That is the exact context that it came up in. I was in conversation with my Dad and he suddenly came out with this bizarre word. He was talking about constructing a very large radius, he also mentioned an extended compass like device that he said they used to just call 'trams'?
I have convinced him to get his ellipse templates out in a few days for a quick demo!
I find it interesting that this kind of thing is so unusual. But, alas, time moves on, doesn't it?
I just checked, because it has been sitting inside the front of the drawer of my board L-return desk for so long, and still have my beam compass here that will handle up to a 48-inch radius. I have that extension for a standard bow compass that will go up to probably 12-inches ... for all the small stuff. I have had that beam compass for probably 40 years, and have only used it maybe six times.
More likely to use the "hole guides," which will handle everything up to probably 6-inches, and the section version that will go up to 12-inches.
The Ellipse guides are something that I am not sure could ever be replaced, so I am fortunate to have 2 sets ... although I really haven't come close to using up one of them. Except for the really small stuff, the larger ones get spread out in their use so much that they are touch to use up. Never found the higher angle guides for the large set, so only have those from 10-60°, going from 4 to 12-inch. All of the smaller ellipsed can be done from 5 to 80°, in 5° increments from about 1/32 to 4-inch diameter. And, there are some that you still have to approximate at times.
I also have probably the largest collection of Ships curves and French curves in Southern California. Not a real claim to fame when someone trots out the latest CAD or Illustration program lately.
Want to check out my buggy whip collection???
Almost feels like that at times when someone looks at the drawing and asks why I don't do it on the computer so it can be rotated around to look at from all angles. The only response without venomous overtones can be, "Gee, I never thought of that ... how stupid of me."
At least there will be someone else who will know what this stuff is, so thank your dad for me.