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Years ago a doctor friend claimed to have found my psychic lesion—his phrase for those individual weaknesses we all have. My failure, he said while inspecting a table I had made for him, was an unhealthy penchant for straight lines and right angles (no doubt the result of my Germanic heritage). For twenty-five years I've struggled to overcome the tyranny of the rectangle, a struggle that led me at last to the curve.
As a material, wood lends itself naturally to straight lines and angled joints. To create curves, wood must be carved or bent in some fashion. Carving into a plank of wood reveals the hidden, sometimes symmetrical, grain pattern within. The curved crests of our Harpswell Chairs are sculpted in this fashion. Virtually all curved parts in commercially produced chairs are steam bent. However, boiling the wood causes a loss in strength and because wood has memory, the bent parts tend not to hold their shape.
By laminating one-tenth inch slices of solid cherry that were knife-cut from the same tree, we can create curved shapes that are superior to steam-bent shapes. Much like the curved parts of a tennis racquet, our laminations are held in tension, so they are far stronger than their weight or mass might suggest. Over the years we have improved on our ability to shape wood, moving from simple chairs and curved table aprons to large panels such as those formed in the Sleigh Bed.
Although designing with curves has only recently gained my interest, the curved form has fascinated mankind for ages. The early Christian clandestine symbol for Christ was made by overlapping two curved lines to form a simple fish shape. A thousand years later, the fish shape was opened and turned on its tail to form the Gothic arch. It was the Greeks who gave us the cycloid curve, described as "a curve traced by a point on a circle rolling in a plane along the line of the plane," the parabolic curve, which is created by "the intersection of a cone with a plane parallel to its side," and, the wavelike cyma recta curve. The cyma curve resulted in the ogee "s" shape found on moldings and Queen Anne cabriole legs.
My 1953, not politically correct, Webster's dictionary defines curve as "…a line outlining any of the rounded prominences characteristic of the female figure." While we all have our "rounded prominences," I hope you will share my enthusiasm for our new feminine forms.
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Copyright 2014 Thos. Moser. All rights reserved.
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