Sketch Your Way to Better Designs
One of my best woodworking tools is one I don’t write about much: my sketchbook. It’s an inexpensive spiral-bound thing I get at the grocery store, right by the romance novels. It’s always in my bag when I travel, and it’s on my lap when I’m “encouraged” to watch “Project Runway” with my lovely wife.
I keep a mechanical pencil clipped to its metal spirals and use it to solve tricky joinery or design problems. This activity is not even the tiniest bit artistic. Instead, I use it to record tiny brainstorms or shapes I’m playing with.
For example, the above sketch is for a chair that has been kicking my butt since June. I’ve twice aborted it in the shop, but with the help of my sketchbook I finally figured out the shape of the crest rail – a shallow “V” that I’m very happy with. And I finally resolved the arms.
To be honest, I think the crest rail started as a slip of the hand. A line that was supposed to be more curved came out flatter than I intended it. Then I just went with it.
Of course, just because you can draw it doesn’t mean you can build it in our 3-dimensional world (some architectural prints I’ve worked with require four or even five dimensions….). The crest should end up as two pieces joined in the center at their ends.
This is, of course, a tricky joint to make strong. So it’s back to my sketchbook to work out the details of how to do this: Dominos? Small splines? Really long splines that pass horizontally through a good section of the crest pieces?
Where Can You Learn to Draw?
You don’t have to take a class. Just like any set of skills, it’s mostly about using the muscles over and over – your eyes and your hands. A class on drawing at a local art center will jumpstart your skills. I plan to take one someday – just as soon as I can escape mandatory couch hour.
— Christopher Schwarz