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August 20, 2017

Custom Inlay Designs for Arts and Crafts Woodworking

“Some old things are lovely, warm still with life … of the forgotten men who made them.”
D.H. Lawrence…(1885-1930) English novelist, poet, essayist.

Custom Inlay Designs for Arts and Crafts Woodworking

Custom Inlay Designs

Custom inlay designs are found throughout the facade of the Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral (Duomo) in Florence, Italy. As a woodworker who enjoys creating various forms of wood inlay, I felt the urgency to capture the custom inlay designs that this spectacular church offers. The photograph clearly reveals a well thought out and  beautifully balanced marble inlay pattern.  The contrasting marble colors and varying geometric shapes invite one eye’s to pan across the design to understand the simple complexities of this elegant inlay border. As a trained woodworker, I find myself also listening to the thoughts of the skilled craftsmen who created these custom inlay designs back in the 1870’s. Perhaps these artisans were somehow inspired by other men such as Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo who had lived in Florence centuries ago.

Custom inlay designs such as this example reveal years of training and experience. As much as I enjoy the finished product, I would have loved to have witnessed seeing the various colors of marble as they were pulled from their quarries. Moreover, it would have been a joy to see how the apprentices worked alongside the journeyman while learning the craft. One can only imagine how the individual pieces of inlay were cut and fit. As we can see in the photo, all inlays were cut precisely for perfectly tight fitting joints.

 

Arts and Crafts Woodworking

Arts and crafts woodworking draws from countless ideas and influences from the past. For example, we can see how a woodworker named Gustav Stickley was influenced by the British arts and crafts movement while he visited England. It was this exposure to the English crafts movement that fired Stickley’s imagination. Obviously, we as woodworkers draw inspirations and influences from woodworking magazines, woodworking forums, and numerous books on the craft. However, if we keep our eyes and ears open as Gustav Stickley did, we can find woodworking ideas and inspirations where we least expect it.

Custom inlay designs on the facade of the Santa Maria del Fiore send a convincing message of pride in craftsmanship. Decorative inlays such as this example take plenty of time and patience. Yet it requires more than that to do a job like this well. It takes love of the craft. It is more than likely that the best marble inlay craftsmen in Florence were working on this project. Keep in mind that this is the face of the Cathedral and at eye level where every detail can be viewed and appreciated well beyond the lifetime of the craftsman.

Arts and Crafts woodworking in my shop takes on a new meaning after visiting Italy. My thoughts and ideas for wood inlay have shed their old limitations. I now look forward with enthusiasm to creating new hardwood inlays based upon the custom inlay designs from the Santa Maria del Fiore Duomo. Without a doubt, I’ll be listening for inlay advice from the men who worked the craft from years gone by.

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The Apprentice and The Journeyman University

Fine Woodworking Patterns for the Skilled Woodworker

“Beauty is truth, truth beauty, that is all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.”
John Keats…English lyric poet (1795-1821)

Patterns for Woodworking from the Santa Maria del Fiore

Fine woodworking patterns for the skilled woodworker can easily be be found on the facade of the Santa Maria del Fiore Duomo (Cathedral) in Florence, Italy. What we are studying in this posting is merely a sampling of the pure genius of the overall architectural design. There is just so much detail and layout. Then of course there are the skilled craftsman who created these ornamental elements and then fit them together.

Fine woodworking patterns like these can definitely be a appreciated by the skilled woodworker especially when we consider that the facade of the church is marble. Keep in mind the overall design and the amount of layout for the section shown. To simplify things we will break the components into smaller details.

Patterns for Woodworking 3 from Santa Maria del Fiore Duomo.

Notice how the mitered moulding creates a frame and adds depth to the sculpted leaves and the carved youthful face. This ornamental square is one of three squares. Each square is centered under a gothic arch of carrera and prato marble. Imagine the time, patience, and dedication it takes for a skilled woodworker to create a woodworking pattern such as this carving.

Patterns for woodworking 2 from the Santa Maria del fiore

Fine woodworking patterns can be derived from the above picture that reveals three gothic arches. Notice how the frontal arch plays off of the white and green arch in the background. The front arches also form curved triangular patterns that create borders for the sculpted flowers.

Patterns for Woodworking 4 from the Santa Maria del Fiore Duomo.

Fine woodworking patterns are shown in the mosaic inlay. The mosaic inlay is part of a base that supports a marble statue. Take a look and see how the inlay is comprised of various triangles and squares of contrasting colors. This repetitive design is a wonderful choice for an eye-catching custom woodworking pattern. It surely would make for a striking wood inlay banding for the skilled woodworker.

We have only touched upon a few of the architectural design elements that can be implemented for fine woodworking patterns by the skilled woodworker. Yet, all of the woodworking skills required are based upon woodworking basics.

1.)What other patterns catch your eye and imagination?
2.)What woodworking skills would be required to create the design elements?
3.) What woodworking projects could you create using these woodworking patterns?

