Wow! I sucked at math!

I mean really, Algebra, Calculus?  Just couldn’t get my head around it.  (Also too busy chasin’ girls and not a member of the football team.)  Now Geometry, on the other hand…I could “see” that.

My friend Chad (of Woodchoppintime fame) and I were discussing this just a few weeks ago. After several glasses of a very nice bourbon cask ale, we concluded that Geometry is a way of “seeing”, not a way of “figuring”.  If I move myself in relationship to an object, I get a one view.  Conversely, if I move the object in relationship to myself, I get another view.  Hello!  This is the how they built the Pyramids and how Hiram put the “Temple” together.  It’s all about seeing.  And it’s about making yourself “part of the picture.”

We see “lines” that are “plumb”, “level”, or angled in relation to other lines.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t “see” things in terms of sines and cosines.  We see in reference to planes of view.  Ergo, Plane Geometry.



Geometry was what allowed masons and carpenters to build the great cathedrals of Europe, with not one computer on the jobsite.  Geometry was the “life blood” of our “brotherhood”.  It gave craftsmen position in society.

But then came Newton and Leibniz.  They changed everything.  After these two, the mason and carpenter were no longer officers of the town council, they were mere employees.

But hark!  There may be good news.  It seems there is a resurgence of interest in geometry and how it relates to our craft.  One can only hope.  But we must study, if we are to see.


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5 Comments on “Wow! I sucked at math!”

  1. larry porter Says:

    “plane” geometry was used for piper cubs before 767s I think !

  2. Geometry is so much more useful that algebra or calculus for most people. I’ve thought the same thing ever since I started woodworking. Well said.

  3. Sylvain Says:

    For those able to read french,
    look for “géométrie descriptive” or “projection de Monge”
    here links to cursus:
    (2 MB)
    (click on the PDF icon – 37.7 MB)

    In English look for desciptive geometry or for stereotomy.


  4. I bout the LAP book ‘By Hand & Eye’ by Jim Tolpin & George Walker, hoping to get my head around geometry again. George and Jim have such great blogs and knowledge about this subject. Unfortunately, the book itself felt rushed, with large parts of it devoted to historical reference, and then then another large part devoted to woodworking projects.
    The actual part I bought the book for, (the geometry tutorials), assume a lot more knowledge from the reader than I think would be present. If you don’t ‘get’ the tutorials, there is no help whatsoever and on to the next one it goes. Most of the tutorials are badly thought through, with no understanding of how people read books or find their way through infographics. It feels like a bad compilation of half-thoughts bracketed in two large outer sections as fillers, which is a pity, because it does not reflect well on LAP and so many of their other books are excellent.
    I did have a moan to Jim Tolpin and also Chris Schwarz, they were both helpful and did say they were currently working on a ‘Workbook’ to accompany the book. I assume this is because other people have also commented the original book doesn’t work, but that is only my speculation.
    I started browsing the internet last night on this subject and ‘ThisIs Carpentry’ have done a superb four-part series on Tangent Handrailing, (not everyone’s subject I know), but a brilliant primer to geometry actually in use. They also cover drawing and carving a volute.

  5. Tico Vogt Says:

    I too sucked at math but had a feeling for geometry. If our educators had had any sensitivity they might have picked up that we were “seers” and helped us along the way.

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