THE MEASURE OF THINGS

Marking the TenonA mark on the board with a pencil. A line, an arrow, a triangle, a square. These are the symbols we use to mark with. So simple, so exact. Exact, if done with consideration aforethought.

A thumb’s length, from fingertip to elbow, the spread of our arms from out our chest or a stretched hand, tip to fingertip, we are as familiar with these measurements as any. And it is only their transformation into a more codified system that we gain speed, gain measure. How it is possible then that we can also uncover the beauty of mathematics.

Now I as a literature major have no business uncovering anything math related. I am a voyeur in this realm. A gasper and grasper at truth. Run a Fibonacci Mile and breathlessly do the math and it is beautiful in its inverse properties. 1.61418 or .61418, take your pick. It still adds up and I am befuddled how it is so. Yet I can ignore the endless spiral of its logic and use it to my libertine ends.

And these Golden systems that have been overlaid onto nature, the human form, and then architecture and furniture have a beauty and rhythm that defies luck or chance. This is not just a good guess at what works. This isn’t just luck like doing 45mph in your truck and hitting the washboard road so you sail across it gliding over the tops of the ridges instead of bumping along at 2mph. This is poetry in motion this mathematics. And for us, the humblest of her minions, we woodworkers, whose very medium continues to move and decay over time, we try to harness this mathematics and make her work for us. Make these angles and these 3-4-5 triangles tell us a truth about an angle, a wall, a theorem. And when the marks are precise enough, when we have slowed enough because we are in a hurry, then we make these imprints on the wood and try, oh how we try to follow them through. Cut on the waste side, the waste side of that line. How big is a pencil line? Are we drawing a voting map? Then I fear it is wider than a street. A pencil line a neighborhood wide, but for dovetails, when we need a precision fine enough for our naked eyes, no more is required than the barest visible mark. No more. I fear the worse were they any more naked or peering through a laser. It is quite good enough to be seeing things with our eyes and that pencil line then is precise enough.

Enough meanderings for Gary. Come join us Wednesday December 4th from 6-8pm for a lecture on Joinery Lay-out. It will, I promise, not wander but hone in on the tools and techniques we woodworkers need to make good cuts, fair curves, and well-fitting joints. And James tells me that Monday December 2nd is the Studio’s Cyber Monday. Who knew? It’s a 10% off sale on classes and workshops for the Winter Term. Please check out the Class pages on our website.

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