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By George R. Walker & Jim Tolpin

Download an excerpt from this book here.

“By Hand & Eye” is a deep dive into the world of history, architecture and design. And the authors have emerged with armloads of pearls for readers.

Instead of serving up a list of formulas with magical names (i.e. the Golden Section, the Rule of Thirds) that will transform the mundane into perfection, George R. Walker and Jim Tolpin show how much of the world is governed by simple proportions, noting how ratios such as 1:2; 3:5 and 4:5 were ubiquitous in the designs of pre-industrial artisans. And the tool that helps us explore this world, then as now, are dividers.

The key to good design is to master these basic “notes” – much like learning to sing “do, re, mi.” How to do this is the subject of the first three-quarters of the book. It offers exercises, examples and encouragement in opening your inner eye, propping it up with toothpicks and learning the simple geometry that will help you improve your design.

The last quarter of “By Hand & Eye” takes these principles and puts them into practice by designing nine projects that are decidedly contemporary – proof positive that design isn’t reserved for highboys and 18th-century Philadelphia side chairs. The projects show all of the book’s design principles in full flower, yet the projects are small enough and simple enough (for the most part) that you can use them as a way to explore the book’s concepts without risking a lot of wood or time in the process.

“By Hand & Eye” is not, however, a recipe book for better design. The principles of good design are learned through exercise and repetition, and the authors offer the critical exercises in every chapter. Reading about good design is not enough to be able to master it. You have to practice it until it becomes second nature, and your hand and your eye work together as one.

“By Hand & Eye” is 200 pages long with full-color illustrations printed on heavy #80-pound matte coated paper. The book is casebound and sewn so it lasts a long time. The hardback boards are covered in cotton cloth with a black matte stamp. Like all Lost Art Press books, “By Hand & Eye” is produced and printed entirely in the United States.

This book is also available in pdf format as a DRM-free file.

NOTE: If you are looking for the animations discussed in the book, you can find them here.


Foreword     vii
Prefaces     viii

Section I: Making the Connections
Design at the Point of a Tool     3
Waking up Your Eye     19
Simple Shapes Combined into Forms     33

Section II: The Language of the Artisans
Understanding Proportions     43
Proportions Made Simple     59
Incorporating Curves     77
Classic Orders     87

Section III: Artisan Geometry
Traditional Tools     97
Basic Geometric Constructions     123
Generating Shapes     129
Generating Curves & Tapers     137
Developing Moulding Profiles     147

Section IV: Projects
About the Projects     153
Step Stool     156
Candy Box     158
Lap Desk     160
Tool Tote     162
Boot Bench     165
Coffee-for-two Tray     167
Cup Cabinet     168
Side Table     170
Vanity     172

Acknowledgements     175
Further Reading     176
Credits     178
Index     180

About the Authors

George Walker

Raised in northeast Ohio, George Walker spent the first 20 years of his woodworking in design purgatory. Then after stumbling onto the design language of the artisans, he can’t shut up about it. After four books (and working on a fifth with Jim Tolpin), and scores of magazine articles, he’s just getting started. No matter how ordinary the circumstances, George is regularly struck by the majesty and wonder of life – the way millions of colorful warblers gather at Magee Marsh before their migration across Lake Erie; the way a medieval drawing found in an old monastery can inform his work through the understanding of geometry; or the way he can now build a beautiful piece of furniture, without plans or a tape measure, using instead a stick, a piece of string and dividers. Visit George and Jim’s By Hand & Eye’s online atelier (design studio) to help you unlock your potential as a builder or maker by honing your design skills.

Read more about George in our full profile.

Jim Tolpin

Jim Tolpin, who grew up on the East Coast and now resides in Port Townsend, Washington, has been making a living at woodworking since 1970, mostly in the finish carpentry and custom cabinetmaking trades. In the last 15 years he's been writing books on woodworking and design and, after helping found Port Townsend School of Woodworking, teaching the trade. Jim is, above all else, a teacher, and the best kind, because he never believes he knows it all, and he never stops learning. He also believes in passing it on, while you still can. “There are a lot of people out there who want to know this stuff and that includes me,” he says. “I personally love being in the position of not knowing but maybe going to find out.” Visit Jim and George’s By Hand & Eye’s online atelier (design studio) to help you unlock your potential as a builder or maker by honing your design skills.

Read more about Jim in our full profile.

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