Monday, March 04, 2013

Is square square?

I am rapidly arriving at the conclusion that while there may be nothing absolutely special about the golden rectangle, there is something special about the rectangle in general in that it's not square. The aspect ratio of rugs and photos and paper sizes may only be for convenience and for effective marketing but there is purpose in making things rectangular rather than square. For a box, being rectangular means that one long side gets hinged, and because that long side is long (not short), the lid is more stable and the hinges have greater strength. It would also be awkward visually and to the touch if the box hinges were located on the short side. (believe me, I tried it). In any case, it seems that until my reference librarian tells me otherwise, I'm assuming that my ratio of x:x +/- 2 is an ideal formula for making a box if you have no idea what you might be planning to put inside.

4"x 6", 5" x 7", 7 3/4" x 9 3/4" x:x+/- 2
I have sort of followed this formula for years. For instance, one of my production boxes is sized 3" x 5". A hand-cut dovetailed walnut jewelry box that I made for my mother in about 1980 was sized 8" x 10". So is there any more magic in this formula than in the golden rectangle made popular by the ancient Greeks? I don't propose that. And if any formula takes you to the wood shop and gets you busy developing skill and trying to prove something to yourself, we all win.

Make, fix and create...


  1. Some of the proportions the shakers used were 'fancy,' like the golden mean. Other times they were simple integers. Sometimes, it seems, it was just a question of what would fit the space.

    But it worked.

  2. You can count on the Shakers to take the practical view. If it doesn't fit, it won't be made.

  3. surely x:x +2 only works in quite a small scale, or if working in imperial? the process carried out in centimeters would yield very different results. A four inch box measured in centimeters would be 10x12cms or roughly 4x4 3/4"...

    As would a large box in imperial, 20"x22"...

    Surely x:1.25X does the job better? Though i take the point that it is an aesthetic consideration beyond a strict following of a rule.