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POPULAR
WOOD
WORKING
BOOKS
DRAFTING AND DESIGN FOR WOODWORKERS
From Pencil and Pad to Screen and CAD
Before you start cutting wood, you
need a plan. With this fully illustrated
guide to the design and drafting pro-
cess you’ll learn how to draw multiple
views of your project so every detail
gets worked out before you make
the first cut.
Whether you’re using Computer
Aided Design (CAD) programs or free
software such as Google SketchUp, this
book will walk you through the basics
and help you choose the best software
to meet your needs. You’ll be drawing
in 3D in no time!
From putting your ideas and designs
on paper or the screen to develop-
ing your designs into a project you
can build, Drafting and Design for
Woodworkers is your trusted guide to
the design process and putting your
drawings to work.
DRAW BEFORE YOU SAW
WOODWORKING
UPC
9 781558 708358
52999
ISBN 978-1-55870-835-8
EAN
US $29.99
(CAN $32.99)
Z1931
ISBN-13: 978-1-55870-835-8
ISBN-10: 1-55870-835-9
ROBERT W. LANG
LANG
From Pencil and Pad to Screen and CAD
DRAFTING
and DESIGN
FOR WOODWORKERS
Z1931 CM DRAFTING AND DESIGN.ind1 1Z1931 CM DRAFTING AND DESIGN.ind1 1 7/21/08 9:49:50 AM7/21/08 9:49:50 AM
DRAFTING
and DESIGN
FOR WOODWORKERS
From Pencil and Pad to Screen and CAD
ROBERT W. LANG
CINCINNATI, OHIO
www.popularwoodworking.com
PO
PU
L
AR
WOODWORKING BOOK
R
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DRAFTING AND DESIGN FOR WOODWORKERS. Copyright © 2008 by Robert
W. Lang. Printed and bound in China. All rights reserved. No part of this
book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechani-
cal means including information storage and retrieval systems without
permission in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer, who may
quote brief passages in a review. Published by Popular Woodworking
Books, an imprint of F+W Publications, Inc., 4700 East Galbraith Road,
Cincinnati, Ohio, 45236. First edition.
Distributed in Canada by Fraser Direct
100 Armstrong Avenue
Georgetown, Ontario L7G 5S4
Canada
Distributed in the U.K. and Europe by David & Charles
Brunel House
Newton Abbot
Devon TQ12 4PU
England
Tel: (+44) 1626 323200
Fax: (+44) 1626 323319
E-mail: postmaster@davidandcharles.co.uk
Distributed in Australia by Capricorn Link
P.O. Box 704
Windsor, NSW 2756
Australia
Visit our Web site at www.popularwoodworking.com or our consumer
Web site at www.fwbookstore.com for information on more resources for
woodworkers and other arts and crafts projects.
Other fine Popular Woodworking Books are available from your local book-
store or direct from the publisher.
12 11 10 09 08 5 4 3 2 1
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Lang, Robert W., 1953-
Drafting and design for woodworkers / by Robert W. Lang.
p. cm.
Includes index.
ISBN-13: 978-1-55870-835-8 (hc: alk. paper)
1. Furniture design. 2. Furniture making. I. Title.
TT196.L32 1008
684’.08--dc22
2008015127
ACQUISITIONS EDITOR: David Thiel
SENIOR EDITOR: Jim Stack
DESIGNER: Brian Roeth
PRODUCTION COORDINATOR: Mark Griffin
PHOTOGRAPHER: Robert W. Lang
ILLUSTRATOR: Robert W. Lang
Metric Conversion Chart
to convert to multiply by
Inches . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Centimeters . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2.54
Centimeters . . . . . . . . . . . . . Inches . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 0.4
Feet . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Centimeters . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 30.5
Centimeters . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Feet . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 0.03
Yards . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Meters . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 0.9
Meters . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Yards . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1.1
Read This Important Safety Notice
To prevent accidents, keep safety in mind while
you work. Use the safety guards installed on
power equipment; they are for your protection.
