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Proportions

 

Proportions, con't. from pg 1.

Even the greats of this business had to learn the secrets of proportion before they were able to build masterpieces. Thomas Chippendale, Thomas Sheridan, Townsends and Goddards, and my all time favorite, Thomas Affleck, would never have started a project without having figured out all the details, prior to starting. The eightteenth century masters all put the proper amount of emphasis on layout, based on proportion.

 
 
 
 

Learning Proper Proportion

There are an incredible number of articles written on the subject of proportions. The Free Masons were considered to be the "holders of the secrets" to the proper proportion. Eighteenth century craftsmen are recognised as true Masters at creating perfectly proportional works of art. Prior to that things tended to be a little "clunky". (kind of like your coffin, I mean your tool chest). The knowledge of proportion was there for the using, as it dates way back to the ancient Egyptians and Greeks, it just wasn't applied to any severe degree on furniture.

Fine Woodworking Magazine has done a number of books and articles on the subject. There are several formulas to proper design. The Golden Means, The Golden rectangle, 1: 1.618. The Fibonacci series. All of these pertain to being able to design almost anything, and get the kind of respect you deserve. (provided the workmanship lives up to your new knowledge of design).

Did you know that trees are perfectly proportioned? Or that the human body is also based on the same proportions that are found in the tree? For example, a simple math formula: a is to b, what a+b, is to c. This related to your arm would be: your hand (a), is to your forearm (b), what your hand plus your forearm, (a+b), is to your entire arm, (c).

The eighteenth century masters went to extremes to design their work around these "magical formulas". The famous "Philadelphia School" of craftsmen in that time period, the mid to late Seventeen Hundreds such as Thomas Affleck, Benjamin Randolph, William Savory, Jonathan Shoemaker, and several more worked independently of each other, yet the proportions they used were for the most part, identical! What's even more incredible, is that the "Newport School", (Townsends and Goddards), were building their own designs, but with remarkably similar proportioning! And it's a fact they had NO phone contact whatsoever, to collaborate their work.

Thomas Chippendale, and Thomas Sheraton, both English cabinet makers, devoted large portions of their books to proportion, with the idea that without this knowledge, a person could not successfully build furniture.

Studying any information on this topic that you can get your hands on, and there is much to be readily found, will possibly be the biggest single factor in turning those dreaded comments into songs of praise.

Probably the best book on the subject, or at least my favorite is: Fine Woodworking on "Making Period Furniture", published by the Taunton Press, Inc. copyrighted in 1985. Even if you're not building 18th century, the lessons to learned in this book will work on even the most modern forms of furniture.

If you take the time to consider and apply the correct proportions as presented in these books, before building any project, it will almost certainly be a hit!

Written by: Lee A. Jesberger © 2006 - 2010
Inventor of: Ezee-Feed Systems ®

 

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