Published by The Melaleuca Press, Lot 17 Wilsons Lane, Exeter
in The Australian Woodworker Issue 110
Scholarly and intellectual - Yes. Impractical and airy fairy - No.
Every two years since 1997 I have had the pleasure of exploring a new book by Mike Darlow. It is a terrific series and this book is no exception
Some gurus on woodturning design offer a gallery of turnings, a dash of waffly encouragement and a few simple rules which supposedly guarantee success. Mike Darlow, however, has worked hard at his subject and invites us to join him by stating that 'the secret of good design is work'.
He begins by discussing the history of design from ancient Greece to medieval Europe to 21st century North America and Australia, frequently exploring how the fields of philosophy, architecture, psychology and economics have impacted on design and woodturning.
Many readers may flick through the book looking at the diagrams, photos and captions and feel the purchase price of $70 is quite justified. For the serious student of woodturning design, there are also scads of useful ideas and concepts.
One of these benefits, which could be considered one of the book’s more practical offerings, is where Darlow shows how items such as boxes and lamp stands can be improved dramatically by minor alterations to proportions, shapes and detail - you can see an example of this in the extract from the book in Issue #108 of this magazine.
Darlow has also included 540 colour illustrations and countless mouldings, curves, surface treatments and tips on design including a page and a half on the humble fillet, which turns out to be more complex than it appears.
There are hundreds of challenging ideas about design. The 'golden mean' is commonly invoked as the ultimate in good proportion. However, Darlow debunks this idea over several enjoyable and persuasive pages.
I was disappointed that the book neglected the human form as a basis for turned designs. It would have been entertaining to see him either endorse or attack this approach.
Darlow's love of classical design is conspicuous in everything from eggcups to massive architectural columns but he also includes beautiful photographs of many contemporary, abstract and metaphorical pieces from famous turners - and some talented unknowns.
If you want to broaden your knowledge, think about design, sketch, experiment and try again, then this book is a rich resource.
The Design Process
History of Aesthetics
Concepts and Issues
Detailed Design of Form