faithfull 6012 block plane. You don't need it, but if you're beginning woodworking I think its a good place to start.

It's cheap too:

Step 7: Nearly There

So you have a piece of wood that is the right size for your curve, stick the template to it. Don't do what I did and use super glue. It leaves horrible resin like stuff behind on the wood(dark bits near the paper in the photos) and it gives the knife a hard time marking the wood. Pritt stik would probably be best for this so its easy to rip the paper off. PVA is good too.

Once you have the template stuck to the wood, get a sharp knife like a scalpel or stanley blade, and cut round the outline of the template. The sharper the better. This will leave a nice clear mark on the wood that won't rub off or fade. If it's not clear enough you can trace it over again with more force and then run a thin pencil in the grove to make it stand out.

When the curve is fully marked out you can tear of the template, and it should come off without too much trouble if you didn't glue it down too heavily. Any left over paper will scrape off easily later.

Step 8: Cut and File

Unfortunately I don't have any photos of actually cutting out the curve, so bear with me.

With the curve all marked out cut around the shape using the coping saw leaving about a 5mm / 1/4in gap between the cut and the mark. This does mean slightly more filing but you're less likely to screw things up if your cut goes off.

When everything is nicely cut out to your satisfaction, file down the edges to the mark. Then go over the edges with progressively finer sandpaper until it has a finish you are happy with. The important thing here is to get a nice smooth curve as this is going to be used as a drawing tool.

Once the edges are finished, use the same process with the sandpaper on the faces of the curves getting rid of any saw marks and roughness. You might need to use a plane first is the surface is particularly rough. You want the faces nice and flac and the curves nice and, well, curvy.

Step 9: What Wonderful Curves You Have

There you go! You are now the proud owner of a wooden french curve(hopefully) If you want to make it more hard wearing you can go ahead and stain it, or leave it eau naturel. This method can also apply to other materials too, such as brass, acrylic, stainless steel, pretty much any flat material.

If you liked this ible and decide to make your own french curve(s), post an image of yours, I'd love to see what other people come up with.

Thanks for watching :)

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    7 Discussions


    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    I'll add photos for cutting out the curves as soon as I can :)


    5 years ago

    What are these used for?


    5 years ago

    I have faithful block plane.good choice:-)


    5 years ago on Introduction

    Great idea! I don't have a set of french curves, but there are several times I've wished I did.

    Never had the thought to make my own, though, so thank you for sharing this!

    Great first project too, by the way. Very nice work.


    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks! I'm glad you liked it, you should definitely make some, fun and useful