is for volute. The Oxford dictionary defines a volute as a spiral or twisted formation or object. For the furniture designer, a volute is a graceful way to terminate a line. No doubt inspired by the unfurling organic forms that abound in nature, volutes are employed in endless variety, from the massive scrolls that grace an Ionic capital down to countless tiny detailed carvings. Most of the historical design books include a section on how to generate a volute with a straight edge and compass. At first blush this seems a bit useless for a woodworker as the actual layouts in furniture are too small to layout with a compass, akin to neutering a hummingbird. For that small carved volute on the end of a chair arm, a freehand layout is needed. Recently I was speaking to a group at the Woodworking Workshops of the Shenandoah Valley and we discussed this freehand layout dilemma. I proposed a little experiment. First I had everyone draw a small volute freehand about the size of a silver dollar. Then we whipped out our compasses and walked through the steps to draw a large classical volute complete with all the hieroglyphics and voodoo. Amid all the stumbling and some cursing, I could hear the “ahas” bubble up as the logic clicked at everyone’s fingertips. Finally everyone executed another small freehand sketch, this time using using the knowledge they had just gleaned. Here’s one example of a before and after. With a little practice and this knowledge, anyone can quickly and easily draw a graceful organic volute.
George R. Walker