Q As a carpenter, I occasionally need to create elliptical shapes for things such as door transoms. I've tried the nails-and-string method, but driving nails isn't always an option. Is there another method I could try?

A Mike Patterson, owner of Patterson Builders and Remodelers, in Gaithersburg, Md., responds: I can never seem to remember the nails-and-string method, so I use a technique that I learned back in Cub Scouts that uses a series of straight lines to make an elliptical shape.

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