Apprentice Sketchbook December 2011

Carving detail on gate, Thuya Garden

Three months ago when I hit the send button to submit the December installment of my Design Matters column in Popular Woodworking Magazine, I did so with a bit of trepidation. The article, “Why Design”, is something of a departure. It focuses on the why we do this, versus the how to. I was half expecting an awkward phone call from Megan Fitzpatrick about the thin branch I’d crawled onto. Instead I was heartened to see in the October issue the sensitive and heartfelt piece by Toshio Odate, “A Teacup & 8 Dinner Plates”. It’s obvious the folks making editorial decisions view readers not as a woodworking consumer group, but rather fellow artisans passionate about the craft. My hat’s off to them.

            Even seeing it in print I still wrestle. My wife Barb said something so profound the other day I had to pull the truck over and write it down.

 “Whenever we use words to describe something we feel deeply about, we always diminish it”

I suppose that’s why we turn to painting or sculpture to express what words cannot.

So here I am, the inept biped trying to put into words that unexplainable thirst to design. How do you explain something that plunges you so supremely into the moment that time seems to stand still? How can you explain what it’s like to have your brain, hands, and eyes step you through a dance you could not have imagined? So forgive me if I fall short on the December article, I’m motivated by a bigger vision. As Jim Tolpin and I forge ahead on the design book project, some ideas are taking shape about design and how it relates to the craft going forward. It’s about creating something of a folk movement of woodworkers embracing design. Not about who will be the next Maloof or Krenov, but rather a much larger body of woodworkers embracing the craft, creating honest furniture because we love it.

This apprentice sketchbook segment is a simple method for scaling an object up or down just using a compass and straight edge. Start by drawing a line and marking off the actual height of the object you want to model from. In this case the height is the distance from F (fulcrum) to A. Leave the compass set to that original height and strike an arc from A upwards. Now use dividers to divide that overall height by the amount you want to scale it down. For this example I wanted to scale it in half so I simply adjusted the dividers until they bisected F A. Use that setting and using A as the fulcrum strike a second arc (dotted line). Use a straightedge to connect F B. From here you can pluck any vertical height from your original and strike an arc from F. The chord between the two lines will be scaled proportionally and will correspond to the height of that part on the smaller version.  

George R. Walker

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5 Comments

Filed under Apprentice Sketchbook, proportions

5 responses to “Apprentice Sketchbook December 2011

  1. I cannot wait for your book! Such good stuff.

  2. Rich

    Maybe it was a little late here when I tackled this one but it took me a while to decipher the “chord” comment. Once I figured out the concept, I had an “aha” moment and it made perfect sense.

  3. People already look at your design and take away whatever experiences they will, people communicate with words, and your artist statement introduces and communicates the language component of your art, it’s not essential, and i don’t think it adds anything, but it helps clarify for yourself.

  4. I agree with Rich. It took me a little bit to figure out what you meant (had to draw it out and then it made sense). It may help with a second drawing with a second set of points scaled (e.g. an A’ and B’).

    I am very interested in your design book. Any updates on the timeline? Any recommendations on other design books that would be good to read in the meantime? Though I’m sure you are not short of volunteers – if you need another person to read/comment on the draft, I’ll volunteer.

    • Chuck and Rich,

      Thanks for your input on the drawing. I walk a fine line between spelling it out in minute detail and just leaving a trail of breadcrumbs. The book will have a lot of these drawing and visualization exercises so I need to find the right tack. Thanks for your interest in the book. Right now it’s still on track for an Oct 2012 release. Be carefull what you volunteer for, I may just take you up on it. Will keep you in mind as work progresses.

      George