Exploration mock-ups and models

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Forum topic by Chip posted 03-16-2007 10:22 PM 1846 views 0 times favorited 22 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Chip's profile


1904 posts in 4087 days

03-16-2007 10:22 PM

I looked to see if this topic has come up before and didn’t find anything (if it has point me in that direction please).

Do many Lumberjocks do mockups or models of their work before embarking on the final piece and if so, what are some of your thoughts and approaches to those models and mockups. How detailed do you get with them? What materials do you use? Do you end up making more then one? Do you think they’re a total waste of time? Maybe the question of doing models is a forgone conclusion but I would still like to hear your thoughts and maybe even see a few pics of your mockups (maybe even with a pic of the finished furniture next to it would be interesting).

Lately I’ve been trying to do pretty detailed models of any piece I’m designing and building and I have to admit that though time consuming, they do seem beneficial, at least to me.

Anyone have any comments or pics they would like to post?

-- Better to say nothing and be thought the fool... then to speak and erase all doubt!

22 replies so far

View hObOmOnk's profile


1381 posts in 4122 days

#1 posted 03-16-2007 11:03 PM

Hi Chip:

I’m a rustic furniture maker. Typically, I create my own designs then make many copies that I sell to my customers (retail and wholesale). I find making models an excellent way of thinking through a new design and even making a model that I can show to my cutomers.

I usually create models at 1/2 scale and use the same materials and finishes that I will use in the final product. I mainly use twigs and barnwood, so my model materials are cheap. Besides, I’v always got a supply of left over materials that are too short for regular size products.

I’ve been thinking about using my models in hanging signs for display at craft shows and perhaps for some of my retailer customers.

-- 温故知新

View Chip's profile


1904 posts in 4087 days

#2 posted 03-16-2007 11:20 PM

That’s an interesting point that had never occured to me Randy… mini, easy to haul around ads. Another thing that makes the time they take to make just a bit more digestable.

I have found that the models help to sure up the sale to the actual customer, make them feel more confident in their selection of you as a craftsman, and even on occasion help get the price up a bit because they get more into the piece and can identify better with the work it will take.

I also think it’s interesting that you do them in 1/2 scale. I’ve been doing mine in 1/4 scale and the details do get a bit tedious. Maybe the next time I’ll scale up and try it 1/2.

Thanks for commenting.

-- Better to say nothing and be thought the fool... then to speak and erase all doubt!

View dennis mitchell's profile

dennis mitchell

3994 posts in 4309 days

#3 posted 03-16-2007 11:52 PM

Dons Blog has quite a bit of information on the topic. You might check it out. On a complicated piece I’ll do a full scale drawing.

View Chip's profile


1904 posts in 4087 days

#4 posted 03-17-2007 12:03 AM

Shoot Dennis, another newbie mistake. Thought I had looked all over this site and even ran some search words. And then bam, there’s Don’s blog. Sorry about that. It was very informative.

-- Better to say nothing and be thought the fool... then to speak and erase all doubt!

View Obi's profile


2213 posts in 4232 days

#5 posted 03-17-2007 04:05 AM

I don’t have the time, money or resources to waste on a mock-up. Or maybe I think I’m good enough to just draw it out on a piece of paper and then figure out everything from there.

View oscorner's profile


4563 posts in 4306 days

#6 posted 03-17-2007 05:46 AM

Most of what I make comes from plans, so someone else did the trial and error on them. Except for my turnings which I do by eye or I guess you can say trial and error.

-- Jesus is Lord!

View scottb's profile


3648 posts in 4322 days

#7 posted 03-17-2007 06:05 AM

Trial and error, or “spontaneous design change” Os!

I think I mentioned in this similar, but diverging string on Don’s Blog (Dennis linked to above…. If a reapeat question comes up, we jocks race to be the first to share the link, eh?)
There is a woodworker in Conn, who builds his prototypes one step ahead to save time… if he likes how the chair arms come out, for example, then all the tools are already at the right setting. I think this is a good idea, but I’ve yet to try it. In one sense I like the idea of having a keeper piece, if the “real” project is a commission. But I don’t necc. think making a fullscale is all that cheap, even if out of pine or halfway descent ply.

I like the idea of 1/2 scale models, or a maquette, that is what sculptors do when working on a commissioned piece. These would be great to take to shows. Some people may have a hard time visualizing it in full scale, but I’ll bet it’s easier than trying to visualize from a drawing.

I was thinking about making smaller sized pieces, bigger than doll-house sized, but easy to toe around a “house-full” of furniture samples, but that could get tedious, working in that scale. Full scale with foamcore or cardboard would be quick and easy. but after watching the Wood Whisperer do his latest project in google sketch-up, I’ll have to give that a whirl. The last full scale drawings I did took me a full weekend to get the details right. and my back was killing me all hunched over the kitchen table with a huge roll of newsprint, trying to draw something larger than the table itself!

-- I am always doing what I cannot do yet, in order to learn how to do it. - Van Gogh -- --

View oscorner's profile


4563 posts in 4306 days

#8 posted 03-17-2007 06:26 AM


-- Jesus is Lord!

