Curved Components: Part Two

(This is the second installment on building curved components. Part One covered stacked laminations. Part Two demonstrates the process of bricking a curved furniture part, while the third and final installment discusses how to make a curved furniture part using bent laminations.)

Creating a curved part, such as a bow-front drawer front for a chest of drawers or an apron for a card table you’re building, has, historically, been accomplished in a variety of ways. Along with a stacked lamination, which was the topic in Curved Components: Part One, woodworkers in the late 18th and early 19th centuries turned to bricks, small pieces of wood fitted to a pattern. The technique can be time consuming, but it’s easy to do and the curving possibilities are endless. Plus, you can make use of what would be most often waste in your shop.

Building With Bricks

The term bricking in woodworking is almost the same as in masonry work. The difference is that woodworkers work with wooden “bricks” using wood glue as the mortar. Bricks are laid along a curved pattern. A second layer is then placed on top of the first making sure that each brick spans a joint below. The entire process is easy to do, but can be time consuming depending on the glue you use and the height and length of your structure.

(Fig. 1) Finding the arc radius using mathematics is simply a matter of inserting the variables and working through the numbers.

Step one is to create a pattern onto which you lay the bricks. Knowing that your results need to be 24-1/2” wide overall and that you have tenons on both ends, begin with a substrate that’s about 4” wider.

In the previous presentation (Curved Components: Part One), the arc was laid out directly on a stacked assembly when knowing the height and width needed. In this example, we’ll use math to find the radius of the arc (Fig. 1). Hey now. It’s easy.

When you know the height (H) of your arc and its width (W) you can simply plug the numbers into a formula to find the radius at which you can draw the arc. The formula is:

H/2 + (W² / 8H)

In the example, H equals 3-11/16 and W is 24-1/2”. Calculations indicate that the radius of the apron should be 22.191”, or 22-1/8” when rounding.

After drawing the curve onto a piece of plywood, mark and keep the pivot point of your trammel (Fig. 2). Move back the trammel the thickness of your apron (13/16” for me) and draw a second arc. You now have the inside and outside edge of your built-up apron.

(Fig. 2) With your radius in hand, a thin cutoff, a nail (or left-in-place drill bit) and pencil are a dandy way to draw out the base for your brick work.

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