A Curve Ball - Woodworking Talk - Woodworkers Forum
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post #1 of 27 Old 03-17-2009, 04:46 PM Thread Starter
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A Curve Ball

Okay so it's about 3:30 here in Chicago. I am at work and caught up with everything. So I have some free time on my hands to ask what is probably a goofy question; "What is the easiest/best way to cut curves in wood?"

I am sure many of you just said, "That depends on what you are making." Yes I agree.

So far in my extensive 5 month woodworking career I have cut nothing but straight cuts. For some reason I fear cutting curves. Intimidated by them for some unexplained reason. Not sure why exactly. I find myself looking at designs and plans for different things and once i see they involve cutting curves, it's like a switch gets flipped and I just totally turn it off and look for the next design. My wife will show me a design she saw or make a neat little skecth of something that invloves curves and I get uneasy. "Honey wouldn't you like something with cleaner, straigther lines", I say. (Translation: Honey, that's a beautiful design but you'll notice that it has very scary curves and I am not nearly proficient enough to be able to make something that nice). That is obviously very irrational and I would probabaly benefit significantly from some serious counseling.

Having said all of that, is it time to break down and get a band saw? Can I cut most curves with a jigsaw? Any advice would be most helpful.

Last edited by Tom5151; 03-17-2009 at 05:22 PM.
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post #2 of 27 Old 03-17-2009, 05:19 PM
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A lot can be accomplished with a good jig saw. A lot more can be done with a band saw. And easier, too. IMHO
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post #3 of 27 Old 03-17-2009, 06:16 PM
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I have a small Delta bandsaw that is great for shallow curves in table legs and whatnot. I also have a Scroll saw for more complicated curves, but I don't use it very much
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post #4 of 27 Old 03-17-2009, 06:20 PM
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As suggested you can cut curves with a band saw or a jig saw. With either you could cut away from the line, allowing a small amount to get trimmed back. To smooth the cut back to the line you could use a spokeshave, belt sander, sanding block, or a pattern and a router with a trim bit.

I'm not suggesting this, but a few times while installing, had to cut small curved pieces. With no bandsaw, I mounted my jigsaw upside down in a section of 3/4" material. It's not the best way, but it was a way.






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post #5 of 27 Old 03-17-2009, 06:46 PM
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As Cabinetman said, the "secret" to cutting curves is NOT to cut them.

If you watch The New Yankee Workshop, you will see that even the great and respected Norm Abram never cuts right on the line. He comes close, but always leaves a little bit of wood to sand off to form that perfect curve.

The absolute best tool for that is fairly expensive, an Oscillating Drum Sander, but a spindle mounted sanding drum on your drill press will work pretty well, too.
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post #6 of 27 Old 03-17-2009, 07:10 PM
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Buy a coping saw and cut them by hand.
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post #7 of 27 Old 03-17-2009, 09:30 PM
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curves

For a limited tool budget, you can't beat the bosch jig saw. It's not a cheap jig saw, but a lot cheaper than a band saw, which as others said would be even better. Great advice here on the need to cut proud (Norms term) of the line then spindle sand to perfection.
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post #8 of 27 Old 03-17-2009, 11:19 PM
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Jigsaw, Bandsaw either way you may want to budget money for a spindle sander or drill press.

Boy it never ends.
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post #9 of 27 Old 03-18-2009, 09:03 AM
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Tom...cut the curve with a jig saw then clean it up with a router and template. Template you cut from a peice of hardboard or Luan plywood. Use a staight cut bit with a bearing.
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post #10 of 27 Old 03-18-2009, 09:35 AM
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If you do buy a jig saw, imo the Bosch barrel handle type is the most comfortable. I have a nice Dewalt top handle one too, but it doesn't travel with me as much as the Bosch. And of course your jig saw is only as good as the blade you put in it. Again I think Bosch has the market cornered on the best cutting blades. If I'm cutting a curve on a nice piece of finished ply I'll use a finer tooth blade with the teeth pointing down as too eliminated tear out on my good side.

I recently had to cut a long straight angle on a piece of finished maple ply and it also needed to be back beveled. A straight edge and a fresh blade did the job flawlessly.

A jig saw is of course no match for a nice heavy duty band saw. I think I hear angels singing when I'm cutting nice curves on the band saw.

Intellectuals solve problems, geniuses prevent them.
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post #11 of 27 Old 03-18-2009, 10:19 AM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by joesdad View Post
If you do buy a jig saw, imo the Bosch barrel handle type is the most comfortable. I have a nice Dewalt top handle one too, but it doesn't travel with me as much as the Bosch. And of course your jig saw is only as good as the blade you put in it. Again I think Bosch has the market cornered on the best cutting blades. If I'm cutting a curve on a nice piece of finished ply I'll use a finer tooth blade with the teeth pointing down as too eliminated tear out on my good side.

I recently had to cut a long straight angle on a piece of finished maple ply and it also needed to be back beveled. A straight edge and a fresh blade did the job flawlessly.

