“It’s a Quick Step From There”

* Take note that Issue Three will not be available in our store for much longer. If you don’t yet have a copy of this one, make sure you order now, before it’s completely sold out!

“Visit any shop that has been around for a while and you’ll see lots of patterns hung up here and there. Whether made of wood, cardboard, or plywood, each tells a story of the furniture built in that shop. Naturally, I have many patterns hanging in my shop, used in all phases of construction from generating pleasing shapes, to cutting joinery, and more. They are critical to every phase of how I design and make furniture. They are simple and quick-to-make tools that help me work efficiently and accurately (i.e. better). 

Templates have been in use for a very long time, probably as long as people have been making things, simply because they are the best way to transfer shapes with repeatable accuracy. Wheelwrights used them to lay out curved wheel parts (felloes), coopers for shaping tapered barrel staves, and carpenters for anything from fancy stair trim to porch brackets. Even centuries ago, furniture makers used patterns as I do today: for laying out the shapely curves of a pleasing table leg or case foot, for chair legs, the serpentine curve of a tabletop, and more. An indication of how much patterns were relied upon – and just one of many examples – is in the unique shape of cabriole legs, sometimes attributable to a specific shop. The original sources of these shapes were easily found in design books of the day. No doubt, apprentices made some of these templates and took copies with them to use in their own workshops. 


Because the 18th-century cabinetmaker competed with the shop down the street and priced his work according to price books, he was pushed to work as efficiently as possible. Making similar pieces again and again and using templates to scribe the same parts and shapes, helped in that efficiency. Because I am most often designing a new piece and am under less pressure, I use patterns in a broader way. Because pleasing shapes and good proportions are important to me, I sometimes make quick patterns to see these shapes better. I bandsaw the rough shape from 1/4"-thick softwood, and quickly refine it with a spokeshave or plane. Propping them up to look at the shape from different angles helps me to get it right. It’s a quick step from there to use that pattern to cut out the actual parts from my stock, to accurately shape those parts with a spokeshave or plane, and to lay out joinery.”

Garrett Hack, excerpt from “Patterns in Shop Practice” in Issue Three, available (at least for a little while longer) here.


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