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BOOK REVIEW:
By Hound & Eye , by Geo. R Walker & Jim Tolpin

by J.Norman Reid
Delaplane, VA

So maybe you're a little like me. You want to create a new piece, say a dressing table. One option is to look through magazines and books for models you like and copy their designs and dimensions. But you'd really like it to be your design, not something borrowed. So you grab your tape measure and a piece of graph paper and start measuring out parts in feet and inches until you have something that pleases your eye. Then, measurements in hand, you create a cut list and start the build. Why it pleases you, you don't know. Maybe if you're like me, you never really thought about it.

But could there be another way? And might it be even better than using a tape measure or ruler? What did they use in older times before standardization even led to such things as tape measures? The answer to that is actually quite simple. That is, woodworkers and builders of great distinction over many dozens of centuries have designed and built beautiful objects and great edifices using but a few simple tools, none of which are marked out in inches or centimeters.

This other way provides the content for an amazing new book with the potential to unleash fresh ways of seeing and designing the things we build. That book— By Hound & Eye —by woodworkers George Walker and Jim Tolpin takes us further along the path of design by whole number proportions that they inaugurated with their preceding volume, the similarly-titled By Hand & Eye . This time, the journey they take is a little different; no, it's a lot different. This book is folksy and approachable to the average woodworker. It's much more personal. It's even humorous. So, what is it?

By Hound & Eye is a literal journey along the path of design, moving from the most elemental concepts to more advanced—yet simple—applications. It's personalized through the experiences of a woodworker—Journeyman—and his hound Snidely as they walk along a road from one design concept to another. As they wander, their understanding of design elements based on whole number proportions grows, as do their skills in applying basic geometry to design.

At the start, Journeyman reluctantly lays aside his tape measure and replaces it with a simple tool kit. Into his backpack go a straight edge, a pair of dividers, a compass, a sector and a bit of string. Don't know what a sector is? It's a simple tool you can make for yourself—they provide instructions and a pattern: problem solved. Those tools in hand, the skeptical Journeyman and precocious Snidely set off on an illuminating and often humorous journey.

That journey takes us first to the land of lines and points, a land where everything is straight. They learn that lines can be broken in both symmetrical and asymmetrical ways that form patterns and that by using the dividers or sector from their backpack they can create rhythms and add punctuation to those lines, making them more interesting and harmonious.

From the one-dimensional land of lines, they wander next to the place of two-dimensional shapes—circles, rectangles and squares, triangles, hexagons and more. These they learn to lay out on paper, again using whole number proportions with only the tools in their backpack.

Next they encounter curved lines and see how more complex shapes can be simply drawn, still with only their simple tool kit. These shapes include arcs, volutes and arches, all of which may eventually find their way into furniture or architectural designs.

Then, they move from two dimensional forms into the world of solid forms like cubes and spheres. Now Journeyman begins to see the design possibilities from combining lines, shapes and curves that Snidely has been aware of all along! They are presented a series of real furniture design illustrations—all using the techniques they've just learned. First is a hall table, which is laid out in basic form and then refined. Following the table are a hanging wall cabinet, a bookcase, a stand-up desk and finally a sideboard with curved front. They are also shown how designs can be readily scaled up or down to fit any size requirements while keeping their original proportions.

By Hound & Eye is unlike their first book in all but its insistence on whole number proportion design. It omits nearly all references to classical Greek orders and scholarly resources. This is a literal workbook for the woodworker who's forgotten his or her high school geometry and never thought they'd want it anyway. Along with the text are special places for the reader to play with the concepts as they are introduced and try out making designs using the reader's own small tool kit. This is a highly readable book; it's fun, even, as well as full of pleasing and informative hand-drawn illustrations. Somewhat surprisingly, I found it to be a more thorough and usable instructional guide than By Hand & Eye .

Paperbound and running to 177 pages, this recent release from Lost Art Press continues the groundbreaking traditions of this still-new publisher by adding yet another valuable, if not essential, contribution to woodworking literature and practice.

So, if you are yearning to understand what you find pleasing in furniture design, or if you want to spread your wings a bit and develop a personal style but don't quite know how to get started, this book is a great place to start. Myself, I plan to build a dressing table for my wife using only the tools in Journeyman's tool kit to prove to myself that I can design and create a pleasing piece without resorting to that new-fangled device, the tape measure.

So do yourself a favor. Get this book. You'll finish reading it in an enjoyable evening. Do the exercises. They're easy on the brain. Then make a sector and dump your tape measure. Trust me; you'll be glad you did.


CLICK HERE to order your copy of By Hound & Eye



The author is a woodworker, writer, and woodworking instructor living in the Blue Ridge Mountains with his wife, a woodshop full of power and hand tools and four cats who think they are cabinetmaker's assistants. He is the author of the forthcoming book Choosing and Using Handplanes . He can be reached by email at nreid@fcc.net .


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