The Golden Ratio for Woodworking
Have you ever noticed that some proportions in woodworking designs seem to look better than others?
It may have something to do with what is known as the Golden Ratio, which equals 1.618 and is represented by the Greek letter "Phi" Φ.
We won't pretend to be mathematicians of any sorts but we were intrigued when we first heard about the Golden Ratio that is tied in with the unique properties of the Fibonacci sequence.
We will explain, in brief, what is the Fibonacci Sequence and how it is linked to the Golden Ratio, why we will use the ratio in more of our designs and how we use the Golden Ratio/ 1.618 when designing our woodworking projects.
That said, it is not essential to use the golden rule when designing new projects.
However, it is said, that a high percentage of people do find that items designed using the golden ratio find those designs to be naturally more appealing to the eye.
Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder. Margaret Wolfe Hungerford
Why use the Golden Ratio in our designs?
You may be asking if it is not essential to use the golden ratio in our furniture designs then why bother?
We feel that there is no denying the importance of using the golden ratio as it not only has been used in architectural design, going as far back as the pyramids but it's also found all around us in nature and space.
The Fibonacci sequence is prominent in the botanical realm that we feel it's only fitting that we use when building with wood.
We use Pine in many of our wood projects, so let's take the pine tree as an example to explain the Fibonacci sequence in nature.
To start we'll look at the Fibonacci sequence itself and how it is developed.
What is the Fibonacci Sequence or Golden Ratio?
It is actually a very basic sequence where the next number is found by adding the sum up to the previous number.
We start the sequence with the first two numbers we know of being "0" and add it to the next number "1", so 0+1=1, so now we have the beginning of the sequence being 0,1,1.
Now to calculate the next number in the sequence we add the sum to the preceding number from the current sequence (0,1,1) together, so 1+1=2, the sequence is now known as 0,1,1,2.
Once again, adding the sum with the preceding number from the last sequence, so 1+2=3, now we have 0,1,1,2,3.
Next we add 2+3=5, gives us 0,1,1,2,3,5... and so on.
Here is a table to give you a better idea.
The Fibonacci Sequence
0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144, 233, 377...
233+377=610 and so on
The Fibonacci Ratio
As we get to the higher numbers and you divide the sum with the previous number you will get 1.618...
377 / 233 = 1.618025751072961...
610 / 377= 1.618037135278515...
Now that we know how the sequence is developed we can start by looking for it in nature.
One way to find it is by creating what is called the Fibonacci Spiral.
Using the Fibonacci sequence starting with the number "1" in the sequence, whereas "0" can't represent anything, we start by drawing squares.
We have two number "1's" in the sequence so we start by drawing two squares that are 1 x 1.
Then the next number is a 2, so next to the two first squares we draw a square that is 2x2.
Next to those three squares, we draw another that is 5x5 and so on...
As we continue on you will create the Golden Rectangle that looks like the one below.
You can continue to build on this rectangle. Making it larger and larger with the numbers in the sequence but the rectangle will always maintain its golden ratio.
Interesting Fact: Look at the rectangle, then look at the shape of your computer or television monitor? Does it appear similar in any way? If you were to stretch the image of the rectangle to the edge of the screen, it would likely be very close to matching the Golden Rectangle ratio.
Now you may be wondering, How does this rectangle relate to a Pine Tree?
Easy, can't you see it?
No worries, it's not that evident at first but once we show you the next step you will have an OMG moment!
All you need to do now is start from the first 1x1 box you drew and start drawing a line with all the intersecting boxes as shown below. This will create what is called the Fibonacci Spiral ( We apologize the squares weren't drawn the same way as the image above but the ratio and outcome will always be the same.)
Don't worry, we're getting real close to correlating this with a Pine Tree.
Now that you see this spiral you will start seeing it everywhere in nature.
the first thing that comes to mind when looking at this spiral is the shape of a sea shell you've probably held up to your ear as a child to hear the ocean.
Now be an adult and slice that shell in half and you will see the Fibonacci Spiral that is created in nature.
Which now brings us to a Pine Tree or at least its cone. The spiral patterns as shown in the image below will match numbers in the Fibonacci Sequence. In the image below it shows that there are 8 spirals and if we were to count them in the opposite direction there will be 13.
Okay, so we're not using pine cones to build our wood projects so why would we use the ratio in our project designs?
Again, it comes down to proportions that most people find comfortable or pleasing to the eye.
Especially if you look at wood furniture like tables, dressers, drawers, and anything else that has rectangular shapes or proportions.
These proportions are ingrained from our day-to-day lives and it may not be apparent but it does influence how we perceive a product.
So as not to disturb the course of nature, we've decided to try and maintain the Golden Ratio within our projects as much as possible in both our woodworking and website design.
How We Use The Golden Ratio In Our Designs
Basically we either take the longest length of a project and divide it by the Golden Ratio 1.618 or take the shortest length and multiply it by 1.618.
Example: If we want a coffee table to be 42" for the longest length, we would divide that by 1.618 which equals 25.957972... Round it off to the closest 1/4" or 1/2" or so, we get 26", so the tabletop would be 42" x 26" which equals to the shape of the Golden Rectangle.
Now for the height of that table, we would take the shortest number, 26" and divide that by 1.618 which equals 16". You guessed it, that is within a standard height for a coffee table, most being between 16" to 18" in height.
We do round off the measurements within 1/4" or 1/2" to make it easier for building but the overall impression is still pleasing to the eye.
Here is an example with furniture we recently built
Another way is by using a tool that will automatically give you the 1.618 ratios.
I could draw up some plans but I found a great tool also known as the golden mean caliper on Amazon by clicking the image below.
With this tool, you can start to draw plans up on paper and then figure out the proportions quickly.
It's also fun to check items around the house, in nature or even the bones on your body that all seem to follow this ratio.
The Golden Ratio In Furniture and Woodworking Design!
We hope you found this information about the golden ratio in woodworking to be interesting and help you be little more aware about the patterns in nature all around us.
Did you know about this golden rule before? Are you able to find the golden ratio in your surroundings?
Let us know by leaving a comment below. We would love to hear from you.
Paul and Brenda