While a compass and straightedge can design simple pieces of furniture, you also need curves that have a varying radius to draw smooth shapes that connect three or four points – the accelerating curves that give motion and life to furniture.
The tools for these important curves are commonly called French curves or Burmester curves. And they are the starting (and ending) point for any designer who wants to escape rigid rectilinear shapes and simple circles.
While you can buy inexpensive plastic curves at an art supply store, the plastic tools have disadvantages compared to traditional wooden curves.
Most plastic curves have a small rabbets along their edges. While we understand the function of the rabbet, we think it interferes with making a true and smooth line because you can tilt your pencil or pen. Traditional wooden curves have no rabbet, allowing greater accuracy.
Second, plastic curves are difficult to mark notations on, such as where you want a curve to start and stop. You can mark them with a permanent marker, but this is slow, inaccurate (in our experience) and messy. Plus, smooth plastic curves slide too easily on the paper while making your mark, again, spoiling your accuracy.
Traditional wooden curves, which are difficult to come by on the used market, are a joy to use. Warm in the hand, they are precise, they stick to the paper while you are drafting and it’s easy to write (and erase) notations on their surfaces.
The problem with traditional wooden curves is they were not truly dimensionally stable as they were typically made from solid hardwood. They were also fragile.
The Crucible Design Curves
When we set out to design our curves we wanted them to be strong and stable (like plastic curves) but warm, accurate and easy to use (like wooden curves). The solution was a special five-ply bamboo material specially designed for laser-cutting.
We designed our curves using an English set made in 1943 as our foundation and inspiration. The curves are cut and engraved in Covington, Ky., then sanded to #220-grit in our shop in Fort Mitchell, Ky.
Bamboo is the perfect material for this tool. It is more dimensionally stable than any hardwood or softwood that we know of, it doesn’t absorb moisture as readily as wood and the five plies of veneer ensure it will stay the same shape year round.
Like plastic curves, these will bend readily across curved shapes without breaking.
Our first set of curves consists of three of our favorite shapes. The large curve is about 12″ long. The smaller two are about 6″ long. A full set of curves encompassed many individual tools. And while we hope to bring out more curves in the future, we think these three are an excellent starting point.
We are introducing these curves at Handworks 2017 where we will sell a set of three for the introductory price of $37. After Handworks they will be available in our online store. We might have to increase the price slightly for shipping and packaging costs charged by our warehouse.
Please stop by our booth at Handworks and give them a try. We’ll have a huge pile of them to sell in protective boxes suitable for travel.
— Christopher Schwarz
16 thoughts on “Introducing the Crucible Design Curves”
I definitely want one.
That original set mad in 1943 must be good because I was born then.
How cool is that?!?! Awesome . Will be getting a set of those.
Any plans for selling the set in ‘Dictum store’ like the LAP books?
I’m asking that due too import costs to continental Europe… 🙁
It took us a while to figure out how to get LAP books sold outside of the country without us losing money on every sale.
It’s going to take us time to do that with tools, as well. The margins are even smaller on tools. We are working on it, but I think we’ll have to ask for patience. Apologies.
No apologies necessary! I’ll wait!
Thanks for your reply!
What is the approximate thickness of the Crucible Design Curves?
They are one-tenth of an inch thick (0.10″).
Do they come in right and left handed versions? Just kidding. Can’t make it to Handworks but will order when available. Will you be making larger versions as well? Hopefully you can keep these in stock better than the dividers.
These look awesome. Will pick up a set at Handworks. Also, will you have the pattern dividers available?
Yup. About 160 pairs.
Chris, just curious if you have any comparison notes between these new curves and the Roubo curves from Sterling Toolworks. I know you’ve put a lot of effort into your planning of new tools and not wanting to duplicate things that others have done. I’m guessing these are different curves that will compliment the Roubo set which I’ve had my eye on for some time now.
Chris’s curves are larger and in metal. I have a set and they are nice.
The difference is in size and material, so it comes down to the scale of your work and how you prefer to work, with metal tools or wood.
A perfect mix of traditional design with modern tools and material.
I look forward to their being in the store. I have 14 different Alvin curves and would love to replace them all.
I’m glad I saw this (I haven’t read many woodworking blogs for some time unfortunately) I’ll check back next month and hopefully there will still be some for sale.
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