Designing by Foot, Hand & Eye


Empirical, not Imperial, is the measure of the pre-industrial maker.
By Jim Tolpin
Page: 46

From the August 2010 issue #184
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In this article I’m going to show how I design a simple piece of furniture whilst immersed in the mindset of the pre-industrial, hand-tool artisan. Because I’m not going to use power tools to build the piece, I can shelve my usual, machine-oriented design process to develop it. This means I won’t be bothering with drafting up (or SketchUp upping) numerically defined drawings in order to generate cutlists because, as you will see, I simply don’t need them. Machines need numbers – the hand-tool artisan doesn’t.

I start by roughing out concept sketches that satisfy the essential parameters of function and aesthetics that are the “givens” of the project. When I come to an iteration that looks good enough to pursue, I draw a full-scale rendering of it – and from there construct a cardboard mock-up that allows me to view the piece not only in three dimensions, but placed so I can look at it in the way it will be viewed in use. (Often, real-world views elongate or foreshorten planes and details in ways that are not obvious in drawing elevations.) Once satisfied with the mock-up, I commit the design to the traditional, analog recording system of tick sticks and templates. No tape measures or rulers of any kind are harmed in the creation of this design!

Blog: Visit Jim’s blog and read about the classes he offers at Port Townsend School of Woodworking.
Blog: Read more about the whole-number rations on George R. Walker’s “Design Matters” blog.
To buy: Get all the dividers you need on eBay. Use our custom search to find them.
In our store: Purchase Jim’s “Measure Twice, Cut Once” from our store.


From the August 2010 issue #184
Buy this issue now