As promised or threatened, depending on how you look at it, I have completed the formal proportional drawing for the Chinese Gate Bench. When I design a project I first establish the controlling distance/dimension. In this case, the height of the seat is of paramount importance. I’m sure there is a scientific way of determining the optimum height of a bench. Nope, that’s not how I worked it out. I just sat on a bunch of stuff until I found a comfortable height. About 19-1/2″ seems about right. I’m average height, 5′-10″, and a 19-1/2″ height puts my feet flat on the ground and is easy to squat down onto. Any lower and it feels like I’m falling onto it. Any higher and my feet aren’t flat on the ground. When this happens it feels like I’m balancing on the seat and start looking for someplace higher to put my feet. Think about a bar stool, I bet you always, almost instinctively, put your feet on the rung. Anyway, I decided that about 19-1/2″ was the height to work to.
I also knew that standard dimensional lumber is what I would be using to construct this bench. That means the seat thickness would be 1-1/2″. That left me with 18″ or ~460mm. I find the metric system much easier to use with proportions. I then began breaking that 460mm down to find a Module (D) that I could manipulate for the entire design. In this case D=23mm.
There is no magic formula for establishing the rest of the parts. There is a good bit of trial and error to find what looks best to my eye. The one thing I try to establish with my designs is that the height to width is a whole number proportion. Examples would be 1:1, 3:5 or in this case 2:1. This establishes an end view to this bench that is twice as high as it is wide.
Length in this case is arbitrary. The bench I’m building is relatively short to fit into it’s intended space. I could just as easily make this bench much longer using this same drawing. Typically I follow suit and make the length a function of the Module just to be consistent.
If the proportions are correct, I can easily scale a project up or down and the project will still “look” correct. A common comment I get on this blog goes something like..”I didn’t realize how big/small this was until I saw it next to XYZ.” I like these comments because it means that my proportions must be correct. Think about doll furniture. Those pieces that are perfect scale models of the real life pieces look correct. Those where the thicknesses of pieces are off seem jarring and are immediately recognized as small.
Instructional Drawing: Chinese Gate Bench