It’s one of the oldest forms of wooden decoration and still popular today in candlestick design or on the legs of tables and chairs.
The temple of Solomon in Jerusalem, thought to have been destroyed some 500 years BC, was reputedly adorned with spiral Solomonic columns or, as we know them today, barley twists.
The same decoration is also found in ancient Greek and Roman architecture, although it wasn’t until the late 17th century that the spiral form became a popular feature in furniture across Europe.
Around this time, the decoration also became known as the barley sugar twist because of its similarity with a popular children’s sweet.
Our students have been learning the intricacies of creating their own barley twists this week, because it’s still a popular form of decoration that they need to understand and master.
It’s also part of a step-by-step learning process by which they are introduced to new tools and machinery, and the mathematical precision that goes into creating a perfect twist.
It starts with carefully measuring and drawing the twist, cutting it with a tenon saw, finishing with a cylindrical or semi-circular rasp to remove irregularities and, finally, sanding.
For our professional course students it also introduces them to another level of woodworking complexity, and challenges them to put together several aspects of what they’ve learned on the course so far.
Main picture: Heather Jones from Los Angeles works on her barley twist.