When working on power equipment, keep fin-
gers away from saw blades, wear safety goggles
to prevent injuries from flying wood chips and
sawdust, wear hearing protection and consider
installing a dust vacuum to reduce the amount
of airborne sawdust in your woodshop. Don’t
wear loose clothing, such as neckties or shirts
with loose sleeves, or jewelry, such as rings,
necklaces or bracelets, when working on power
equipment. Tie back long hair to prevent it from
getting caught in your equipment. People who
are sensitive to certain chemicals should check
the chemical content of any product before
using it. The authors and editors who compiled
this book have tried to make the contents as
accurate and correct as possible. Plans, illustra-
tions, photographs and text have been carefully
checked. All instructions, plans and projects
should be carefully read, studied and under-
stood before beginning construction. Due to
the variability of local conditions, construction
materials, skill levels, etc., neither the author
nor Popular Woodworking Books assumes any
responsibility for any accidents, injuries, dam-
ages or other losses incurred resulting from the
material presented in this book. Prices listed
for supplies and equipment were current at the
time of publication and are subject to change.
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About the Author
Robert W. Lang is the author of six books dealing specifi-
cally with the design of Craftsman and Arts & Crafts fur-
niture, including Shop Drawings for Craftsman Furniture.
He has been a professional woodworker for 30 years and
is senior editor for Popular Woodworking magazine.
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TABLE OF
CONTENTS
CHAPTER ONE
THE LANGUAGE
OF BUILDING
Drawing Concepts 8
Coordinates & Drawing Views 10
Real Drawings vs. Right Drawings 14
Drawings to Solve Problems 20
Drawings to Communicate Ideas 20
CHAPTER THREE
DRAWING ON
A COMPUTER
Two-Dimensional CAD 58
Concepts 58
Programs 58
Thinking in CAD 74
Three-Dimensional Modeling 78
Using SketchUp 78
Navigating in Space 78
Drawing in 3D 80
Grouping for Efficient Drawing 82
Dimensions, Layers & Scenes 110
Styles & Printing 112
Components 114
CHAPTER TWO
DRAWING ON PAPER
Tools & Equipment 24
Line Weights 27
Basic Techniques 31
Three-view Drawings 31
Hatching & Dimensioning 41
Advanced Techniques 44
Polygons 45
Regular Curves 48
Irregular Curves 48
Oblique & Isometric Views 51
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CHAPTER SIX
SKETCHING & DESIGN
DEVELOPMENT
The Importance of Sketching 164
Aids to Sketching 168
SUPPLIERS 174
INDEX 175
CHAPTER FIVE
PUTTING DRAWINGS
TO WORK
Generating Material's Lists 156
Calculating Materials Needed 159
Developing a Work Sequence 162
CHAPTER FOUR
DEVELOPING DESIGNS
Engineering and Art 118
Vital Engineering Principles 120
Joint Proportions & Applications 121
Leverage & Strength 126
Structural Shapes 130
Thinking Inside the Box 132
The Power of Three 133
Visual Effect of Structural Forms 134
Ergonomics & Standard Sizes 135
Chairs & Tables 135
Casework Basics 142
Adding Doors & Drawers 145
Frames & Panels in Casework 146
Beds 148
Proprotions 150
Details 152
Beads & Flutes 153
Chamfers 153
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6
INTRODUCTION
A beginning woodworker usually starts by building from existing
plans. One of the first signs that they are maturing in their craft is
when they start to change the plans to meet their needs. This is
one of the first steps towards designing their own furniture.
Drafting and Design for Woodworkers addresses not only the
design concepts involved, but shows how to put those concepts
down on paper or on the computer screen. This book provides a
complete education on design and drafting. Think of it as your
personal textbook.
Drafting and Design for Woodworkers offers hundreds of illustra-
tions that address every step of the design and drafting process.
There are photos showing how to use basic drafting tools, and
computer-screen captures of how to work with multiple, affordable
computer-aided-design programs.
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7
This book is written in
two parts — the first section
covers the basics of putting designs
into a printable format and the second discusses, in detail, what
makes a good design, design theory and standard shapes and sizes
for furniture and cabinets found in the home.
Drafting and Design for Woodworkers is primarily for beginner-
to-intermediate woodworkers, but, the experienced woodworker
who is interested in using CAD to develop their designs will find
valuable information to help them get started and keep going.
