What are some things that a french curve can be used for? How was this specific set of curves decided upon?August 26, 2004 1:25 PM   Subscribe

What are some things that a french curve can be used for? How was this specific set of curves decided upon?
posted by cadastral to Science & Nature (8 answers total)

Drawing a smooth line through existing points. Actually, is there ANY other use?

It's interesting that if you get a set of three french curves, they all have different designs. That implies there's nothing magic about it and that the design is probably just traditional.
posted by smackfu at 1:41 PM on August 26, 2004

They're used like smackfu says but in addition they can make smooth complicated curves. If you have a bunch of points you want to fit a curve to you sort of pick a piece of french curve that fits through the three points. You then pick another slice of curve that fits through the adjacent points and so on.

There's no standard for french curve shapes, I had a set for drafting and my dad had a set that he used and both our sets were different. The complicated shapes are just a means to get all kinds of curves on one piece of plastic. So if you look at your link you can see that you can get very tight curves as well as very relaxed curves.
posted by substrate at 1:51 PM on August 26, 2004

I've heard that the curves are actually determined by some mathematical formulae, but I've never seen what the actual formulae would be. The only evidence I can see for this is that on some curves, the same curve is used over and over again, just scaled up or down.

I pretty much draft for a living, and Freedom curves sit in my desk drawer collecting dust with all my other manual drafting implements while I plug away on AutoCAD. The only time I ever really needed them was to draw leader lines for drawing notes. The irregular curve separates them from actual drawing elements, which are typically straight lilnes or radiused arcs. But that's a stylistic thing--some people like 'em like that, some don't.

One guy I knew in school had a "French Curve" that was shaped like a chrome mudflap girl. He actually used it to draw with.
posted by LionIndex at 2:34 PM on August 26, 2004

Holy shit, LionIndex--my dad, an architect, had one of those on his desk. I always assumed it was a joke.
posted by MrMoonPie at 2:37 PM on August 26, 2004

My first job was selling stationery supplies, and french curves were a staple for calligraphers, as mentioned here. (Right at the end).
posted by punilux at 3:50 PM on August 26, 2004

Response by poster: thanks all
posted by cadastral at 4:09 PM on August 26, 2004

No, they were no joke; they were a classic analog hack before computer aided drafting. Use of the French curve, illustrated. Other analog drawing tools.

The French curve was directly responsible for, and thoroughly supplanted by, the Bezier curve. That's probably the closest thing to the mathematics necessary to create a French curve in the first place, so you can see why one followed the other instead of vice versa.
posted by dhartung at 8:44 PM on August 26, 2004

No, no, I meant the chrome mudflap girl referred to by LionIndex, not french curves in general.
posted by MrMoonPie at 8:49 AM on August 27, 2004

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