In Shop Blog, Techniques

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Ever since I saw George Walker’s DVD on furniture design and his lecture at Woodworking in America, I’ve been trying out some of his ideas on pieces of furniture that I know and love. With a pair of dividers (and sometimes a beer) I’ve been walking around the drawings and thinking about shapes, proportions and punctuation.

This summer I built a simple English chest of drawers for one of my daughters that was based on an 1839 plan. I like everything about this chest (except the way one of the drawers reflects light), so I’ve been exploring this piece to see what else it has to teach me.

The underlying shape of the chest is a square, which is fairly common for this piece of furniture. So it was no surprise to encounter this simple shape.

First I explored the base and its relationship to the height and width of the case. The base is one-fifth of the height, and each foot is one-fifth of the length of the chest.

Looking closer at the drawer heights, the top drawers are 6″ high and the bottom drawer is 9″ high. That’s a simple 2:3 proportion that Walker points out is used in graduating many parts, such as the width of rails in a frame-and-panel door.

I’m going to poke around this piece some more tonight. If you’d like to read more on this topic, check out some of Walker’s latest entries on his blog. And wait until you see his first column in the February 2010 issue of Popular Woodworking (I got to read over the final layout today , neener, neener). I think you’ll be hooked.

– Christopher Schwarz

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Showing 5 comments
  • Christopher Schwarz

    The answer is posted here:

    Hope it helps.


  • mrosskaplan

    lovely piece. Quick question about the feet- are they dovetailed into the bottom or the sides of the carcass? I’vew not seen that before. Could you give a quick elaboration? Thank you, Michael

  • Adam King

    Great observations. The ideas of simple ratios between parts is the key to visual and sensory balance for everyone experiencing the piece.

    Aren’t dividers divine?

  • Eric

    That came out great Coach Schwarz,
    Seeing your stuff makes me want to head out to the shop!

  • Santiago Carmona

    Finish looks real terrific, I want to learn to build furniture like that!

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