Apprentice Member
Posts: 6
Registered: ‎06-09-2010

How to make curved furniture?

[ Edited ]

I'm an extreme newbie to building furniture. I came across a website with a lot of great plans and want to start building. Lucky for me my bf has a basement full of tools.


This probably isn't a beginner project but I really like the look of bombe chests but don't understand how they are built. To my knowledge you can't bend and curve wood, so that would mean they have to carve the curved drawers, sides etc... out of a sheet of wood. But wouldn't that have to be a pretty thick piece of wood? The legs I sort of understand but the sides and drawers I don't. The drawer fronts are not only curved from side to side but also appear to have a bow to them in front, if that makes any sense.


Including a couple links so that you can see what I'm talking about:


Link 1


Link 2


Link 3



And while I'm not interested in building anything like this....this picture actually illustrates my question better

Extremely Exaggerated Curved Furniture


Veteran Advisor
Posts: 1,845
Registered: ‎11-07-2009

Re: How to make curved furniture?

First off, welcome to the forum, come back often, there is a wealth of knowlege here and all are very happy to share.  It looks to me like you'd need to build forms to laminate thin stock over in order to get the shape you want.  I agree this doesn't look like a great choice for a beginner project.  I'm a novice myself and have really only learned enough to know what I might be getting myself into.  A piece of advice that has helped me along the way is to utilize the videos on this site, whether it be from the editors and staff of WOOD or the links to hundreds of videos posted by viewers.  Go to youtube, you might be able to find a video of one of these being built, I do that a LOT.  I don't know if they'll allow a link but the Wood Whisperer (Marc Spagnuolo) has tons of great vidoes on his site and will answer questions personally within a day or so usually.  Can't give much guidance on your project choice but I hope that offers some direction for learning tools.  This forum has been an incredible asset to me, there's really no other like it.  Happy building!

Honored Advisor
Posts: 1,907
Registered: ‎10-24-2009

Re: How to make curved furniture?

Yes, indeed so thick wood was used in making tradtional Bombe' chests, though I doubt many were made using more than 12/4 lumber, if that--you can get quite a bit of apparent curve from 8/4 thickness.  I expect that in many cases, the profiles were laid out on the edges of the boards and a saw used to make relief cuts close to that profile line, then the wood in between can be removed quickly with chisels or gouges.  Probably templates kept the carving on the right track.  Note that the joinery, such as the dovetailed drawer fronts, or case dovetails, were likely laid out and cut while the lumber was still in the square.  The work is tedious and a bit exacting, but certainly within the ken of a skilled craftsman in the 18th century, even in the Colonies.  But of course, these were only being made for very wealthy people, so the craftsmen could afford to spend the time needed.  By the way, if not really deformed the eye will perfect the form, even if it might not pass the test of micrometer measurements. 


Other curved forms, such as bow front chests and demilune tables for example, were made using veneer.  The substrate might have been built up as "bricks" of solid lumber, then planed to a smooth fair curve, before veneer was glued inside and out. 


The Bombe chests weren't built from curved and bent wood-- but of course you can bend wood  The modern exaggerated examples in your link may well have been built with bending plywood.  Or, in production contect wood can be molded to curved forms quite handily--see for example the Eames chairs.  Or, you can lay up a lovely sailboat from layers of wood, laminated together with epoxy. 

Senior Advisor
Posts: 9,962
Registered: ‎10-21-2009

Re: How to make curved furniture?

Hello Cfiles,

I join Eric in welcoming you to the forums and he is right about the many who have enough experience to answer most any questions you might have. I also feel that you need to hook up with Matt Seiler the moderator of these forums for he is always working with different styles and curves in his master pieces.

His email address is for he will astound you with his methods.

Remember to keep your hands no closer to a spinning blade or bit than 6" for safety sake.


Ralph Jones General Forums Host
Senior Advisor
Posts: 907
Registered: ‎02-15-2010

Re: How to make curved furniture?

joke answer:  use green wood, and then'll curve real nice in time.  probably not the way you had in mind.


you can bend thin wood around a form, if it is a large piece, you'll want to use a vacuum bag and a form.  will end up much more stable than sawing into a large hunk of solid wood.

