A short course on marking curves
Big curves are simple with a trammel
A simple radius, like those found on some Shaker furniture, calls for nothing more complicated than a wooden trammel and a pencil. Without a measured radius from a plan or a computer-aided drawing, however, it does take some guesswork. Establish the width at each end of the pattern, then experiment with different lengths for the trammel until you have a good-looking curve. Make the trammel handier to use by drilling several holes along its length for different radii. Place the pivot end on a scrap piece equal in thickness to your pattern piece, as shown.
Here's a neat way to draw an ellipse for tabletops, trays, and the like. Use a square to mark intersecting perpendicular lines on pattern material, such as this piece of medium-density fiberboard. Place pushpins on the long axis, equal distances from the centerpoint. Tie a piece of string into a loop, put it around the pins, and place a pencil inside the loop. Keep the string taut as you move the pencil clockwise or counterclockwise, and you'll draw an ellipse. Adjust the position of the pins and the length of the loop to vary the size and proportions of the figure.
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