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Thread: How to incorporate design and proportions into projects

  1. #1
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    How to incorporate design and proportions into projects

    Now that I have a few more projects under my belt that have been mostly cordless, I realize I have a terrible sense of design and proportions. It feels like my projects always turn out blocky looking or are too thick. Is there any books I should read or rules of thumb to follow for traditional design? I was trying to think of a simple and functional project for my next project. Something that won't take a huge time commitment. I have decided I want to try the 5 board bench.I have looked at several examples online and some look like projects from a high school shop class and some look like a more refined piece of furniture while still remaining simple. I am looking for the latter example. I want to maintain simplicity but yet have it look like it was made by a Craftsman and not an amateur project. Some have a long curve in the center boards or the seat or a simple design in the legs. I guess where do you guys start when designing a new project?
    Last edited by Jason Buresh; 07-06-2021 at 1:37 PM.

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    Measure Twice, Cut Once by Jim Tolpin. Readily available at most local libraries.

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    Go look at furniture. Lots of it. Every piece you have time to glance at. What grabs you? What are you still thinking about when your head hits the pillow?

    I find (YMMV) that I like the lines of tapered straight leg Federal and Art Deco stuff, but not the surface treatments. And I might like some other thing more later.

    For basic tables look at leg shapes, visual weight of the various components, the chamfer on the underside of table tops. You can't cover up those three with any amount of surface treatment. There are some excellent pieces in both the design and projects subforums here further down from the top of the home page.

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    I have decided I want to try the 5 board bench.I have looked at several examples online and some look like projects from a high school shop class and some look like a more refined piece of furniture while still remaining simple.
    Here is my six board bench > https://sawmillcreek.org/showthread.php?214308 < it is the same as a five board bench except the top is on hinges to make a storage space.

    Five Board Bench.jpg

    There is a link to a video of the making of a five board bench.

    For proportion you might look up > golden ratio < also > https://sawmillcreek.org/showthread.php?223546

    jtk
    "A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."
    - Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965)

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    By Hand & Eye is another good book, also with Jim Tolpin as one of the Authors. It's pretty long winded, in my opinion, but very good on proportions. I do use dividers, and start with relative proportions at 1:5, 1:6, 3:4, 4:5, and such, to see how a rough drawing suits the eye. It always surprises me that some random ratio just doesn't look right.

    https://lostartpress.com/products/by-hand-eye-1
    Last edited by Tom M King; 07-06-2021 at 5:50 PM.

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    Leonardo DaVinci was great at proportions and ratios, he did some maths to try and quantify it. Good advice given here, look at furniture. Go to museums, the pinnacle of craftsmanship and design just sitting around.
    Look at ratios that just don’t work and don’t be afraid to say so. “Yea it looks clumpy and heavy”. A well made piece of furniture will be around 100 years+, worth the effort to make it look light, flow, grounded, whatever suits it.
    You will gain an appreciation, make pieces, be critical, you will only get better!
    ​You can do a lot with very little! You can do a little more with a lot!

  7. #7
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    Drawings are great for judging proportions. Simple elevations are usually fine. Mess around with the proportions until it looks right. If the proportions look right in a scaled drawing, they'll look right at full scale.

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    Quote Originally Posted by William Fretwell View Post
    Leonardo DaVinci was great at proportions and ratios, he did some maths to try and quantify it.
    [edited]
    He also illustrated a book on mathematics written by Luca Pacioli, Divina proportione. First printing circa 1509.

    jtk
    "A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."
    - Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965)

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    I draw before, without regard to what dimensions the wood have. I have a feeling the clumsiness and too thick parts often come from the predimensioned wood. Not all parts have to be 3/4 inch thick. For a smaller cabinet shelves and dividers can be a lot thinner and still strong.

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    Very true Oskar, I dimension my own wood to match my drawings. Hard woods are plenty strong. Soft wood drawer bottoms with tapered edges work well. Tapered edges on tops of furniture give it a light look while leaving you enough wood to work with.
    ​You can do a lot with very little! You can do a little more with a lot!

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    I had the same problem, especially with table legs. I eventually made a whole series of dummies of different proportions and sizes to find out what I liked and didn't like. They now fill a drawer and are useful when planning a new piece. -Howard

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    There are proportions that have been around for so long we grow up with some variations on them our whole life. This life experience is what makes you think to yourself, "this counter is too low" or "this table is too high" or "that door is too wide". The golden ration is certainly one place to start. Look at furniture articles that talk about the Fibonacci curve or proportions.
    Take me to the hotel - Baggage gone, oh well . . .

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    isn't there a device floating around, that sets out the Golden Ratios? usually used at a draughting table, to draw up a plan.....

    Just gets to the point, after a while, the brain gets used to those ratios, and how they are supposed to look...trying to remember the exact "numbers" in the Ratio.....
    A Planer? I'm the Planer, and this is what I use

  14. #14
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    Thank you everyone for the advice so far.

    IMG_20210301_185039155.jpg

    Here is an example of what I mean. I finished this cabinet for my mother earlier in the year. I feel like the top has too much of an overhang, but I'm afraid to cut it down for fear of making it worse.

    My mother is happy with it, which I guess is what matters, but I don't have the sense of pride I usually get after accomplishing a project.

    And honestly this has pretty much been the last project I worked on. I kinda lost a little motivation

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    Quote Originally Posted by steven c newman View Post
    isn't there a device floating around, that sets out the Golden Ratios? usually used at a draughting table, to draw up a plan.....

    Just gets to the point, after a while, the brain gets used to those ratios, and how they are supposed to look...trying to remember the exact "numbers" in the Ratio.....
    Yes, something like this was mentioned in my first reply in this thread/string. It is easy to make:

    Fibonacci Gauge Dwg..png

    If you play around with the math a little it is easy to see how other gauges could be made for finding other ratios.

    It is so simple to find whole number ratios with a standard pair of dividers it isn't practicle to make such a gauge for even division uses.

    jtk
    "A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."
    - Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965)

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