Pro Woodworking Tips.com
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
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
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
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 -
Inventor of: Ezee-Feed Systems ®
Designing well-crafted, pleasing, and useful pieces of
furniture Designing a piece of furniture should be fun. Yet woodworkers who think nothing of
building a complicated jig or mastering a diffi..
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