USING THE TRIANGLE-MARKING METHOD
Although geared toward woodworkers, this article has nothing to do with materials, skills or tools. Yet I consider it important enough to be first in what I hope will be more from what I gleaned during my lifetime.
When starting a new project, you pull out the boards and inspect them for interesting figure, blemishes and defects to determine how you are going to cut each piece. But after cutting, you need to be able to identify what each piece is to be used for and how it must be placed. What is its face? And which end is up?
To do this in a way that leaves no room for misinterpretation, the triangle-marking system is simple and foolproof. It is, in my opinion, the least complicated marking system. It is widely known and used in continental Europe, but not so much outside of Europe. The rules are simple: use an isosceles triangle that always points up or away from you, and always mark each piece in combination with the other pieces. The front of a drawer, for example, is marked in combination with the back. (Pieces that belong together are paired.) Each piece must have at least two sides of the triangle drawn on it, and the triangle is drawn on the flat side or edge of a piece but never on the end. There are no exceptions.
How the Method Works
I have chosen a simple kitchen table with a solid top as an example. The top consists of three pieces that must be glued together. Arrange them in front of you (Fig. 1) exactly as you want them to be joined. Draw a triangle across all three boards (Fig. 2). It is not necessary to draw the baseline of the triangle because each piece shows two sides, leaving no room for error.
Mark the four pieces of the apron as two separate pairs. It may not be immediately obvious, but there is no difference between marking the aprons of a table, the sides of a box or the sides of a drawer. They all have a front and back pair, and a pair consisting of two sides. There is a difference in how you mark the sides of something that stands upright compared to something that lies flat. I marked the tabletop when the pieces were flat on the bench because they were going to be put together that way. The apron pieces will stand on edge when assembled (just like a box or a drawer) and, therefore, the triangle must be drawn on the top edge. The front and back of the apron are shown in Fig. 3 and the two sides in Fig. 4.
The legs must be marked on the face, not on the top. And because they cannot be split into pairs but must be kept together as a bundle of four, they require a bit more work. Even though there are only four legs, theoretically they can be arranged into four pairs: front legs, back legs and two pairs of side legs. All of this is reflected in the marks.
Fig. 5 shows the bundle with the front legs facing forward and a triangle connecting the two. Give the bundle a quarter turn to expose the legs that make up the right-hand side. Again draw a triangle and, this time, double the baseline (Fig. 6). The base is the only line of the triangle that is shared by the two halves of this pair and is therefore the line that must be doubled. Another quarter turn brings the back legs to the front (Fig. 7).
Here we need a triple baseline. One more turn in order to mark the left-hand side with an extra three lines added to the original baseline (Fig. 8). If the bundle is turned one more time, we see the front legs again on the right, and the left-hand side on the left (Fig. 9). Foolproof, indeed!
A few more examples are shown below. They are from a cabinet that has two identical doors and two identical drawers. The doors are frame-and-panel construction.
Adrian C. van Draanen
Adrian C. van Draanen was born in Rotterdam in the Netherlands in 1927 and has been working wood for over 70 years. He moved to Canada in 1957. At age 65, he retired from Canada's National Museum Corporation in Ottawa, Ontario, where he was employed in the woodworking shop. Some of his pieces have a place in Canada's parliament buildings.
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