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In formal design work there were many rules of proportion. One often mentioned in reference to gun work is the "Golden Mean." This proportion, which dates back to the art work of the ancient Greeks, is 1 to 1.618 and that is the often rounded off to 3 to 5. In modern use we have the 3X5 card and the 8 1/2X11 sheet of paper as reminders of the Golden Mean.

The Journal of Historical Armsmaking Technology, Volume II, 1987, has an article by Barry Bohnet that goes into some detail in explaining the importance of proportion in design.

BELOW: A pair of modern dividers set at the three to five proportion. Other ratios can be set by moving the pivot point.

Dividers like these are available at drafting supply houses and some college book stores.

In the tool catalog of John Wyke, from the third quarter of the 18th century, the engraving shows very similar dividers to the modern ones above. The old ones are often made of brass, with steel tips. (top)