Cutting Curved Coves on a Table Saw

by Lee Schrader
Illustration by Loren Huchinson

There was a thread earlier asking about cutting gooseneck mouldings. In keeping with the Badger Pond spirit of exchange of ideas to show different ways to accomplish the same tasks, I put together this drawing.


To do the curved cove requires a table that will pivot. Start with a fixed base that is large enough to be clamped to the saw table. On top of this mount another, rotating base. The pivot point will be the radius to the center of the cove of the gooseneck moulding. Cut the radius on the pivoting table back just far enough so the table saw blade will not touch it. Add a three or four hold-downs on top of the pivoting table to anchor the work piece. A carriage bolt with the head set in a counter bore coming from the bottom up through both tables can be used as a pivot. Put a thin brass shim between the pieces and two nuts on the top to hold proper tension. The pivot table should not wobble, but still be able to pivot freely.

When straight coves are cut the wood is passed over the blade at an angle. That is the easy part - most everybody has done it. Use some test pieces to determine the fence angle (and blade height) to produce the desired cove depth and width. Once that angle is determined - mark a line perpendicular to the angled fence starting at the center of the blade. The pivot point will be placed along that line at the correct radius for your curved cove. The pivot will be behind and to one side of the blade centerline (depending on which way the curve is going).

Mount the whole assembly so the pivot point is on the line just determined. Raise the blade through the bottom table and into the work. Make cuts about 1/16" deep (or less) on each pass just as you would for a straight cut.

Cut additional coves on the same piece by moving the pivot point. After one part of the gooseneck (and its mirror image) has been cut, reset the pivot to make the other part of the S. (If the pivot point is moved to the opposite side of the blade, the direction of the curve can be reversed.) A little bit of handwork at the transition between the coves completes the piece.

After your piece is "coved", cut the inside and outside radii on the piece and sand smooth. Then using a router table and a bit with a pilot bearing, add the desired shapes on the inside and outside radii of the face of the pieces or combine with additional shaped pieces to make the desired profile.

Be careful - cutting coves on the table saw is always exciting.

Good luck - be safe!