Community Manager
Posts: 6,365
Registered: ‎10-23-2009

Re: How to make curved furniture?

Greetings, All.


Thanks for the nod, Ralph.    Yes, I do curved work quite a bit.    And for this, a couple of comments are in order.


As Amateur60 mentioned, the type of curved work that goes into bombe' style furniture is significantly different than the whimsical casework as shown in that last link in the OP's question. The materials that you start with are different and the whole approach for the bombe' style is 180° away from the bent flatwork.


But both require a tremendous amount of work, they're shaped and refined by using a somewhat comprehensive selection of hand tools as well as power tools, and the skillset required .... um.... generally eclipses anything that someone in their rookie year can achieve without 1:1 mentoring.  It's definitely possible, but there are going to be challenges and questions that are going to stymie you without somebody standing over your shoulder.


But... what one man can do another man can copy.   Patience, lots of study drawings and making full-scale mockups of pieces and parts will be critically necessary.  If determined, YES, you can do this. 


If joinery is king, then joinery techniques on bent forms is.... emperor, I guess.  (Hegemon?  Grand Wazoo?  Take your pick.)   All connection strategies need to be planned well in advance of any work on the individual bendy component.  You need to know where/how part A will connect to part B before cutting a thing.  Mostly that's because you need to ensure that pieces are cut extra long if tenons are required, and you also need to plan ahead if you need to cut for the joinery while the stock is still square.  


Joinery on flatwork that's square and level is somewhat simple to envision.  And when you plan for the joinery you're pretty sure about how to combat 1.) gravity, 2.) shear forces and 3.) stress from pieces being operated (drawers, doors) and how to combat human pushing/pulling.     With bent forms... look out!   Gravity may want to pull otherwise simple joinery apart.  Shear forces may be different than you expect.  And human intervention is a BIG wild card.  


Starting with a full-scale study drawing, with all of the joinery choices called out in GREAT detail is mandatory.   You need to look at what these forces will do on the joints and then make your choices accordingly.


But the upshot is that these decisions are best made when you have a firm understanding, as well as a solid set of experiences in making the joinery in the first place.   And... I hate to throw water on the fire here, you really do need to have a firm footing beneath you on that joinery before you incorporate it into wildly bent forms.


The other things to be said relate to actually making the bendy panels and then bringing it all together.   Bombe' style furniture, which is carved from thick blocks, requires a somewhat large set of basic carving and shaping tools, a steady hand and a good eye.  But the bendy work like those whimisical cases is most often done using two or more layers of  a thing called 'bendy ply', a vaccum press, formwork to bend the bendy ply over (with that formwork either inside OR outside the bag, depending on the bend), and then veneer over the bendy ply.  So there the tools and techniques are going to set you back some solid coin and the learning curve will look like a hockey stick.


Point is:  this is a 500-level college course and before you can realistically get into it you need the 100 and 200 level courses as an absolute prerequisite.    We CAN help with much of it.   Not all, unfortunately.   So if you decide to proceed, try the first one on inexpensive materials and expect blowups.   Make a prototype out of, say, poplar first.  Then jump in later with the expensive materials after you've got one  or two under your belt.


Matt Seiler
Forum Moderator

Apprentice Visitor
Posts: 1
Registered: ‎08-11-2011

Re: How to make curved furniture?

(First post, Hello, All)


Not to bump a somewhat old thread here, but I found this forum by asking the exact same question the OP did (after having studied Dust Furniture, no less!).


After reading a bit at the artist's site, it appears that he uses a CNC machine for a lot of the work.  I've got access to one, but I'm not sure how to go about creating similar pieces. 


I can certainly model 3D and export G-Code, but it seems rather wasteful to take a giant piece of stock and just carve the hell out of it.  I suppose that the laminating technique mentioned earlier is the most reliable, but I don't have access to all of the tools or know-how. 


(I should state here that I have nothing but respect for the people who can do this sort of work by hand, but I have tried and sadly, I am not one of them.)


Has anyone else had any luck with CNC-machining curved forms of a fantastical nature?

Honored Advisor
Posts: 2,679
Registered: ‎10-22-2009

Re: How to make curved furniture?

There a a lot of instructions, plans and videos on the net.


Do a Goggle search  "making a Bombe' chest"

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