Arches- Stop Cut Method

For this exercise, you will need:


1. Cut a template from a piece of paper and transfer the shape onto your wood (Paul uses a more permanent wooden template here).


2. Use your saw to create stop cuts about 1” (25mm) apart, stopping just before you get to the line. These stop cuts will avoid you splitting the grain too far.


3. Using a sharp chisel bevel down, split cut each section by taking off a small amount of material first to allow you to read the grain. If the grain is fairly straight, you can split nearer to the line. Start on the outside high points either side and work down towards the mid section, when you get to the middle from one side, start the opposite side from the other end.


4. Use a flat bottomed spokeshave to help refine your curve, go from the outside to the middle, then switch over and do it from the opposite end, this generally ensures you are always using the spokeshave ‘downhill’ or with the grain rather than against it. Sometimes you will find the cut is against the grain, in this case turn the spokeshave around and work the opposite way. To reach the bottom of the curved section, you may need to extend your spokeshave blade out a little more to cut the wood in this section. If you are finding it difficult, oil your spokeshave as this reduces the friction and should make it easier to use (for a picture on how to do this, see our ‘Using a Spokeshave‘ guide).


5. You can use a scraper to refine the curve and remove any minor irregularities and high spots.


6. Finish off by using 240 grit sandpaper


  1. Dan Roper on 20 September 2018 at 11:53 am

    Excellent presentation/explanation

    • Izzy BergerTeam Member on 20 September 2018 at 12:18 pm

      Hi Dan,

      Thank you for your feedback, it is great to hear you like this exercise!

      Kind Regards,

  2. Bob Hutchins on 20 September 2018 at 4:04 pm

    Is there a reason that there is no mention of using a rasp to refine the arch before sanding?

    • Izzy BergerTeam Member on 21 September 2018 at 2:16 pm

      Hi Bob,

      Thank you for getting in touch.

      Paul said there’s no need to, the spokeshave and the scraper will result in a perfect arch and finish.

      Kind regards,

  3. James Shell on 22 October 2019 at 4:50 pm

    What would you recommend in place of a spoke shave? I have not acquired one as of yet.

    • Izzy BergerTeam Member on 25 October 2019 at 3:42 pm

      Hi James,

      You can use the bevel of the chisel, take your time and you should be able to get a good result. Follow with sandpaper.

      Kind Regards,

  4. DB on 6 November 2019 at 4:08 pm

    Hi. Thanks for the excellent advice. I wonder if you can provide any advice for wider stock. I’m trying to produce an arc in 3 inch wide stock along a 10 inch length, wider than any chisel I have. Is it a case of similar technique as above followed by card scraping and sanding? Thanks

    • Izzy BergerTeam Member on 11 November 2019 at 3:18 pm

      Hi David,

      Paul says:
      Yes, you can also follow up with a spokeshave too which will work much faster.

      Kind Regards,

  5. Christopher Johnston on 12 May 2020 at 6:14 pm

    I must tell you Paul ,that I have followed your tuition for years . It was only by accident I found out about COMMON WOODWORKING courses . I think it would be a good idea for your followers if you did a quick blog post on ALL the articles and courses we can subscribe and see . I mean a LIST of them . I hope tis is not too presumptuous of me . kind regards Christopher.

    • Izzy BergerTeam Member on 14 May 2020 at 9:20 am

      Hi Christopher,

      Thank you for the feedback, I’ll be sure to pass this on.

      Kind Regards,

  6. Waldo Nell on 18 April 2021 at 11:35 pm

    How do you apply this technique if you want to put an arch in end grain? I want to put an arch in walnut 32mm thick, but on the ends and split cutting does not seem to work on end grain.

    • Izzy BergerTeam Member on 11 June 2021 at 11:21 am


      Paul says:
      It doesn’t. Better to use a coping saw across the grain this way.


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