It’s time for the Endangered Alphabets to get on with the most ambitious carving project yet: the Tibetan dining table. As you may recall, our plan is to auction it as we go, to offer you the chance to bid on what will be not only unique but quite astonishing item before it goes into a gallery and the price moves into the realm of the GNP of many small nations. The reserve price is $2,500. Now read on…
What a wonderful exercise this has been, asking you for your suggestions as to which design I should use for the table. Check out the Comments section to see the insights on offer, as a result of which I have made two decisions.
One is simple: I need to make another table. Possibly two. Some of your design ideas were great but simply wouldn’t work on a table this big–I’d be carving until December. So expect another table project in the near future, more modest in size but more elaborate in design.
The second decision is that for this table, I’m modifying the design I did for the smaller “Graceful kindness” table I showed in the last post. It’s just too beautiful and even lyrical in its flowing lines not to be used. And that’s where the interesting mathematical challenge comes in.
Just to remind you, here’s the smaller table with the Tashi Mannox design:
That table was about 26″ across. The one currently in progress is nearly five feet across. So I couldn’t just go down to Kinko’s and enlarge Tashi’s design, as instead of a nice band around the tabletop I’d get a huge piece of text that covered almost the entire table. I had to think of it in sections.
If you look at the “Graceful kindness” design closely, it consists of two iterations of the same phrase. For the larger table, I had to make the phrase repeat more times.
But until Tim P delivered the tabletop I couldn’t even figure out how to create the band I wanted to design and carve, let alone figure out how many times the pattern needed to repeat, how to create the repeating pattern, and so on.
But when Tim heaved the top out of the back of his pickup, looking very much like the flying saucer in Men In Black, I saw that he had inserted a radial ruler, set into a small dowel, which in turn fitted into a hole in the center of the tabletop. That helped him cut the wood in a perfect circle, a surprisingly hard thing to do. But it also made my job a whole lot easier.
If you look at the photo to the left, entitled “Scene of the crime,” you will see–well, the scene of the crime, or at least of my living-room. Rulers, glasses, two different sizings of Tashi’s “Graceful kindness” calligraphy, pencil, and there, running from the center of the tabletop out to about nine o’clock, is that wooden radius, free to turn around the centerpoint like a clock hand or those wonderful devices they used to put in pie/cake pans to help you separate the pie/cake from the bottom of the pan.
My first step was purely guesswork and eyework: I decided that the undecorated outer band, the one on which my diners-to-be would set their plates and silverware, would be ten inches wide, and the decorated band would be exactly the same width as it was on my smaller table in Fig. 3. If I could make this work, it would mean none of the text would have to be resized larger or smaller.
And thanks to Tim P’s design, I could simply cut two tiny notches in his rotating wooden radius at ten inches and sixteen inches, sharpen a pencil, hold the pencil in the notch, and rotate the arm, to create the boundaries of my design area, two concentric circles waiting to be filled.
The next step relied on that wonderful property of circles–namely, that the radius of a circle is the same length as the sides of the six equilateral triangles that make up the hexagon that fits perfectly inside the circle. The easiest thing in the world (well, if you’re not terrified of basic geometry) was to divide my band into six equal sections. The question was, was a sixth of the big table anything like the size of a half of the smaller table?
Answer: they were almost identical. In other words, if I could simply flatten out the curvature of the text, I could repeat the phrase six times and it would fit my bigger table perfectly.
So that was my next task: to reproduce Tashi’s Tibetan calligraphy freehand, fitting it into the dimensions of a one-sixth section of the larger table.
Here’s what the result looked like, in these photos to the left and right of this text.
So here’s where things stand. I now have a template for my design, and as soon as I get a minute (or, more likely, two hours), I need to tape it onto the tabletop exactly over a section of my band, insert carbon paper under it, and transfer the repeating design section by section around the tabletop. Wish me luck.
P.S. I love your feedback. Keep it coming!