A short course on marking curves
You don't need fancy equipment to turn away from straight lines. In this article, we'll show you how to mark curves and arcs with a trammel, string and pins, compass, flexible curve, and French curve.
Draw a curve
Most woodworking projects rely on straight lines and right angles, but sometimes you need a nicely formed curve to give your project a more stylish look. So how do you make a curve when you're modifying a project plan or designing a piece from scratch? Study the curved shapes in good furniture to develop your eye. Then try the techniques shown here.
When you're tinkering with a curve, trying to get it just so, draw on a full-size piece of plywood, medium-density fiberboard, cardboard, or paper instead of putting it directly on your stock. You can tape together brown paper bags from the grocery store to make a template as large as necessary. Transfer the curve to the workpiece by cutting out the template and tracing along its edge.
For symmetrical shapes with multiple curves, draw exactly half of the shape on plywood, hardboard, or paper. Cut out that piece and use it as the template for the other half.
Remember that you already own an array of templates for simple shapes. For example, anything from a five-gallon bucket to a small washer can serve as the pattern when you need a round corner. And once you've made a nice template, save it. Put it in a drawer, or hang it on perforated hardboard, because you just might need it again someday.