Curvy furniture is great to look at and usually offers a tactile aesthetic that makes it appealing. Holding it all together is the joinery – and whether it’s dovetails, tenons or lap joinery, creating that joinery on a curve adds a new level of complication. Whether made by hand or by machine, most of our training on making joinery starts with having flat and square stock to start with. We use reference surfaces that fit against other flat and square guides (mortiser tables and fences) or tools (a plane sole.)
When problem-solving these situations we often start to plan on jigging the curved surface to fit against our flat tooling. Reasonable, but we need to make mating jigs to work both sides of the joint… challenging.
Jeff Miller is a craftsman and teacher who has devoted a great deal of his work to curvy furniture and has spent some time considering the challenge of curvy joinery. His reaction is fairly simple – put the flat back on the curve. By doing this the difficulty of the joinery goes away and becomes just the normal concerns of joinery. Jeff has some simple approaches (shown in the video below) for adding the flat that includes hand tools, power tools and some simple jigs. I think you’ll find his answer elegant and very useful!