The character of the wood need not affect the quality of the design, as each variety may receive equal aesthetic treatment. The bold, coarse work may have just as much feeling expressed in the design as the more delicate. It is not the material used that is the most important consideration, but the form and proportion of the article, and the harmony of the design with the surroundings. It is the study of these conditions that gives opportunity for the designer to display his skill. He asks himself: Shall the article he square or oblong? Shall it be high or low in proportion to the width? Or if, as frequently is the case, one or two dimensions are given, what will be the best proportion for the other?
After the general proportion and form is determined,then the dimensions of the component parts arc considered, and it may happen that these will be the only ones left for the designer, as the conditions of the problem sometimes fix all other sizes. By the component parts is understood (taking a table as an example) the relation of the size of the leg to the whole, the thickness of the top, and its projection; the depth of the frame, etc. Such questions must be answered for every article, and on the solution depends the quality of the design.
The stumbling block (or beginners in design is the habit of thinking in feet and inches. One of the first questions usually asked by students is, how many inches wide shall this, or that, be made? There is a feeling that because it cannot be answered at once it is impossible to make the drawing correctly. It is not necessary, in most instances, to know the figure, as the dimension is dependent entirely on the sense of proportion and practicability. All dimensions fixed by common usage are known or given to the designer; the others should be determined by the knowledge obtained from experience and observation. As the designer becomes proficient he learns that within limits a square post of a given size may be used in certain places, but whether it will look better a little larger or a little smaller is determined by judgment.
The sizes of material found in stock need not interfere with the expressing of ideas that may occur. Lumber can be obtained of almost any size desired, and if it is not at hand the next largest dimension can readily be cut down, at the small expense for waste and labor, which in special work is hardly to be considered. It certainly is not advisable to spoil a good design in order to use material without cutting a little to waste.
A good piece of furniture must be adapted to the intended use, and it should not defy the laws of nature even in appearance. It is not sufficient for it to be strong, but it must appear so, that no thought of weakness may occur; nor ought it to appear unstable. It must be well constructed, otherwise it soon becomes broken or rickety; and when new, if carelessly made, there will be something about it to cause dissatisfaction. It ought to be pleasing to the eye, not only in design but in workmanship, and its form should express its purpose. Excessive ornamentation is to be avoided. It is better to have too little ornament than too much.
Construction has been placed second in these requirements for good furniture, believing that by following the laws of utility and construction natural and rational forms will be obtained. A designer should, then, have a little knowledge of the principles of construction, and in the following chapters the usual methods will be described as far as is necessary for the needs of a draughtsman.
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