If you design furniture or work a lot with curved parts, it’s difficult to function without a “drawing bow.” This simple jig – a stick and a string – allows you to lay out precise and large curves with only two hands.
Before I could afford a commercial one (Lee Valley Tools makes an excellent one that I recommended in my 2017 Anarchist’s Gift Guide), I made my own. While I love my commercial drawing bow because it is indestructible, I also like my homemade version because it can be adjusted with one hand.
Here’s how to make one in about 15 minutes.
A Quick Project
Find a scrap of oak or ash that has dead-straight grain through its thickness and width. For past drawing bows, I’d started with rived stock. But sawn stock is fine if the grain is arrow-straight (the grain in this one is a tad wonky). If the grain isn’t straight, you’ll get lumpy curves or the bow will break. Saw out a piece that is 1/8” x 3/4” x 48” – this size will accommodate most furniture work.
Then get a string – almost any string will do. In this case I used a string pulled out of an old hooded sweatshirt. Drill a hole in one end of the drawing bow that is the same diameter as the string – in my case, .020”. Thread the string through the hole and tie a knot in the string to secure it.
At the other end of the bow, make a keyhole-like notch to grasp and hold the string. First drill the same-diameter hole as earlier. Then saw a slot about 3/4” long that extends down the length of the bow. I used a coping saw. Then open the slot with a piece of coarse sandpaper until the slot looks like a “V.”
Thread the other end of the string through the hole and knot its end to keep it secured to the bow.
To use the bow, bend the stick to the curvature you want, then pull the string down into the “V”-notch to pinch the string and hold the shape. Pull the string out of the “V” to release the bow.
— Christopher Schwarz
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