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8
CHAPTER ONE
THE LANGUAGE
OF BUILDING
DRAWING CONCEPTS
The process of drawing is in many ways the same as the process of
building. The advantage of drawing is that mistakes can be made to
disappear and problems can be resolved without wasting time and raw
material — in essence a problem-solving tool. Most of the techniques
used in drawing are identical to the techniques used in laying out and
marking work in building. The differences are that drawing is done on a
smaller scale, and in two dimensions rather than three.
Drawings describe three-dimensional objects in two-dimensional
form. This description can be precise enough to allow a builder to create
an object without having a model to follow. A photograph or perspective
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9
THE LANGUAGE OF BUILDING
drawing may be valuable for visualizing what a completed object will look
like, but it isn’t much help in making the parts for that object.
The ability to draw, design and plan makes the most of shop time and
dramatically reduces mistakes and wasted material. Drawings don’t need
to be pretty or artistic to be useful. It isn’t a matter of inborn talent; draw-
ing is a process and a skill that anyone can learn. When you learn the lan-
guage of drawing and design, and speak it for a while, your woodworking
skills will improve as a direct result.
Most of us abandon drawing at an early age. As our brains develop we
reach a point where our brains expect more than our hand-eye coordina-
tion can deliver. For sketching and realistic rendering, the book Drawing on
the Right Side of the Brain has a series of exercises that are very effective.
For woodworking, artistic renderings can help refine a concept or
sell a project, but the truly useful form of drawing is mechanical. This is
the tool that will open many doors, and the good news is you don’t need
artistic talent or the ability to draw a straight line. An understanding of
this kind of drawing is not only a foundation for planning work, it will
aid in drawing that is more artistic. Later chapters will cover conceptual
work and sketching.
By learning the concepts and basic techniques of drafting on paper,
the reader will develop important skills that will make computer drawing
more efficient and freehand drawing more realistic.
In the real world, any given object has height (the distance it mea-
sures up and down), width (the distance from side to side) and depth
(the distance toward or away from the observer). In mechanical drawing,
each of these directions is treated in a specific way. Instead of drawing
so that objects “look right”, measurements are made and lines and angles
are drawn precisely. Drawings created by following the rules don’t always
look pretty, but their beauty is in their function.
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10
CHAPTER ONE
COORDINATES &
DRAWING VIEWS
Directions are defined by the Cartesian coordinate sys-
tem. This was invented by René Descartes (the “cogito
ergo sum” guy) and the chances are good this bored
you to tears in high school geometry class. (There actu-
ally was another mathematician, Karl DeHorst, who
invented a similar system at the same time. It was con-
troversial, but in the end it was decided to put Descartes
before DeHorst.)
In this system, horizontal lines are considered to be in
the “X” direction. Vertical lines are considered to be in
the “Y” direction. If you draw a vertical and a horizontal
line that intersect, you can mark off equal divisions on
each line and a line drawn from each division will create
90
90˚90˚
90˚90˚
0
270
180
FIG. 1-1 By convention, a horizontal line is de ned by 0°, and a vertical line 90°, moving to
the right and up from the point of origin.
a grid. A piece of graph paper is an example of this
type of grid.
If you make a drawing on graph paper, the lines will
be straight and in the right direction. You can count the
squares and be accurate. The tools and techniques for
mechanical drawing do the same thing — they are a
system for keeping the lines straight, going in the right
direction, and exactly as long as you want them to be.
The convention in drawing is that the horizontal line
(the X-axis) is called 0°. If you draw a circle with the cen-
ter at the intersection of the X and Y-axis, the point of the
compass will move through 360°. Dividing the circle into
four equal parts (a job performed by the X and Y axes)
gives us 90° for the vertical direction, 180° for the left side
of the horizontal line, 270° on the low side of the vertical
line and back to 0° at the starting point. (See figure 1-1.)
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11
THE LANGUAGE OF BUILDING
Y axis
X axisZ axis
FIG. 1-2 In the standard coordinate system, horizontal dimensions are located on the X axis,
vertical on the Y axis and depth (or distance toward or away from the viewer) are on the Z axis.
This is all arbitrary, but it works well and lets us
define things either by using math, or by drawing lines
and arcs and making use of where they intersect. In
addition to the up and down and right and left directions
on the X and Y axes, directions toward us and away
from us are on a third axis, called Z. (See figure 1-2.)
