Killer Wood

1504-DM

Don’t let fabulous figure overshadow your design elements.

by George Walker
page 16

Much has been written about how Michelangelo, the great artist and sculptor, spent years of his life in the Carrara, Italy, marble quarries. He sought out promising stone and often took part in the whole process, from the initial sectioning of blocks from the mountainside to the actual supervision of transporting stone to his studio in Florence.

One note of interest: The master sculptor had the enormous blocks roughed down close to their finished forms while still on the quarry floor. He provided drawings to guide the rough stone cutters and in this way minimized the cost to transport the massive stones.

Some things never change. Outstanding stone or wood is always in short supply and expensive. Yet there are hardly words to describe the bliss as a rough chunk of figured grain shimmers at first light.

Our ancestors long ago learned how to exploit the useful properties of wood. They knew that the toughness of elm made a wagon wheel hub that could take a beating, and that the elasticity of English yew could lend its power to an archer’s bow.

Yet aside from its countless utilitarian qualities, wood occasionally shows flashes of glory. Like our ancestors, we can’t help but be dazzled by the shimmering grain and tangled brushstrokes painted by nature in the face of a board.

There are no magical design formulas that come into play before we plunge a saw into some ridiculous claro walnut, but it’s obvious the stakes are higher.

Blog: Read more from George R. Walker on his Design Matters blog.
In Our Store: “Unlocking the Secrets of Traditional Design” and “Unlocking the Secrets of Traditional Design: Moldings,” George R. Walker’s DVDs.

From the April 2015 issue, #217

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