Tidbits – “An alchemy of solids”: L’Art du Trait

Image courtesy of Patrick Moore

Patrick Moore is the only Compagnon Passant Charpentier in the Americas, having completed the traditional technical education for craftsmen and artisans dating to the Middle Ages that includes the “Tour-de-France,” the “tour” throughout France doing apprenticeships with masters. In addition to his work as a craftsman, he teaches L’Art du Trait, a way of representing volumes in depth. It is an art of stereotomy as well as an applied geometry that results in depictions of the working drawings needed to complete structures in wood or stone.

The “trait” is transformative for the work of the craftsman, but more importantly, for the craftsman himself. The journeyman Aveyronnais la Clef des Coeurs (The Heart Keystone from Aveyron) defined it thus: “The trait makes anyone who has mastered it a visionary in spatial depth. It is the alchemy of solids. Numbers are scientific but lines are initiatory.”

The scribing tradition that is inherent to the work of the Compagnon Passant Charpentiers makes it possible to design complex wooden buildings in three dimensions, and is unique to France, with similar practices found only in Japan and Germany. L’Art du Trait allows the craftsman to express, “with drawings of the greatest possible precision, the reality of a building’s volumes, how they fit together and the characteristics of the pieces of timber that frame them. It is taught in its own specific way, quite distinct from architectural theory and practice. Using this procedure during the prefabrication phase, the carpenter can identify on the ground all the constituent pieces, irrespective of their complexity, and can thus be sure that when the frame is assembled, even the most complex and voluminous elements will fall perfectly into place.”

Mr. Moore has written extensively on the subject, and you can learn more about L’Art du Trait here, and explore a sampling of his work in this arena here.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Shopping Cart
Scroll to Top