Form Before Figure – End Grain - Popular Woodworking Magazine

Form Before Figure – End Grain

 In November 2017 #235, Popular Woodworking Magazine Article Index

Proportion and structure outweigh ornament and showy materials.

by Bob Rozaieski
page 72

Have you ever found such a stunning piece of wood that you were almost afraid to cut into it? You know the boards I’m talking about. The tiger maple with such unbelievable striping you just want to put a frame around it and hang it on the wall. Or the curly cherry with the surface that looks so deep you could drown in it. It’s not too common to luck into boards like these, so when we do, our first instinct is often to try to showcase that unbelievable figure on every surface of a project that we can. That approach, however, frequently leads to less-than-stellar results that can range in appearance from “meh” to “blech.”

Similar results can occur from the overuse of other decorative elements such as mouldings, carvings, inlay, decorative painting or contrasting wood species. Any element whose main purpose is to highlight can also serve to detract if there’s too much of it, or if the underlying form is lacking.

We should also include exposed joinery in this discussion. Many woodworkers today are obsessed with showy joinery. Air-tight dovetails, pillowed through-mortise-and-tenon joints and ebony pegs, when used with restraint, can indeed add an element of visual interest to a piece with strong underlying form.

Blog: Read Bob Rozaieski’s blog and see his work at
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From the November 2017 issue, #235

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