Now we have a neat, precise and orderly way
to locate points in three-dimensional space. A spe-
cific point in space will have an X, Y and Z location.
Connecting two points creates a line, and connecting
three points gives us a surface, or plane.
We can also pick out two of the three directions to
work with and pretend that the world is flat. We know
the world is really round, but this makes the math and
the drawing much easier. A set of drawings, taken
from different points of view, will allow us to completely
describe a three-dimensional object on a two-dimen-
sional sheet of paper.
An image of an object in a realistic view becomes dis-
torted by perspective (See figure 1-3). The amount of this
distortion depends on the point of view.
Objects farther away appear to be smaller, and paral-
lel lines that connect objects close to us with those at a
distance appear to converge. The legs in the table are,
in reality, all the same size, but if we try to measure from
the perspective image we will get a different number at
any point we pick. The tabletop is actually a rectangle,
but the front edge seems longer than the back, and none
of the angles are at 90°. It looks more like a real table
than the mechanical drawing below it (See figure 1-4)
but it isn’t very useful if we’re trying to determine the
sizes of the parts we would need to build it. Mechanical
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12
CHAPTER ONE
FIG. 1-3 Perspective allows us to see the three-dimensional aspects of objects,
but it introduces distortion, making it dif cult to determine an exact size.
FIG. 1-4 Changing our point of view
to look at only the top, front or side al-
lows precise drawing and measuring of
each view. Each side of an imaginary
box represents a point of view on the
X, Y or Z axis.
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top
top
front frontside side
FIG. 1-5 Creating a three-view drawing is similar to unfolding a box and separating the pieces.
drawing eliminates this distortion by placing the point
of view in a way that allows exact measurements and
features to be described. This can take the form of a
semi-realistic view, or it can be a collection of different
views. To be successful at making and using mechanical
drawings we need to be willing to adjust our thinking
and trade some of what “looks right” for something that
we can measure accurately.
The most basic form of mechanical drawing is the
orthographic projection, or three-view drawing. Instead
of looking at all sides of an object at once, it is drawn
from a point of view directly above (or below), from the
front (or back), and from the side.
Starting with a simple table as an example (See figure
1-4), the drawing shows the front, side and top. If we
change the point of view, we can look at just the front,
just the side or just the top. Adopting this point of view
for drawing enables us to measure distances accurately.
Creating a three-view drawing is essentially the same
as unfolding the sides of the box — creating a flat object
from a three-dimensional one. Separating the unfolded
sides provides room for dimensions and other informa-
tion (See figure 1-5).
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14
CHAPTER ONE
Lines that are at a right angle to
our point of view will be their true
length. If we’re standing at the end
of line Z, lines in the X and Y direc-
tions are at a right angle, and we
can measure them. If we stand at
the end of line X, we can measure in
the Y and Z directions.
REAL
DRAWINGS
VS. RIGHT
DRAWINGS
In layout work in the shop, lines are
drawn at the actual size — an inch
equals an inch. In mechanical draw-
ing, a scale or smaller size is chosen
to keep the drawing size manage-
able. Scale is a ratio that all mea-
surements are multiplied by. If we
make our drawing
1
/12 of its actual
size, then 1" (on paper) now equals
1' (in the real world).
If a piece of furniture is placed
inside an imaginary box, and the
box is transparent, the lines that
indicate the various parts of the
furniture can be seen and drawn on
the surface of the box. (See figure 1-
6.) If we look at the box directly from
the front, we can see the height and
width of all the parts, but we don’t
have any information about the
depth of the box.
If we look directly down from
the top, we can see the width and
depth of the parts, but not the
height. Looking from the side shows
height and depth, but not width. If
we unfold the box and arrange the
three different views next to each
other, the sizes of parts in all three
dimensions can be seen in relation
to each other (See figure 1-7).
Some edges will be seen in more
than one view (See figure 1-8).
The right front corner of the leg is
FIG. 1-6 Projecting what is visible from each point of view allows the
development of individual front, side and top views.
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15
THE LANGUAGE OF BUILDING
FIG. 1-7 If a solid object
could be unfolded, the table
would look like this.
