Monday, June 29, 2020

Practical Geometry Lesson 5, Addendum

Why I left out diagram K from Owen Biddle's Plate 1 in his Young Carpenter's Assistant.

Lesson 5 was written for a student today who wants to draw rectangles using practical geometry.
Biddle was writing for the apprentices he worked with in 1805. They needed to know the practical application of geometry for the buildings they worked on - including the curved parts.

This addendum is like one of those long footnotes in an historic report -  a part of the story that's not quite germane to the subject, but ought to be included.

Biddle  identifies each diagram on Plate 1with a letter. There is no diagram for D. However, in his text, between C and E he discusses the mathematical instruments a carpenter should obtain. Perhaps this is D.  I quote him:

- scales of equal parts on the thin ivory or box rule
- a bow pen or compass
- a small piece of gum elastic for rubbing out black lead lines
- a stick of Indian ink
- 2 camel's hair pencils, one large, one small
- a black lead pencil

There is also no J. And there is no text in its place as exists for D. 

Here is K.  

Biddle writes: "Three points (not in a right line) or a small part of a circle being given to find a center which will describe a circle to pass through the points or complete the circle."

                                                     Start with a curve a-b .
                                 The curve in Biddle's drawing above is a-b-c.                       

 The curve divided in half:  Swing 2 arcs that are the same length  above above and below the curve: a-c and b-d. Mark where they cross, at f above and below the curve,

Connect  f and f with a line - here dashed. Mark where the line crosses the arc a-b -  I've labeled it g.
This line divides the arc in half. 
If 2 lines were given - here: a-g and g-b , this step would not be necessary. Biddle's diagram  labels his lines a-b and b-c.

Now, the instructions become complex.
Draw it step at a time. And consider that this is only Plate 1 of Biddle's pattern book. He included 43 more Plates for the carpenter's assistant.  

Divide the lines a-g and g-b in half.
This is shown in Biddle's E  and F diagrams. Check Lesson 5. 

Extend the lines which divide  a-g and g-b in half so they intersect at k,
K is the center of the circle which passes the points or completes the circle.

Refer to Biddle's drawing K above for the complete solution, all neatly explained in only one diagram.  

Clearly Biddle thought this information  was essential knowledge for  every carpenter. His next Plates illustrate why. The construction his 'young carpenter's assistant' would be working on involved determining and laying out many curved lines for vaults, arches, windows, stairs and railings.

Plate 2 discusses ellipses: how to draw them using geometry or a trammel, how to find the center and axes of one already drawn.   

Plate 3 is concerned with octagons, arches, groins. the use of trammels, how to divide a line into parts.

I am quite fond of Figure 1, describing " an Octagon within a square." . Simple, quick, even obvious - if you know geometry.

I have seen  painstaking explanations of  how to lay out an octagonal using algebra: quite painful.

Plate 6 reviews raking cornices and "the sweep of a cornice which will bend around a circular wall and stand on a spring."

Plate 31 lays out "the section and elevation of a circular or geometrical stairs". Biddle includes in figure C  "the manner of drawing a bracket for the ends of the circular steps..." and the careful, detailed instructions.

Plates 32-35 - not included here - explain how to layout the newel, the falling moldings, the hand rail for such a stair.

Biddle's Young Carpenter's Assistant, Owen, Biddle, 1805, originally published by Benjamin Johnson, Philadelphia, and Roland and Loudon, New York. Reprint by Dover Publications, Inc. 2006. If you want this book, you can easily order it from them directly. It has an excellent 15 page introduction with bibliography by Bryan Clark Green.

The posts in this series  Lessons 1-7  are :

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Practical Geometry Lessons, Lesson 5: Rectangles

Today these skills are not required knowledge for builders. We have steel carpenter squares that have true 90* corners, as well as levels and  lasers. 

The carpenter squares shown here are some of the earliest made in the States. They were made in Shaftsbury and N. Bennington, VT, 1825-60. Some are on display at the Bennington Museum; all are available for study.

The 1503 woodcut at the end of this post includes a square being used for a layout. That square might not have matched the square of another builder.

Practical geometry taught how to 'prove' that an angle was 'true'. Carpenters today still make their work 'true'.  

This "Geometric Problem'  and its solution was particularly important when carpenter squares were not necessarily true: the square corner was not always accurate, not dependably 90*.

This is the end of Lesson 5.
The carpenter's assistant who masters these problems is now ready to assist in layout and framing. Maybe he (no recorded 'shes' that I know of) will go on to learn design. 

For more ways to draw a square  see Drawing a Square, Parts 1 and 2.
Part 1:
Part 2:

After-thoughts and questions:

How did carpenters carry a 10' rod?  Did the rod fold, or come in pieces that could be connected with pegs,  perhaps leather sleeves?
I have seen one in a medieval print, part of which is shown here.

The builder on the left uses a square for layout. Below him is an axe, a saw, and a level with a triangular hole and a plumb bob.
The builder in the center holds a 10' rod.   The landscape to his right is the site where he will layout a building, or perhaps land.
 A 'rod' when used in land surveying is 16.5 feet long. It is also called a 'perch' or 'pole'. How did they carry that awkward length? 'Links' and 'chains' are also used in surveying, so perhaps a rod could be a length of chain.

 Woodcut by Gregor Riesch, Margarita Philosophical, published in Baden,1503.


The posts in this series  Lessons 1-7  are :