I don't know why my previous post took several hours to succeed, but
here's the "after" report.
I printed a paper template of the curved shelf support I intended to
make. I couldn't figure why Sketchup insisted on printing it on 3 sheets
of paper when it could easily have fit on 2. I did a little cutting,
aligned the sheets and taped them together.
Taking advantage of 2 factory edges, I used spray adhesive to mount the
paper template on a piece of 3/16 MDF. (I would have used rubber cement,
but there was none to be had)
I jigsawed the piece to rough shape - rougher than necessary as it
turned out. I hardly ever use a saber saw and was pleasantly surprised
at how smooth and square the cut was. I could have saved myself some
I filed the MDF down to the line as best I could. Inspecting the piece
afterward, I noted that I had indeed made the edge less than perfectly
square. It wasn't too bad though, and my plan was to work through the
process to the end, even if just for practice.
I laid out the shape of the finished piece on a piece of oak ply and cut
that roughly to shape. I put a template bit in the router table with the
roller on the bottom. Thus the template was beneath the work piece. I
decided to just fasten the template to the work with spring clamps to
see how that would work out.
I can't overemphasize how pleased (and surprised) I was at the ease of
the process. In a very sort time I had a piece exactly the same shape as
the template, which is of course what is supposed to happen, but I have
come to expect complications.
The spring clamps worked out pretty well, too, although I will probably
try to use a different method in the future.
The process, including making the template, was so easy in fact, that I
found myself thinking I could do it a little better. The curve on my
test piece was made from three arcs. It looked goo on the computer
screen, but something about it didn't quite "flow" when I saw it in the
Back to Sketchup. As an aside, I find that one effect of Sketchup is
that a perfectly innocent project can acquire complications. :)
I wanted the curve to "flow" into a straight edge at the bottom.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/gdguarino/12861854444/ (the original curve)
But a single arc could not be tangent to that edge AND intersect the
front of the upper shelf. Some other shape was needed. I figured
(correctly) that someone must have created a plug-in for Bezier curves
and I downloaded one.
Here are the two templates, to compare the curves:
It turns out that Sketchup defaults to printing the shape of the
viewing window (geez - is there a setting to fix this?). I narrowed the
window on the computer and was then able to print the template on 2
sheets of paper.
This time I jigsawed the MDF a little closer to the line. I got to
thinking about how I could keep the template edge square. I laid the mdf
on a piece of scrap and turned the file edge-down on the (sacrificial)
work surface, hoping that would keep the file face plumb.
After a few seconds of that I took out a block plane instead(feel free
to tell me this was crazy). I raised the template MDF a little above the
work surface with a scrap of the same MDF. Then I laid the plane on its
side on the work surface and started removing the waste down to the
line. Although using a straight plane to shave down a curved surface
(convex, of course) seemed a little odd (and MDF at that), it worked
To further smooth the edge, I wrapped a piece of sandpaper around a
small block and laid THAT face down on the work surface, using its edge
to sand the curve. Again, the edge removing the material was kept plumb.
As ass-backward as this may sound, the edge of the template was a marked
improvement over my first attempt. It had no obvious waviness to it.
I proceeded to make the four pieces. It was remarkably quick and I like
the results. Fun too. I can already see ways that I might have improved
the process. I will definitely be doing more of this sort of thing in
Thanks to all for the advice.
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