View Bill's profile


2579 posts in 4156 days

#9 posted 03-17-2007 06:11 PM

I do not usually do a mock up, especially if the items is from a set of plans. If there is something tricky, I will do that on a practice piece to make sure I have the set up right.

I agree with Obi, I do not have the dollars or space to make mock ups of many items. On a few occasions, I may to a mock up of a particular joint or shape that I am not familiar with. But those are generally exceptions to the rule.

If I was heading to a craft faire, or visiting a retailer, then I might consider a model for use. Right now, that has not been necessary.

-- Bill, Turlock California,

View Jeff's profile


1010 posts in 4089 days

#10 posted 03-17-2007 06:52 PM

I haven’t made a model yet but drawings really help me sort out details and make the generation of a cutlist quick. I recently read an article on FWW, I think, about using corrugated cardboard as a cheap alternative to full and half-size mockups. I’ll see if I can locate that for you.

-- Jeff, St. Paul, MN

View Jeff's profile


1010 posts in 4089 days

#11 posted 03-17-2007 07:05 PM

Chip, this isn’t the article I was thinking of but it does address reasons for models.

It has a ‘membership required’ note on the page, BUT, I heard Fine Woodworking was having a free trial going on right now for the online version. This may or may not be the case.

UPDATE: here is the one I had previously read by Gary Rogowski.

-- Jeff, St. Paul, MN

View Chip's profile


1904 posts in 4087 days

#12 posted 03-17-2007 07:15 PM

Thanks Jeff! I’ll check that out now.

-- Better to say nothing and be thought the fool... then to speak and erase all doubt!

View Karson's profile


35120 posts in 4395 days

#13 posted 03-17-2007 10:16 PM

I used foam board that you get at the craft stores to build a 1/4 scale model of a piece that I’m making. I wanted my daughter and daughter-in-law to make a decision on number of Panels and no of drawers before starting construction.

They each picked something different that what I’d have picked if I hadn’t asked.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Southern Delaware soon moving to Virginia †

View BassBully's profile


261 posts in 4092 days

#14 posted 03-18-2007 06:37 AM

I’ve never made mock-ups because I don’t have time and more importantly I don’t like to waste wood. I’m sure someone will say that it isn’t a waste if it prevents mistakes but it still costs money. For my purposes, I usually draw my projects on grid paper to “scale” to see if it will look right. For complex things like furniture where it may need to be ergonomically correct, there are plenty of examples around my house for that purpose.

-- There are three types of people in the world, those who can count and those who can't!

View Dusty's profile


785 posts in 4151 days

#15 posted 03-18-2007 03:28 PM


I must be the oddball on this subject. I guess that doesn’t surprise me. I tend to do things a little differently. Its not the way for everyone but this has worked well for me.

Time is money. Mistakes are costly.

Because I design and build most of my own furniture this has saved me time and money over the long haul. I don’t make mocksups or prototypes for small simple time tested projects that I trust the drawing or plans .

Almost with out exception I have used mock ups, drawings, patterns, jigs and models for ever piece of furnture I have built. This is especially true for my mission collection. I certainly didn’t make a prototype out of actual red oak for a large piece like a hutch.

I build prototypes much more often for the smaller pieces. I then either use the pieces for my final project or I complete the piece and sell it or trade it when I’m done.

I draw my own templates, patterns and drawings. I often find that a good drawing or plan is hard to find these days in a magazine or woodworking book or a stand alone plan. Often there is mistakes in these plans. Most often the construction methods they use are not what I want to use.

Because I modify almost ever piece I build to my tastes, style, and construction methods I use a mock up. I then use what ever plan or idea or source I had found as a guide only. This is primary because I am a visual learner and also trained in drafting and like to draw.

I also am somewhat of a artist and like to sketch. I also like to design and build my own work.

Many times I have built a prototype piece, to make a “lessons learned” project that has lead me to much better ways of construction, much quicker construction methods, and a better final project that costs less to build and can be built in less time.

I understand the concern about the cost time and space issue. When I first started out I would build a prototype and after I had made my changes after “lessons learned” I would either sell that piece or a lot of times trade it for tools and equipment.

One side note, to take in consideration. If I am building say a end table, it takes less time to build two than one. What I mean by that is there is only one set up then for the machines, ( mortice and tenon) or dado, or what ever method your using. This then allows for a considerable amount of time savings.

I can’t tell you how many times I have built a piece and always make a extra piece anyways because some where down the line I would make a mistake, or find a knot or maybe some chip out or other reason to need that piece. It is so time consuming to go back and set up all the machines again.

I’m sure one other reason I got into the habit of making patterns or mock ups is I thought there would be a very good chance somewhere down the line someone would ask me if I could build that piece of furnture for them. That has happened many times. I then just go to my pattern box and file on that project along with my notes on “lessons learned” and it all comes back and is much quicker to build.

Finally, build it and they will come. Of all the prototypes, I have built I have yet not been able to sell or trade it.

“Build it they will come – and buy it” or it makes a great gift for someone….....

-- Dusty

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