How to Make Curvacious Woodworking Arcs: the Fairing Stick

fairing stick woodworking
A Fairing Stick

One of the vexing problems beginning woodworkers face is how does one draw arcs on a piece so the piece can be cut on a band saw?  I’m currently working a commission for some dining room chairs and there are several long arcs involved.  There is a simple solution to making arcs that one can make with scrap from the wood shop.  It’s called the fairing stick.

Some woodworkers like to use french curves (available at Woodcraft), but you can’t beat the flexibility of a fairing stick.  French curves give a very solid edge to rest against, but are limited in size.  Fairing sticks can be made to any length and bent to just about any angle. In addition, they don’t require a run to the hardware store and can typically be made with things laying around the shop, which aligns with our minimalist philosophy.  Here is how to make one modified from the plan in Wood Magazine.

Materials

High Density Fiberboard (HDF).  This is the same material pegboard is made from and is also called “hardboard.”  There’s a strong probability you have some laying around the garage which will minimize your costs.

550 parachute cord fairing stick
550 Parachute Cord

Thick string or twine. I used some leftover 550 parachute cord from a deployment for my fairing stick, but you can use thick string or twine for yours.  No, I didn’t jump out of any airplanes over there, but I did use the 550 cord quite a bit.  It’s very versatile and strong (you can buy some at Amazon).

Steps

toggle fairing stick woodworking
Toggle for Fairing Stick

Cut the HDF into a strip 1″ wide by 2′ long.  Drill a hole in either end to accommodate the cord.  I used a 3/16″ bit which is slightly bigger than the plan in Wood Magazine to accommodate the paracord.  Cut a piece of HDF into a toggle (see picture) measuring about 1″ by 2″ .  Drill a hole in either end to accommodate the cord and an extra hole in one end to tie off the cord.  Weave the cord through the holes as shown in the picture at the top.  To adjust the amount of arc, just pull the string through the toggle until you have the arc required.  If you need to draw longer arcs at some point, just cut a longer strip of MDF.

This is one of those great projects to put on your “if I have time” list in the wood shop for when you are in-between projects.  We discuss this some more in our future post on efficiency.

drawing arc with fairing stick woodworking
Drawing the arc

I hope that helps and I’ll see you in the wood shop.

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