Michael Bispham
Designer, Joiner and Builder
Sutton Joinery - Church Path - Great Mongeham
Deal, Kent - CT14 0HH, UK

N2004-BisphamClosely related to the builder's 'story rod,' and to 'tracing room geometry,' joiner's rods appear likely to have been used to control the construction of detailed carpentry works in many historical buildings. We might therefore come to regard the 'Rod Method' still used in traditional joinery workshops as living fragments of the 'geometric' approaches to architectural control that probably dominated building procedures until the Modern Period. Accurate, effective - and disarmingly simple - consideration of their use can illuminate the essentials of the spatial control side of the building process. An exploration of these methods may help in distinguishing between those operations that can and those that cannot be accomplished without mathematical calculations, bringing to a sharper focus the points of necessary contact between architecture and mathematics.

This paper outlines the rod method, hoping to contribute to discussions of the relationships between architecture and mathematics in the following ways:

  1. By bringing awareness of the 'Rod Methods' to the attention of those unfamiliar with their existence; providing an explanation of their nature and use, and offering this as a new area for consideration of the means by which historical work may have been accomplished;
  2. By raising, if only briefly, issues surrounding the use of key terms in connection with historical design and construction procedures. In the author's view semantic difficulties present real obstacles to concise discussion in this arena;
  3. By providing a description of the subjective experience of using this spatial control method. Contrasting the approach of being guided entirely by proportional and 'geometric' means with modern methods will allow a glimpse of the potential for 'organic' design inherent in the former, which has been largely stripped from the latter.

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. runs his own design and construction company, specializing in traditional joinery and historically sensitive building works. His approach to his work is informed by a long-standing interest in the subject of historical design and construction, and he is currently completing a book on aspects of these themes.

The correct citation for this paper is:
Michael Bispham, "The Rod Method: A Traditional Numberless Design And Layout Method", pp. 43-55 in Nexus V: Architecture and Mathematics, ed. Kim Williams and Francisco Delgado Cepeda, Fucecchio (Florence): Kim Williams Books, 2004.