 

Listen to the bells of Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence, Italy.



The Apprentice and The Journeyman University

Decorative Woodworking Patterns of Architectural Millwork & Custom Moulding

“You cannot teach a man anything. You can only help him to find it within himself.”
Galileo Galilei…Physicist, mathematician, astronomer, philosopher. (1564-1642)

Architectural detail, Santa Maria del Fiore Duomo, Florence Italy

In the article woodworkers can discover decorative woodworking patterns from the architectural millwork and custom moulding of the beautiful Santa Maria del Fiore Duomo in Florence, Italy. Upon seeing this cathedral, I instantly knew this was without question, the most breathtaking piece of architecture I have ever witnessed. Now, keep in mind that these stunning details from the church’s facade are of marble, however the same design layouts can be used in the woodworking shop to create similar millwork. The architectural design and the level of craftsmanship is simply awe-inspiring. It is for this reason I’d like to share it with my fellow woodworkers and finish carpenters.

Work on the facade started in 1871 and was finished in 1887. Take a minute to think about the amount of planning and effort that went into designing the facade. What means and equipment was used to gather the marble from the quarry? How did men shape the marble for the architectural millwork and what tools did they use to create the custom moulding? What type of scaffolding and hoisting apparatus was implemented to aid the craftsman as they worked on the church’s facade? While it is astonishing to witness the finished product, it is equally intriguing to imagine the Santa Maria del Fiore when it was a construction site in the middle of Florence.

It stands to reason that men were quite busy excavating the white marble in Carrara, Italy at this time. The marble would then need to be shaped by skilled craftsmen in their shops to the architect’s specifications and then transported into Florence. Once at the Cathedral, imagine the necessary care taken as the heavy marble was hoisted up the scaffolding with rope and wooden pulleys. What source of power was used to raise the marble millwork upwards? Was the material raised by oxen, horses, or did men use winches to pull up the marble? One’s imagination automatically takes over once in the presence of the Santa Maria del Fiore as it is overwhelmingly beautiful.

Decorative custom millwork, Santa Maria del Fiore Duomo, Florence Italy

The architectural components are simply elegant and yet they are anything but simple. Check out the following: The dentil moulding is actually coved instead of being cut square. The spiraled marble columns are embellished with a repetitive design of cross shaped, green marble inlays. The finely sculpted floral millwork on the left adds a wonderfully tasteful element to the entire composition. The angel in the centerpiece is framed within an elongated hexagon. Notice how this feature adds a three dimensional element to the facade by creating negative space as does the framed box with carvings and mouldings below.

As a woodworker studies the architectural millwork and custom moulding of the Santa Maria del Fiore, he or she will naturally wonders how this work could be duplicated in the woodworking shop. The decorative woodworking patterns of the columns could be turned on a wood lathe, carved to the spiral design, and then the cross shaped wood inlay could then be inserted into place. The coved dentils seem easy enough to create and apply as does the framework of the moulding. Next it is simply a matter of sculpting the floral millwork and then the angel. Simple enough! (yeah…right!)

Keep in mind that this is just a sampling of the facade of the Santa Maria del Fiore and yet there is plenty of detail and craftsmanship in these examples. Understanding that this work was done by hand gives a woodworker a great appreciation for the skills and the dedication of the men who worked on this project. The magnificent Duomo is a work of art and a testament to the skills of these men. The Santa Maria del Fiore along with the genius of these craftsmen will be visited often and appreciated for many years to come.

Recommended article: Decorative Inlay Patterns for Custom Hardwood Inlays


The Apprentice and The Journeyman University

Decorative Inlay Patterns for Custom Hardwood Inlays

“Every beauty which is seen here by persons of perception resembles more than anything else that celestial source from which we all  come.”
Michelangelo…Italian Sculptor, painter, architect, engineer, and poet (1475-1564)

Inlay Design from the Duomo in Florence Italy

Inlay Pattern from Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence, Italy

If you have been following this woodworking blog for anytime you know that there is quite a bit of attention devoted to creating wood inlay in the workshop. As woodworkers who love our work, we are constantly on the lookout for new ideas and fresh inspirations. Sometimes, we are able to capture insights from woodworking magazines, DVDs, or books on working with wood. However, on a recent trip I came across something very stimulating that I’d like to share with you, my viewers. These decorative inlay patterns for custom hardwood inlays are actually inlay designs from the facade of the Santa Maria del Foire Cathedral in Florence, Italy.

When you first see the this church it can be quite overwhelming as it truly magnificent and is just loaded with such a vast amount of finely crafted detail. What is even more amazing is the fact that entire facade of this Cathedral is wrapped in polychromatic veneers of marble. For the purpose of this posting on decorative inlay patterns for custom hardwood inlays, I find it best to begin with an extremely simple and yet elegant marble inlay design. The white marble is from Carrara. The green is from Prato and the red marble is from Sienna. (Carrara, Prato, and Sienna are all towns in Italy from which the marble is quarried.) Notice how the marble color combinations play off of one another. Also, take a look at how the interior mouldings of the rectangle and the square are mitered. As a woodworker, if you want to learn how to inlay wood, this design in marble is a great place to start.