FIG. 1-8 Unfolding the
imaginary box provides sepa-
ration of the drawing views.
Dimensions seen in two
views will be the same.
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16
CHAPTER ONE
FIG. 1-9 Making an imaginary slice through an object
reveals what is in the interior. In drawing this is called a
section view. Solid objects that intersect the cutting plane
are  lled in or hatched.
a straight vertical line in the front and side views and
is the point where the front and side edges of the top
intersect in the top view. To use this kind of drawing, we
need to keep in mind that any one view won’t tell the
entire story of what the drawing describes. It takes some
practice to mentally connect the parts and pieces that
the draftsman has taken apart. This mental connection is
extremely valuable when it comes time to create a draw-
ing or to build something from a drawing. If a drawing
doesn’t seem to make sense, look for lines that represent
an object that you know to be present in more than one
view. When you create your own drawing, begin by
establishing these common parts.
When pieces become more detailed than the Parsons
table shown, the drawing becomes complicated but the
concept remains the same. The lines in adjacent views will
completely describe any parts, and specific points can be
determined by projecting lines from one view to another.
This gives us a good idea of what the outside of some-
thing looks like, but to move closer to building, we need to
know more about the individual parts — we need a way
to look inside. Making an imaginary cut through an object
gives us this information, much like cutting a donut in
half will let us see if it is plain or cream filled.
In drawing, the term cutting plane is used to describe
the imaginary device that makes the cut. The drawing
view that shows the cut object is called a section. The
cutting plane and the section drawing will be parallel
to one of the orthographic drawing planes. In the draw-
ing (See figure 1-9), it is parallel to the side view. If we
remove the portion on the near side of the cutting plane,
we can see that we don’t have a solid object; there is a
front, top and back, but no bottom.
Filling in the areas (this is called hatching) that have
been cut makes it clear which parts of the drawing rep-
resent solids and which parts represent spaces. Parts of
the object that are beyond the cutting plane will show
when we make a section drawing, and are shown as
thinner lines, as in the line connecting the bottom of the
front and back.
Three views also keep us from making an assumption
that could lead to trouble (See figure 1-10). A cylinder
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17
THE LANGUAGE OF BUILDING
top
top
top
front
front/side
front/side
side
FIG. 1-10 It is important to look at and compare all three views. If you only look from one
point of view, a cylinder could be a box and a cone could be a pyramid.
looks identical to a rectangular box
if you look directly at the front and
side. The top view makes it clear
that the drawing is showing a round
object, not a rectangular one. A cone
looks like a pyramid from the front
or side, and it is a different point of
view that completes the picture.
The pyramid shape presents a
problem. Because the lines repre-
senting the edges of the front and
side are at an angle to the plane of
projection (our point of view) they
are foreshortened and can’t be accu-
rately measured. We need a different
point of view to obtain the informa-
tion we need (See figure 1-11). We
know that lines at a right angle to
our point of view will be at the cor-
rect length, and if we can create an
auxiliary view at the proper angle,
we can draw the sloped triangular
sides of the pyramid correctly.
In artistic drawing, the goal is
to make the object look real. In
mechanical drawing, the goal is to
determine the real sizes of the parts.
Orthographic drawings delineate
parts with great precision, but the
compromise of how the drawing
appears compared to the object in
reality can make it difficult to visual-
ize. Experience will eventually make
this more intuitive and there are
forms of mechanical drawing that
enable easier visualization.
In axonometric projections, also
known as oblique views, one plane
of an object is drawn as it would be
in an orthographic drawing. This is
generally the front view, but it can
be the side or top. The adjacent side
is drawn at an angle, usually 30° or
45° (See figure 1-12).
All vertical lines are drawn
vertically and all horizontal lines
are drawn horizontally. The lines
that would be horizontal in the
side view are drawn at the angle.
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18
CHAPTER ONE
30°
30°
30°
45°
FIG. 1-11 In mechanical drawing, only objects at
a right angle to the point of view are the correct
length. To determine the true length of an object
in any other angle, an auxiliary view is created by
projecting lines at a 90° angle to the object.
