I like using French curves for laying out hyperbolas, ellipses and parabolas when designing furniture details. These curves are not static arcs – they are segments of the Euler spiral – and so the shapes they create have more spring and life.
The typical set of French curves consists of three small plastic layout tools that are suitable for small pieces of woodwork or small scaled layouts. What I’ve struggled to find are larger French curves that allow me to add curves directly to full-sized furniture work or full-size drawings.
Also, I hate plastic layout tools (that’s a personal problem).
Sterling Tool Works has just released a set of stainless steel curves that are perfectly sized for furniture-makers. The largest is 18″ long; the smaller ones are about 8″ and 9″ long. These sizes are fantastic for laying out curves for chairs or full-size casework.
Each tool is .06″ thick, has a matte finish and its corners have been eased during manufacturing so they are a pleasure to use and scribe against. Because of their thickness, they also don’t feel flimsy like plastic French curves.
Finally, I’m most pleased that the working edges of these curves are not rabbeted like they are on plastic curves. The rabbet is fine for sketching, but is not ideal for precise layouts.
The Sterling French curves are $70 for the set, but they will be the last set of curves you will ever buy. Highly recommended.
Blog: Read more about these curves on our web site.
From the October 2015 issue