The first time I did any steam bending I tried to wing it. I was building a tall case clock out of curly maple. It had a bead that borders the gallery on the hood that outlines the arched door and another inside that frames the dial face. Hadn’t done my homework and learned the hard way that kiln dried curly maple is not high on the list of woods for steam bending. To make matters even worse I didn’t know much about building bending jigs either. The result was a large pile of splintered mangled attempts and my wife grousing about all the yelling and cursing. Through shear dumb stubbornness I was able to get the two curved pieces I needed. That was over twenty years ago but I’m still nervous that I’ll hear a pop in the night and wake to see the beading blown up.
In my newest video Unlocking the Secrets of Traditional Design: Moldings I go over how the different molding shapes (including beads) function in a design. By function I mean visual function. In the case of beads and fillets, they are often used in a separating function. They tell the eye something is about to end and another element is about to start. You can see this readily on this drawing of a Doric classic order.
Near the top of the column just below the capital is a bead or astragal. It signals the eye as it moves up the shaft that the column is about to terminate. As you move up to the entablature notice the first small fillet. It’s acting as a separator to divide two major elements. The horizontal band below the fillet is the architrave; the band above it is the frieze. Sometimes a small bead can be placed as a separator to suggest a separation even if it’s only imaginary. You can place a small bead at the bottom of a table leg to suggest a base or a beginning to the composition. You often see the same thing with a band of inlay but a bead will come across a bit stronger since it has some shadow. Take some time to look at how beads and fillets are used in this separating function when you observe good work.
Attached is a link to a trailer for my new video on moldings. For everyone freezing their butts off this cold January day, this was shot in Maine in mid-summer. It might warm your spirit and give some hope that the winter will give way to spring. Right now though the view out my window looks like the North Pole.