Tag Archives: meaning of tool decoration

A Bit of Decoration

Straightedge from Diderot’s Encycopedie, Plate VI, Fig. 12.

Reproduction in quarter sawn beech.

It is often astounding to me how much a small flourish of decoration, in this case an ogee, can give an object a sense of elegance.  I speculated about this before, in a post about decoration on a Turkish bone folder. The decoration is pure in this case; I can think of no functional reason for it.  There are, of course, several functional differences between a wood and metal straightedge that could affect how we work, such as the lightness, thickness, slight dimensional variability and non-marring qualities of wood. The material differences are important: we touch and handle wood differently than metal. Using different, or reproduction tools also jars us out of our usual, ingrained work habits. Before I made this tool, the last time I used a wooden ruler was in grade school, and it had a thin brass or tin edge.  But if there is no functional difference, say between the ‘plain’ wooden ruler also depicted (Fig. 13) and this one, does the decoration change the way we use the tool–and ultimately the work we do with it?