A jig saw is of course no match for a nice heavy duty band saw. I think I hear angels singing when I'm cutting nice curves on the band saw.
see that's the difference....you hear angels singing when you cut curves and I hear demons and devils and monsters when I even think about cutting curves....LOL

I have the typical dilemma of budget and space. I'd probabaly need to look at a benchtop bandsaw due to limited space. The jigsaw certainly sound like a fine alternative and maybe a better budget option but will I regret not getting the bandsaw down the road?
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post #12 of 27 Old 03-18-2009, 10:35 AM
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Originally Posted by RussBoyd View Post
For a limited tool budget, you can't beat the bosch jig saw. It's not a cheap jig saw, but a lot cheaper than a band saw, which as others said would be even better. Great advice here on the need to cut proud (Norms term) of the line then spindle sand to perfection.
Like Russ said, get a jig saw. I had and old Craftsman jig saw for 20 years, I hated to even get it out. A chore just to use it. After 20 years I figured there had to be something better than this. Went out and bought a new Bosch. WOW was this thing great, cut wood like butter, I was doing curves with no effort at all. LOVE IT

Eventually will get a band saw, but am happy now with that BOSCH.

RLH
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post #13 of 27 Old 03-18-2009, 10:40 AM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by RLHERRON View Post
Like Russ said, get a jig saw. I had and old Craftsman jig saw for 20 years, I hated to even get it out. A chore just to use it. After 20 years I figured there had to be something better than this. Went out and bought a new Bosch. WOW was this thing great, cut wood like butter, I was doing curves with no effort at all. LOVE IT

Eventually will get a band saw, but am happy now with that BOSCH.

RLH
Thank you sir...may i ask which Bosch model you have? What would be the best one to start out with? I don't want to go low end but probabaly can't afford top of the line either.

I saw this one used on CL. Would this be a good starter?
http://chicago.craigslist.org/nwc/tls/1074735846.html

Last edited by Tom5151; 03-18-2009 at 11:38 AM.
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post #14 of 27 Old 03-18-2009, 11:08 AM
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The template/router idea is great, but this man is scared of cutting curved lines - how's he going to make the template!?

Cutting just outside the line and sanding down is my method. I'm by no means a pro at this, though, and my curves are always a little wavy. I stick to straight lines, too, regardless of what designs my wife likes.
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post #15 of 27 Old 03-18-2009, 11:13 AM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by bzbatl View Post
The template/router idea is great, but this man is scared of cutting curved lines - how's he going to make the template!?

Cutting just outside the line and sanding down is my method. I'm by no means a pro at this, though, and my curves are always a little wavy. I stick to straight lines, too, regardless of what designs my wife likes.
LOL...perhaps once i stick my toe in the "pool of cutting curves" I'll be able to crank out templates. I need to learn that as well. I have the routers and the bushing set.....just need to figure it all out......
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post #16 of 27 Old 03-18-2009, 01:45 PM
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Tom, it looks like you've received a lot of great advice on tools for cutting curves. I understand the psychological fear of curves - actually, I still have a bit of the same fear, myself. Almost everything I build is mission style because of the simple form and straight lines. However, I quickly learned that building something straight and flat is damn hard! - maybe, harder than cutting a curve. I've come to understand that curves can actually be more forgiving because it's harder to see a minor bobble in a curve than a straight line. And the suggestion to cut up to near the line and leave some to sand off is excellent advice. Don't worry, just jump into a curvy project with both feet and you'll be glad you did.
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post #17 of 27 Old 03-18-2009, 02:12 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Geoguy View Post
Tom, it looks like you've received a lot of great advice on tools for cutting curves. I understand the psychological fear of curves - actually, I still have a bit of the same fear, myself. Almost everything I build is mission style because of the simple form and straight lines. However, I quickly learned that building something straight and flat is damn hard! - maybe, harder than cutting a curve. I've come to understand that curves can actually be more forgiving because it's harder to see a minor bobble in a curve than a straight line. And the suggestion to cut up to near the line and leave some to sand off is excellent advice. Don't worry, just jump into a curvy project with both feet and you'll be glad you did.
Thanks for the enocouragement. Good to know there are others that are very afraid of curves too......lol.

Yes the advice has been great. Since i am so limited on space i think I am going to go the jigsaw and spindle sander route to start and see where that takes me......
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post #18 of 27 Old 03-18-2009, 03:42 PM
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Thank you sir...may i ask which Bosch model you have? What would be the best one to start out with? I don't want to go low end but probabaly can't afford top of the line either.

I saw this one used on CL. Would this be a good starter?
http://chicago.craigslist.org/nwc/tls/1074735846.html
I bought the top handle jig saw Model#RB-1590 in the McFeely's catalog. Bought mine at Lowes for about $160.00. The blades made by Bosch are some of the best for smooth cuts.

RLH
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post #19 of 27 Old 03-18-2009, 07:25 PM
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You can get a bench top bandsaw for the price of the good jig saw or less. I recently bought the Craftsman 10" and only paid $140 for it and really love it. I personally hate cutting curves with my jigsaw. The spindle sander is wonderful I will be adding one to my shop also. Just my 2 cents
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post #20 of 27 Old 03-18-2009, 08:34 PM
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jig saw

I personally wouldn't get a table top band saw. At least the Delta I had was worthless for anything but the most basic cut into 3/4" material. Maybe it was me, but I didn't like it at all.
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