dvanvleet

Designing with Proportions

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I've been reading through "By Hand and Eye" and I am curious as to how many of you actually design using proportions?

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I think, to a certain extent, we all do. Unfortunately, designing and proportions are my weak points. Who is the author of the book?

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For the most part, we all start with a Plan...{sketch, drawing or blueprint] But the reality is that it's the eye that tells you if you have it right or not.  If you're looking for delicate, thinner material works better. If your a bull in a china shop, or the family is, thicker , with round corners is better.  It's your eye, your lifestyle and what you percieve to be beautiful that matters.  So I guess proportion is what most of us wind up depending on.

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I do.  That book has some good points, worthy of following, but it is awfully long winded.  I usually start by dividing by 5, or 6, and see how it looks.

Even simple things benefit from such design.  The shutters that these replaced (they weren't originals)  looked "clunky", as was the most used phrase when people I asked commented.  These were designed with dividers.  I forget the proportions, but stile width was such a proportion of the overall width, as were the rails, and width of the bevels on the raised panels.

It was simply drawn, on the outfeed table, on brown builders paper, full scale, starting with width, dividers, and framing square in a few minutes.  They were, of course, the same overall size, but the proportions of all the parts made a very noticeable difference over what was there before.

I know it seems like it wouldn't matter for something so simple, but everyone that had offered comments on the first ones, loved these (made to look old, on purpose).

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Tom, so these are actually shutters that will be used and not just for looks? Not something we see down here. The latches are on the outside so the home owner will open the window from the inside and latch the shutters? I guess that when there are multiple floors, that’s the only sensible way to do it? 

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I use whole-number proportions for most of my design work, but its more eye-ball measurement, than stepping off with dividers. I favor symmetry, so my pieces are generally designed from the middle out.

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19 hours ago, Coop said:

Tom, so these are actually shutters that will be used and not just for looks? Not something we see down here. The latches are on the outside so the home owner will open the window from the inside and latch the shutters? I guess that when there are multiple floors, that’s the only sensible way to do it? 

Yes, operable.  They'e raised panels on both sides.  That is the second floor, and the window sills are below knee level.  Each shutter is about 2" wide.  You were risking your life to lean out, and operate regular shutter dogs, so I designed, and blacksmithed those hooks, so you don't have to lean out to operate the shutters.

The latches are real ones from the mid 19th Century.   The shutters stay closed most of the time.  The house is only open to the public a couple of days in Spring, and from a little before Christmas through new years.

Opps Picture was from when I was redoing the front steps.  I loaded the wrong one.  At least, the old shutter dogs are still on the house in that picture.

I have one somewhere with the shutters closed, but can't find it yet-gotta go this morning.

You might also note the 20th Century version of Chinese Chippendale balustrade built from 2x2's, and multiple pieces radiating out from the same other piece.

 

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I consciously designed with proportions a lot more when I started out. After a while of designing your own stuff you develop an eye for what looks good and what looks not so good. I draw stuff out in CAD to get a feel for it usually. 3D models help as well. The only way to know for sure is to build a prototype, doesn't have to be a full blown prototype but the critical components helps.

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Proportions are very important in design.  I'm not making furniture (or houses), but proportions can make or break a wood turning.  But I agree that it's an "eye" thing.  I don't find much use for golden rectangles or the phi spiral.  Maybe as a starting point for a pencil drawing, but I'm highly disposed to erase those lines and replace them with something prettier.  I also do a lot of drawing first, and often 3D modeling as well.  

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I pencil things out trying to use the Fibonacci (sp?) or golden ratio, depending on the thing I’m making. Sometimes function trumps form, but for furniture I do try to do things with “proper” proportions. 
Artistic people (from which group I am excluded) can play with different forms and make beautiful things. I’m not artistic so I try to follow some sort of formula for my own designs. I like the classics.
That said, I’ll try different things, combining styles or my own ideas when I think I can get away with them and if they don’t add a lot of expense to the project. 

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In case anyone might be still interested, I found the shutter pictures.  One is with Mike inside, operating one when we started putting them up.  We quickly decided there needed to be another way to hold them open, and close them, without risk of life, or limb.  We just left the first couple of pairs closed, and went to work on the new handrails for the steps, to figure out something else for the shutter stays later.

We had just finished a massive amount of work in redoing the old sash.  They had been painted shut, and the house only had 18 of the original panes left.  We ordered a pallet of hand blown cylinder glass to match the old panes, and completely redid the sash, inside, and out.  New stops had to be made, including parting stops, so I made every sash easy to take out in that process.  Also, I hid weatherstripping, so they not only look original now, but operate better than they ever had, and at least seal all the bugs out.

I made that little portable stage, that leans against the house, to fit all the shutters so they also operate nicely.

I got the call to fix this roof, that was sagging horribly, and they kept us there for another two years, before I just had to go do other stuff.

 

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Later picture in the process.  These are considered more correct 19th Century Chinese Chippendale balustrades.  In this picture, the ones on the porch sides have not been changed yet.

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