Starting from the small square at the very center of the inlay pattern, notice how this white square is turned on its point and sets the stage for the direction of the overall inlay design. The rounded red cross follows this same direction as does the larger square. Here, the larger square with its mouldings and shadow lines adds a perception of depth as does the surrounding rectangle with its mouldings.

The overall inlay pattern may seem difficult at first. However, this is where we woodworkers take our time and enjoy the woodworking process. As you can clearly see, the inlay design is not hard once we break it down into its smaller components. However, my first thought is that it would be best to lay this custom inlay pattern out on paper and then take our measurements from there. By making duplicate copies of the overall pattern we can make templates available for each component’s pattern. From there it is just a matter of fitting the components together.

Marble inlays from the Duomo, Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence, Italy

When creating wood inlay patterns we are able to utilize our veneers from an assortment of hardwoods. Here, we can experiment with different wood colors to see how they contrast or compliment one another. We can also pay special attention to the wood grain patterns as this may provide a positive influence to our custom woodworking inlay.

Keep in mind that once we have the overall decorative inlay patterns and individual component templates made, we can then create any number of custom hardwood inlays. From here it is simply a matter of production work and if we choose, we can repeat the inlay pattern throughout our wood project. As you can imagine, the craftsman of the Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral used this custom inlay and other inlay designs continually on the marble facade to create an astonishing work of art. What type of an affect could inlays like this have on our furniture pieces, fireplace mantels, and other wood projects?

Note: The installation on the front facade of the Santa Maria del Fiore began in 1876 and was completed in 1887.

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Santa Maria del Fiore…Duomo Cathedral of Florence, Italy

The Cathedral of Florence, Italy...Santa Maria Del Fiore

The Cathedral of Florence, Italy…Santa Maria Del Fiore

“All truths are easily understood once they are discovered, the point is to discover them.”
Galileo Galilei
…Italian philosopher, astronomer, and mathematician…(1564-1642)

The Santa Maria Fiore in Florence, Italy is an impressive sight. It is unlike anything that I have seen before because of its sheer size, its wonderful architecture, and its amazing detail. I first saw the Duomo (Cathedral Church) on a late afternoon in early April. The sky was pure blue and the low angled sun was shining on the front entrance of the church as hundreds of people were sitting on the various rows of steps which led to the cathedral. Most of the people seated on the steps were quite young and it was as if they were a part of something very unique and special. I have a feeling that many generations of people have been sitting on these steps all along for a number of centuries.

The first stone of the Duomo was laid in 1296. Filippo Brunelleschi designed the octagonal dome that began construction in 1420 and was completed in 1436. (Brunelleschi’s dome was a first of its kind.) Work on the facade started in 1871 and was finished in 1887.
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Santa Maria Del Fiore in Florence, Italy...looking towards the dome

Santa Maria Del Fiore in Florence, Italy…looking towards the dome

One can not help but be attracted to the Cathedral of Florence, Italy and I immediately had the urge to go up close and touch the facade of this building. I needed to see the detail of the marble sculptings and to feel them. There is so much design detail from afar and the same applies when taking a close look. You have to see this structure to truly appreciate what it offers and even then it is hard to take it all in at one time. However, you quickly become resigned and accept the fact that you will simply absorb as much as you possibly can given the time you have available.

The building is enormous. It is 502 ft. long by 295 ft. wide. It is 295 ft. tall from the pavement to the opening of the lantern in the dome. It is 375 ft. from the pavement to the top of the lantern.

The Dome of Santa Maria del fiore in Florence, Italy

The Dome of Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence, Italy

The complete exterior facade of the Duomo de Florence is wrapped in a veneer of marble. There is white marble from Carrara, red marble from Siena, and green marble from Prato. Moreover, the amount of marble used for the exterior finish is mind boggling when one considers the processes involved from the initial quarrying the stone to the final installation. Think about this. The marble is dug out of the ground, it has to be cut and dimensioned, and it has to be polished. Now it has to be transported to Florence (Firenze) where it will be fit and installed on the exterior walls at varying elevations. Just imagine the scaffolding involved, the hoisting apparatus used, and the skilled workforce to apply the marble facing. What we today witness is the finished product, however there was obviously a great deal more involved with the construction than what we are able to see today. The quality of the workmanship is outstanding as attention is given to every detail.

As someone who has had a career in the trades as a finish carpenter and is a lifelong woodworker, I truly admire and respect the craftsmanship of the men who made Duomo de Florence possible. It is simply a masterpiece as everyone sitting in the sunshine on the front steps knows.

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