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.
–Garrett Hack, excerpt from “Patterns in Shop Practice,” in The First Three Issues