General design question

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Forum topic by Toddmc posted 05-15-2009 03:39 PM 1121 views 0 times favorited 9 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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30 posts in 3332 days

05-15-2009 03:39 PM

I am curious as to how all the great woodworkers out there design their furniture. First I will tell a little about my normal practice. I fist find a design I like either on the web or in our projects section. Normally I take design elements from two or three different project then add a little of my own. I have never built straight from pre-made plans (I am to cheap for this). After I have the overall design I then Determine the General outside sizes and check that against the golden ration. I then do rough estimation for all the inside parts (like the inside of dressers). I come up with what I think is the appropriate joint and make a note on my drawing. I normally overcut my lumber then end up just using it as over cut. Sometimes I do not bother to resize legs such as for bed or nightstands to what I had drawn up figuring as long as it is bigger then I can undercut the rest of the stock once I get to the assembly stage. I cut all my lumber then I assemble.

I want to know what others do. Do most of you use computer programs for your designs (if so which ones)? Are you own drawing measured up perfectly and you follow that plan or do you have overall dimensions written down and cut to fit the rest of the pieces? Or perhaps some of the truly gifted just start building with no plans, and if so how does the product turn out?

I want to step up me skill level and need advise on proper planning before I start a project.

9 replies so far

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27250 posts in 3784 days

#1 posted 05-15-2009 03:43 PM

Todd, Sketchup has been an invaluable aide for me in designing projects. I have found that building a piece virtually helps me work out problems easier than trying to design them on paper.

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

View GaryK's profile


10262 posts in 3951 days

#2 posted 05-15-2009 03:56 PM

A lot of people like sketchup, mainly because it’s free. I could never really get the hang of it. I use AutoCAD mainly to put my ideas on “paper”. I also use it to print out 1:1 patterns to apply to my lumber.

I usually get a thought of what I want. Use AutoCAD to refine the scale and work out some details. Then when I actually build it and if I make too big a mistake to fix I will either make that part over or most likely incorporate the mistake into the design. I have never checked anything with the golden ratio.

-- Gary - Never pass up the opportunity to make a mistake look like you planned it that way - Tyler, TX

View Frankie Talarico Jr.'s profile

Frankie Talarico Jr.

353 posts in 3319 days

#3 posted 05-15-2009 03:58 PM

On the jobsite as a pro I use plans designed in CAD. In my hobby shop I wing it, Unless i’m building something in specific. When it’s hobby time you go with what you feel. Sometimes a monday you might want a Ogee pattern around that box top, Thursday you might have put a 1/4 round. It depends on the project itself.

If your building to a certain style you follow it.

My train of thought is this,
Structural then Style. I dont want to build a flimsy, fancy, freak, I want my stuff to last for ages to come. Everyone has there own ways though. And every shop produces it’s own Feel.

-- Live by what you believe, not what they want you to believe.

View a1Jim's profile


117060 posts in 3539 days

#4 posted 05-15-2009 04:14 PM

Unless I’m replacating a customers project I design on the fly

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View Damian Penney's profile

Damian Penney

1141 posts in 3954 days

#5 posted 05-15-2009 10:14 PM

I get the general design done with sketchup and then just go with flow when it comes to build time and cut to fit. I mean it doesn’t matter if you cut part c to the precise dimensions your plan asks for if part b ended up a tad too small.

-- I am always doing that which I can not do, in order that I may learn how to do it. - Pablo Picasso

View CharlieM1958's profile


16274 posts in 4181 days

#6 posted 05-15-2009 11:17 PM

Todd, I’m like you as far as borrowing design elements from things I’ve seen and adding some of my own. I don’t build from plans because it takes too much of the creative aspect out of it. But like Skarp, I’m pretty good at thinking in 3D, so I rarely put anything on paper.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View Jeff Roberts's profile

Jeff Roberts

35 posts in 3267 days

#7 posted 05-15-2009 11:26 PM

I use as little as a simple sketch on paper or detailed drawings using Solidworks depending on the project. My current home office project is in CAD since there are many different parts. This also allows my wife to see the plan before I cut wood. CAD also comes in handy if you need to make changes along the way. Parts are always fine tuned during construction.

-- Jeff, Dayton, OH

View Todd A. Clippinger's profile

Todd A. Clippinger

8901 posts in 4062 days

#8 posted 05-15-2009 11:35 PM

I design on paper with everything from rough sketches to clean finished drawings. Much of that depends on budget because I get paid for that.

I also use models and these cost too.

I cover my design process in my website. Just go to my site and click on “Design.” It was written for potential clients and woodworkers alike.

Hope that helps.

-- Todd A. Clippinger, Montana,

View Toddmc's profile


30 posts in 3332 days

#9 posted 05-15-2009 11:35 PM

I always had a nagging feeling that I had to have a full complete plan before steping into the shop (probably comes from my past job experiance). It is good to hear that most have a rough sketch then build to fit which is what my current practice is. I assume the more I build the less and less that will go on paper. As with all things practice makes perfect.

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