How to Copy Complex Curves!




About: Careers: documentary filmmaker, DOP, engineering student, practical environmentalist, idealist. Loves: bicycles and when weeds grow in the city. I'm from western Canada, Yukon, Japan and Montreal.
That's right! Simply push it down and get a copy of a curve that might be hard to measure and copy otherwise. Not only is it hella useful but it's made from stuff you already have in your kitchen.

This is not my idea. It is a re-post from a forum.

Originally from:
User: Godless Commie

It mimics a "profile gauge" tool but is made from bbq sticks and cardboard:

Remember to rate this 'ible if you think it's useful :)

Bonus: A FREE 3 MONTH PRO MEMBERSHIP GOES WENT TO the first one to post an instructable of their version of this tool including a VIDEO. Post a link to that 'ible in the comments below. Yeah.

WINNER is Mr. Roshy10. Show him some love.

And a Warning from Wroger-Wroger: Be careful not to let stray bamboo skewers or their tips, skewer your foot. These bits can lurk in the carpet waiting to strike.

Step 1: Materials

Needful things
  • a bunch of bamboo skewers (or straws)
  • enough corrugated cardboard to cover your project
  • some sort of a marker, like a sharpie

Step 2: Insert Sticks

Next, cut a strip of the corrugated cardboard and stick the bamboo skewers through the grooves/holes/openings of the cardboard.

Note: This picture shows a skewer through every other hole but the resolution could probably be doubled by inserting one in each hole.

Step 3: Use!

Then, position that funky tool you have fashioned over the compound curve you want to duplicate, and gently push on the skewers until they just touch the surface. Hold the cardboard level.

Step 4: Trace

Here's a look at the other side.

Once you have captured the shape of the curve(s), all you need to do is to trace it on another piece of cardboard and test fit.
Then, transfer the shape on the material of your choice and cut away.

PS# You can use drinking straws instead of skewers for delicate surfaces, too.

Again, thanks to Mr. (?) Godless Commie over at for this tool!



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    19 Discussions


    2 years ago

    Something to remember- the contour gauge described here has to move at right angles to the project. If there is any undercut, the gauge can't see it. Also, as the curve starts to wrap around to the side, the contour gauge become less and less accurate. There are other methods, like using a compass to scribe a curve, or the tick/joggle stick method that seem to me to be more useful. I'm rebuilding the inside of an Airstream trailer, so copying curves is something that I'm doing way too much!


    3 years ago

    My god so simple and smart


    6 years ago on Introduction

    I have been pulling out hair trying to come up with a way to trim out the hole to fit around the comode for new bathroom carpet. Voila! Here's the answer! Thank you sir, for the most usful instructable I have found to date!


    6 years ago on Introduction

    Hollly F--- S --
    I just bought one of these… and quite expensive.

    Why didn't I think of it myself ???…

    Guess I must be quite moron

    congratulations !!!!…

    1 reply

    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    I thought the same thing, but if you remove the contour gauge from the original, you can always copy from the side that makes contact with the original. If you want to copy from the other side, then equal-lengths would be critical.


    6 years ago on Introduction

    Years ago I see something like this builded with metal to copy pieces using a lathe...
    Anyway, good project!


    6 years ago on Introduction

    Very nice idea. Good on you for providing a citation to the original post!

    This would be Feature-worthy if you took your own pictures, showing how you made and used the tool, and described your process in your own words.

    The pictures you have included were simply copied from the original posting, as was most of the text (you left out the comments about smoking, but that's about all).

    Did you get permission from the original author to use his or her photographs and text (all of which are copyrighted from birth)?

    Wow! I have a contour gauge at home, with small metal pins, and it works well for smaller contours, although I rarely ever use it. Your concept is so stunningly simple, versatile and scalable... Thanks for sharing!