Low Gothic

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The term Gothic, when it comes to architecture, originated as an insult. It described the “barbarous German style” that was slowly being replaced by neo-Classical architecture in the Renaissance. The dreadfully pointy spires and overenthusiastic arches of Gothic architecture were a far cry from the refined columns and orderly arches of the Classical tradition, and the style was seen as representative of the dark, superstitious centuries preceding the Renaissance, when the residents of northern Europe were no better than the Vandals and Ostrogoths.

I happen to love this particular barbarous German style, so I’ve quietly coveted these bookends from 4Volt for just about as long as I can remember. A couple years ago, once I was frustrated with my textbooks perpetually falling over under their own weight, I started looking for a solution I liked. That meant no overly formal brass-and-marble bookends straight out of a Victorian parlor, no modern art pieces more suited to the carefully-staged photos in design magazines than to my actual living space, no twee owls or cameras or deer heads.

It was only a few minutes before I hit on a solution: what better for propping things up than flying buttresses? Whatever they’re supporting, be it books or cathedrals, their entire purpose is to keep structures from toppling over.

Even better, someone had already designed laser-cut flying buttress bookends. There was only one slight problem: I didn’t have access to a laser cutter, and they weren’t available for sale.

I occasionally clicked back to those bookends, admiring the clean lines and looking forward to the day when I could actually make them. I finally got laser cutter access this summer — or, more accurately, I got a friend with laser cutter access who can be bribed. I decided to go ahead and cross these bookends off my list.

After scaling the bookends to be the right size for the Hellboy books they’d be holding up, and making a few tweaks to the design, it was time to cut them out. I used 3mm craft plywood, which is thin enough to cut easily but thick enough to stay sturdy.

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A bit of sanding and a few coats of spray paint later, the pieces were glossy black and ready to assemble.

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They slotted together cleanly; the construction of the base plate and book plate is downright ingenious, and there was barely any need to glue the pieces into place.

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My favorite part is the bitty little gargoyles on the book plate. Even the smallest details on them came out beautifully!

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On seeing the final product, I noticed a few places where I’d like to make modifications to the design eventually — I’ll shorten the base plate, lower the angle of the middle buttress so it matches the other two, and turn the cutouts in the columns into flamboyant arches. Even though this ended up being a first draft, I’m extremely happy with it overall. It certainly does the job of keeping my Hellboy books in place, and it looks almost exactly like I’d hoped. And I finally got to play with lasers!

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