In Shop Blog, Techniques

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When starting in woodworking I couldn’t afford a good set of trammel points. I had my grandfather’s set, but it didn’t lock down well. Then one day woodworker Troy Sexton showed me how he drew large arcs and I realized that I already owned an effective trammel.

Troy uses a yardstick (or meter stick if you are metric). Then he bores holes at all the locations where he wants to draw arcs. And he has a hole bored at the 1” mark. He puts a thumbtack or nail in the hole at 1” and a pencil in the other hole.

The only hitch is, of course, that you need to account for the pivot hole being at 1”. So if you want a 10” radius, you need a hole at 11”.

Today I needed to strike arcs with a 10” radius for a stool I’m building and I used my old aluminum yardstick (which I’ve had since I was a kid) to make the arcs.

To make a new hole for a new arc, first take a centerpunch and dimple the yardstick at the exact location for the hole – the punch prevents the drill bit from wandering when you make the hole. Then drill a hole using a 1/16” bit, which fits the collar of a mechanical pencil.

The rest is simple. Put a thumbtack through the 1” hole at the center of the radius. Put a pencil in the 11” hole and strike the arc.

You can, of course, do the same thing with a strip of wood, but I like using the yardstick because I’m less likely to use the wrong hole or throw away the tool by accident.

— Christopher Schwarz

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Showing 3 comments
  • Redbat

    When I was a young man some 60 years ago I was assigned as a carpenters helper. While working with the carpenter one day he draw an arc by placing the nib of his crosscut saw on a nail in the center, and put a pencil between two saw teeth, and simply drew the arc. Isn’t that why they have the nib on the old saws they use to make? Not only that, you don’t need an extra tool either. Try it Christopher Schwarz and let me know how you like it?

  • stevegarrison

    It appears the picture showing the use of the pencil and thumbtack are opposite of the script.

  • cebuchan

    It’s effective, multipurpose,adjustable,and cheap. What more could you want?

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