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Laying out an Ellipse

Kevin Boyle explains how to properly lay out an ellipse

Mon, 25 Jun 2012|

Laying out circles in the shop is an easy task when you've got your compass, a centerpoint—strike a circle no problem. But laying out an ellipsis is a little trickier. Today we're going to show you a way of doing that with a framing square and a shopmade trammel. Now what we're going to start with is basically laying out the size of your ellipse: The two main factors are your major axis and your minor axis. (Major axis being the length of your ellipse, minor axis being the width). I've laid those out; now it's time to make a trammel. A trammel is made of scrap stock that is roughly 3 inches longer than half your major axis. Start by drilling a hole one inch from one end that fits your pencil snugly. Drive two 4-penny finish nails into the stock, one is half the major axis, one is half the minor axis. The other thing you want to do is file down the tips of the nails after you've driven them through. Okay, now we're going to lay out the arc in our first quadrant. To do that, I'm using a framing square. I've applied two pieces of double-faced tape to the backside as to kinda help hold this in position. So we lay that down, line that up with our major and minor axis. Just kinda press that in place. Take our shopmade trammel, line up the finishing nail with the corner of the framing square, and when we pull this around, we want to keep both nails in contact with the framing square, and we're just going to strike that arc. There's our ellipse. We've laid out all four quadrants. Remove our framing square; you've got a perfect ellipse.

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