April 17, 2015

[Preservation Glossary] Today's Word: Chamfer

  • By: Julia Rocchi
Example of a lamb's tongue chamfer carved in wood.

Are you a preservation word nerd? Do you seek out wild, obscure, fun-to-say-aloud terms and phrases, the kind that only place-lovers would thrill to? If so, you're in luck -- we're starting a new segment on PreservationNation called Preservation Glossary, designed to define a bite-sized word for you each week to satisfy your craving for preservation vocabulary.

First up is a word that my colleague Tom Mayes dropped last week while we were visiting a site in Charles Town, West Virginia. We were driving around the charming historic neighborhoods, looking at homes over a century old, when he said, "Look at the chamfers on those porch rails!"

And what is a chamfer, exactly? Here's how the Dictionary of Architecture and Construction defines it:

Chamfer, noun | ˈcham(p)-fər, ˈcham-pər

1. A bevel or cant, such as a small splay at the external angle of a masonry wall. 2. A wave molding. 3. A groove or furrow. 4. An oblique surface produced by beveling an edge or corner, usually at a 45-degree angle, as the edge of a board or masonry surface.

The picture at the top of the post shows a lamb's tongue chamfer, a decorative variation that ends in an "s" shape. It can be used in wood, metal, and plaster.

Word in Use: "For the Taj Mahal, the architects chose as their concept for the mausoleum a cube with its vertical corners chamfered to produce an octagon ..." -- Diana Preston, Taj Mahal: Passion and Genius at the Heart of the Moghul Empire

Have a favorite word to share, or one you've always been dying to define? Let us know in the comments, and we'll feature it in future posts. Thanks in advance for your suggestions!

Julia Rocchi is the director of content marketing at the National Trust. By day she wrangles content; by night (and weekends), she shops local, travels to story-rich places, and gawks at buildings.


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