Sunday, May 20, 2007

The Touch

Nope, this is not a posting about carving a seat! One of the great joys of chairmaking for me is how much of the actual work is guided by sense of sight and touch. This keeps me very attentive and involves me physically in the act of making, knowing that at any moment, the work could go awry. The feedback from our hands can be one of the greatest sources of information if we know how to use it. The image above shows how most of us would "read" the surface quality of a piece. The fingertips, with all of their nerve endings do a fine job. The problem comes when we are not as interested in the surface quality as the shape. The fingers can move independent of each other and our ability to recognize their relationship to each other is limited. Below is a photo of "reading" the shape with the whole hand while running along the curved edge. When touching the piece this way, the information is easily processed and any inconsistencies become apparent. Here is the funny thing, often I demonstrate this to students and still they use only their fingers! I guess that we spend so much time trusting our fingertips that involving the whole hand is unnatural. Give it a try, go up to any curve anywhere and touch it using your fingertips and then use your whole hand, I think you'll "see" the difference.

1 comment:

Jean-Francois Theoret said...

Touch is also a great help in judging differences (one side of a seat to another, for example) from one hand to another.

It's funny how our brain is not well adapted to judge absolute measures (machines do that well) but is terrific in judging relative measures.