Down the Rabbit Hole

Strad form

Can you see a violin body in this jumble? Drawing by author.

Last Friday Jim Tolpin shared a brief teaser about the artisan design language we explored together in our soon to be released book “By Hand & Eye”. In the comments that followed, Jim made a reference to the Rabbit Hole.

What exactly is a Rabbit Hole and what does it have to do with furniture design you might ask? The short answer is that it’s a bucket where we tossed anything that didn’t make it into the final draft. The long answer is that much of the Rabbit Hole material is a playground Jim and I explored during the research phase of this project. This artisan design approach didn’t evolve in a vacuum and a good amount of corroborating evidence came from science as well as the arts. We chased down many a faint trail, often ending in a Rabbit Hole.

The drawing above is a good example. It’s my attempt to draw a historic re-creation of the geometry behind the original violin bodies created in Italy. As it turns out musical instrument makers pulled knowledge from the

Man drawing a Lute by Albrecht Durher

Man drawing a Lute by Albrecht Durher

same wellspring as furniture builders. Here’s a link to a compass sequence that lies behind the form and another link to more information Traite de Lutherie. What’s it have to do with furniture? Well that’s why it ended up in the Rabbit Hole. Yet it is fascinating stuff and it does illustrate that in the hands of a capable master, incredible ideas can spring from a few simple shapes. I can’t help but mention that the form starts with a square and contains several key proportions based on simple whole number harmonic ratios, the same ratios often found in architecture and furniture. Don’t worry, you don’t have to master anything this complicated to design furniture but it does illustrate that we are only scratching the surface of some profound knowledge that’s all but lost.

Jim and I agreed that you may enjoy this as much as we did so I’ll be posting snippets over the coming months. Keep an eye out for Rabbit holes to jump down.

George R. Walker

About walkerg

Woodworker and writer
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4 Responses to Down the Rabbit Hole

  1. Chris Bame says:

    Great stuff George. I can’t wait for the book !!

  2. David says:

    Wow. What an amazing sequence. Thank you.

  3. Tim Raleigh says:

    This is a great post. Thanks so much.

  4. chuck nickerson says:

    Speaking for myself, I’d gladly subscribe to a series of on-line lessons/posts from the ‘rabbit hole’ like this, if there was some voice-over or written explanation grouping the many steps.

    Some top-down framework would add a lot for me.

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