It's nice once in a while to get away from the square designs we so often make in woodworking, with something a bit softer, like circle and ovals, Recently one of my subscribers "Phil" asked if there was an easy way of making ovals. He didn't say what he needed them for, but I thought this would be a good time to show one way of making ovals that I have used in the past ... many, many years ago.

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What's nice about this jig is that you can adjust how you want the ovals to look, do you want them almost round looking or do you want them much taller than they are wide? All these things can be done by making adjustments to the jig or the re-sizing the jig it'self.

For my demonstration on how to make this jig, I just used some recycled 3/4 inch plywood, a couple of flat head (countersink) bolts and a couple of leftover pieces of 3/4 inch plastic mitre blank material. All in all, a pretty easy jig to make.

There needs to be dados cut through the middle of the recycled plywood base that will allow the plastic mitre slot blanks to slide easily back and forth without binding or catching.  I think my 3/4 inch base was about 14 x 16 inches, but smaller or larger is fine too. 

*** I should say before I go too far in this article, there are quite a few different ways of making this jig as well as different sizes. If you are making picture frames you will probably want a much smaller version than this ... if you are making table tops, or cutting oval holes for windows in doors or other design elements, you will need to gauge your size appropriately.
Also, the type and shape of the mitre slot material you use may be different. I have seen some people make a version of this jig using "T-Slot" material for the guides and even sliding dovetails. The nice thing with these is that the pieces are locked in and can't come out, which has its pros and cons. 
If you like the outcomes from this jig, you may end up making another that is more suited to your requirements.

OK ... Back to the jig, Once the dados are cut and the plastic inserts slide nicely, I drilled a countersink hole in each piece and check the fit to make sure the screw head was not proud of the plastic, which would make it hang up during use.

Ellipse Template Jig

Next, I concentrated on the movable arm. Mine was about 24 inches long and in one end I drilled a series of holes that I could use to insert the bolts that were now protruding from the plastic inserts. A quick test of these parts in the base revealed that the arm had a tendency to "bump" against the dado slots. The quick fix to this was to simply sand a nice rounded edge on the movable arm that was all that was needed. 

Next, I worked on a couple of variations of how to hold a pencil and a felt pen in place during the drawing of an oval. I made a could of rudimentary holders but found in the end, simply drilling holes through the arm worked as good as anything. I will leave this up to you to decide how much work you want to put into pencil and pen holders. 

Oval Template Jig

My first attempt worked fine, but as I began to use the jig more and tried different setting I could see just how variable you can make this jig. It really is quite flexible in what it can do and I never had an issue with the fact that the plastic inserts could slide out easily ... they never did and I found the jig very handy in that I could remove the arm in any position ........... easily.

Ellipse Jig

In the end, I enjoyed making this jig, it didn't take long and it's amazing how something like this can change your outlook on woodworking just by the fact that you can now make an oval table top, the without this jig would be a much larger chore.

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Copyright Colin Knecht

How to Make an Ellipse Template Jig


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