Classical Column Orders - Popular Woodworking Magazine

## Classical Column Orders

 I’m ashamed to say that despite Chippendale’s advice, I know very little about the classical column orders. I know they are used to define ancient architectural styles. I generally ignore their distinctively decorated capitals. Instead, I simply focus on the basic proportions.The column orders are dimensioned with respect to the maximum shaft diameter also called 1 module. The chart below lists each order and provides dimensions in modules for it’s key features. I imagine the ancients were interested in making the tallest possible columns for any given shaft diameter. So it makes sense that they would dimension everything with respect to shaft diameter. I’m more interested in defining the key features in terms of height. If I’m making a table, I know the height of the legs. I need to know how fat to make them and the positions of the apron and stretcher. Depending on the column order chosen, the max. shaft diameter may vary from almost one tenth of the height to a little more than half of that. Of the 5 orders, all of the bases are roughly 1/5 the total height. The capitals vary slightly more.
 COLUMN HEIGHT BASE CAPITAL TUSCAN 11 2.2 1.75 IONIC 12.5 2.7 1.8 DORIC 12.5 2.5 2 CORINITHIAN 14 3 2 COMPOSITE 15 3 2

columnorders.xls (34.5 KB)

I made this little Excel spreadsheet sheet of the column orders that you can use to compare the orders and keep on your home computer.

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• Jerry Palmer

I’m wondering how the height/shaft diameter ratio would apply in the case of Cabriole Legs. For instance, the Tuscan ratio for a 25" leg height would call for about a 2 1/4" shaft diameter, If that is used as a diameter in even the middle of the leg, it would make for a huge major diameter at the flared top of the leg. My guess is that a major diameter at the top of 2 1/4" would be more appropriate to that leg height. But then I may be off base totally, since the flare size would need to be more in proportion to the overall size of the table. But again, the leg size must be appropriate also to the size of the table. Do I seem confused?

• Algot Runeman

I found my ignorance of classical architecture to be abysmal. I know what a column is, but didn’t have a clue what you meant by "classical column orders", in spite of the mention there must have been in some elementary or high school class along the way, so I spent a little Internet search time and eventually came across a reference in Wikipedia that was very helpful and might be a link to add to the entry:

• Lou

Thanks for writing this series. I just read the first article and I think this is the information I need to grown in woodworking. I have an urge to do something other than crafting, although I like it very much. I think I want make furniture but every time I sit down to drawn something it’s like a mute trying to talk. I’m looking forward to reading more as this series unfolds.

• Herb Kettler