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March 28, 2017

Miraculous Staircase – Carpentry and Woodworking

“People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily.”

Zig Ziglar (1926 – )…Motivational author and speaker

 

Miraculous Staircase of Santa Fe NM

 

The Miraculous Staircase of Santa Fe New Mexico is an amazing piece of carpentry and woodworking. If this work of art were built today, the reaction of people would be the same as it was when this set of stairs was completed in 1878. People who actually see this spiraled staircase instantly have a feeling of admiration and marvel. This is exactly how I felt as a young carpentry apprentice during a cross county motorcycle trip to Sante Fe in the summer of 1978.

Miraculous Staircase - Wooworking - Carpentry

Miraculous Staircase - Woodworking - CarpentryThe Miraculous Staircase is located at The Loretto Chapel in old Santa Fe, New Mexico.  It is here that any aspiring or accomplished woodworker / carpenter can truly appreciate being a part of the craft of woodworking. The spiral staircase has two complete turns and has the shape of a spring. The wooden staircase is supported only where the top section is attached to the choir loft and where it base is attached on the chapel’s main floor. The design and construction of the Miraculous Staircase have left engineers and designers puzzled as to how the staircase can function without any structural support or bracing.

 

The Miraculous Staircase consists of 33 wooden steps. Two years after the spiral staircase was installed, a beautiful wooden handrail was added by other talented craftsmen. This amazing spiral railing is supported by spindles turned on a wood lathe. The underside of the stairs appears to be a veneer that follows the circular pattern. Keep in mind that no nails or screws were used by the woodworker in the construction of the staircase.

 

Miraculous Staircase - Woodworking - CarpentryThe master carpenter who built the Miraculous Staircase is unknown and he was said to have only a few tools at his disposal. However, anybody could see that he was loaded with skill, experience, and desire. As an apprentice carpenter I knew I had the desire. I just needed skills and experience. This confirmed my belief that it was essential for me to work and learn from the best craftsmen I could find. Today, I am grateful to my instructor and to all the talented journeyman carpenters and woodworkers that I have had the pleasure of working with during my career.


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Woodworking Power Tools


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.

Recommended Videos:

Let’s install Wood Inlay Bandings
Ripping Thin Strips of Wood Inlay on the Band Saw
Making Wood Inlay on the Bandsaw
Let’s Build a Bandsaw Miter Sled


The Apprentice and The Journeyman University

Woodworking Ideas & Patterns from Santa Maria del Fiore Duomo

“Discovery consists of seeing what everybody has seen and thinking what nobody else has thought.”
Jonathan Swift (1667-1745)…Anglo-Irish satirist, essayist, political pamphleteer, poet, cleric.

Woodworking ideas and patterns from Santa Maria del Fiore.

Woodworking ideas & woodworking patterns gleaned from Santa Maria del Fiore Duomo can be appreciated by students of the woodworking craft. These unique and refined woodworking ideas & woodworking patterns can be learned from the Italian master craftsmen who worked in marble in the 1870’s.

The beauty and elegance of the scene captures the imagination of this woodworker as so many woodworking skills are called upon to create such a masterpiece. The overall architectural design is simply a gem. The proportions are classical. I think you will agree with me when I say that it is one thing to draw such a beautiful design on paper. Then again, it is still entirely another thing for a skilled craftsman to create this scene by hand. Yet, here it is, a masterpiece for all to enjoy.

 

What woodworking ideas can you find in these photos? How would a woodworker create the spiraled columns out of wood? How would a woodworker make the curved moulding behind the statue?

What woodworking patterns can a woodworker find in this photo? We can see two types and sizes of spiraled columns. Notice how each column has a left and right pattern. Also, how could woodworking patterns play a role in the mosaic inlay on the curved wall? (The band saw crosscut sled and the bandsaw miter sled would each get a great workouts if wood inlay was applied to the wall.)

How would a craftsman build the curved wall behind the statue? What role would woodworking patterns play in designing and constructing the domed ceiling?

Notice how the pediment is arched and symmetrical. The cherub in the center is framed with a circular moulding while carvings adorn both sides of the pediment facade. When we study the dentil moulding, notice how the fronts of each dentil is curved. There is also a notched moulding beneath the pediment that that is arched. These notches create shadows that attract ones attention.

Woodworking ideas and woodworking patterns from Santa Maria del Fiore.

What woodworking tools would a master woodworker use to create this scene? Obviously, power tools like the table saw, band saw, and wood lathes would be employed. Hand tools such as carving tools would be needed as well as sculpting gouges when carving the capitals. However, think about this. What layout tools would be employed? It is easy to see how dividers and trammel points would be necessary for an accurate layout. Can you also see how it would be important to have woodworking patterns for woodturning the columns. A woodworker would also benefit from implementing woodworking patterns when cutting the curved work beneath the triangular pediment. Here is where a band saw would be useful.

Woodworking ideas can be captured from this photograph as these architectural elements exude a wealth of unique and specialized knowledge of our craft. It is simply a joy to witness the refined skills from the master craftsmen that have long since passed. It is their ideas, patterns, and love of the craft that continues to live on and inspire other craftsman. It is up to those of us that care to follow in their footsteps and to carry the torch for the future generations to come.

 

Recommended articles:


Decorative Inlay Patterns for Custom Hardwood Inlays

Santa Maria del Fiore…Duomo Cathedral of Florence, Italy


 

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

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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View the Decorative Door Knockers of Florence, Italy.

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