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How I'd do it

Ellis Walentine
Ellipses are one of my favorite subjects. First, a word about true ellipses: They are pure geometric forms that can be described by a formula. Our eyes are very sensitive to whether or not we're looking at a true ellipse, so if you're going to make one, make it as perfect as possible (unless it doesn't matter to your customer). "Ovals" may or may not be elliptical; the term is used loosely to describe various non-elliptical shapes and approximations.

For one-off use on ellipses in the size range you mentioned, I'd probably make a simple "bulls**t grinder"-type ellispe jig for your router. Here's one from PopWood:
This type of jig is simpler to make and more accurate than templates created by the string method.

If you're going to do a lot of ellipse work and want the ability to rout or draw perfect ellipses from a few inches to 9 feet or more in length, consider making a jig like we created for a magazine article in 1993 (yikes!):
This article shows a cheval mirror I made with the jig and elsewhere in the issue you can find the plans for the jig itself. If you ever decide to built it, let me know and I'll send you a couple tips.

Absent a jig, you could draw an oval and make yourself a set of tiled printouts to tape to your blank for cutting. Alternately, you could make a template of one-quarter of your ellipse, fair it as well as you can with spokeshaves and files, ant then use it to template-rout a half or full oval. This is fussy work, time consuming and probably will end up with flats and bumps that will detract visually from the finished appearance.


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