FIG. 1-12 These drawings are more realistic, but still lack perspective. In axonometric or oblique views, the front of an
object is drawn at 90°, and the side and top are at an angle. In an isometric view, the front is also presented at an angle.
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19
THE LANGUAGE OF BUILDING
Locate edges
by measuring along
projection angle from a
known point.
FIG. 1-14 In isometric draw-
ings, all measurements must
be made parallel to one of the
drawing planes. Working from
a known point will keep the
measurements accurate.
90°
180°
270°
30˚30˚
FIG. 1-13 In an isometric drawing, horizontal lines are drawn at 30° above horizontal.
Vertical lines remain vertical and all objects are drawn at their true length.
Measurements of all lines are in
scale, but some draftsmen will draw
the receding angled lines at half
scale to make the drawing appear
more realistic.
In an isometric projection, the
front view is also drawn at an angle
of 30° (See figure 1-13). All measure-
ments are made along the angles
and the same scale is used in all the
views. Isometric drawings are useful
for exploded views and for showing
an entire piece. They take more time
to generate than orthographic views
and won’t accurately show curved
lines or lines that are at an angle to
one of the planes of the drawing.
Measuring points in an isometric
drawing can become complicated.
If the outside corner of a table leg,
for example, is 1" in from the front
of the top, and 2" in from the side,
these measurements need to come
from the bottom corner of the table-
top (See figure 1-14).
If the leg is tapered, the points
that represent the intersections
must be found, and the tapered
line drawn from point to point. The
angle of this line will not be the
same as the angle seen in a straight
view. (See figure 1-15.)
Isometric drawings can also
be used to create exploded views
— showing how pieces connect and
the joints used to connect them (See
figure 1-16). In this example, the rail
is moved an arbitrary distance away
from the leg allowing the tenon to
be seen. This is easy to create by
drawing on the lines of the isomet-
ric view, and it is easier to visualize
this joint than it would be in a three-
view drawing.
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20
CHAPTER ONE
FIG. 1-15 Lines at angles different
from the drawing planes will not be
at a true angle. Measurements from
known points must be taken and the
points connected with a line.
DRAWINGS TO SOLVE
PROBLEMS
Drawings have two distinct functions. The first is prob-
lem solving. If I need a table in the kitchen for eating
breakfast, or a cabinet in the bedroom to store socks
and underwear, I want it to be useful and attractive.
Each part of the finished piece will be a certain size and
shape. Drawing is the method of answering a number
of questions beforehand so when I head to the shop to
build the thing I have the right amount of material and a
clear idea of what I’m doing.
I don’t need to do this. I can head to the shop and
start building. I call this the “tree-house” approach; pick
a part, think about how it looks and works and decide
what to do about the next part. People who work this
way will call it “composing” or some other lofty term,
but it is an immature and inefficient approach. The
workbench isn’t the right place to be making design and
engineering decisions.
Making these important decisions before building is
the equivalent of building something a second time. The
first time through is practice and problem solving; the
second time is perfecting the work. The experience of
working through the drawing process makes the build-
ing process easier and improves the results. You can
concentrate on making joints and refining surfaces if you
aren’t distracted by design and engineering decisions.
DRAWINGS TO
COMMUNICATE
The second purpose of the drawing is to communicate
the information produced in the problem-solving phase
of the drawing. The target of this communication may
be the end user of the piece, or it may be someone else
who will do the actual building. My wife will want the
ability to visualize the new breakfast table, but won’t
have much interest in how the legs are attached, as long
as they don’t fall off.
Another builder will have an interest in the finished
piece, but will need the information my wife doesn’t care
about. I may need to prepare two finished drawings, one
to serve the client and one to serve the builder.
The answer to any technical question about how
to build the piece should be, “Take another look at the
drawing.” How far to take this second phase of drawing
depends on the relationship of the designer and the builder.
If I’m designing a piece of furniture to be built by
someone else, or making a drawing to be published, the
finished drawing will look quite different than it will if
I’m building it myself. I’d rather be in the shop than at
the drawing board and I tend to work from drawings that
have only gone through the first phase.
If I’m making a drawing of something that someone
else will build, I need to be more thorough and produce an
easily understandable finished drawing. The balance of
2
3
1
2
3
1
draw angled line by
connectiong measured
points
take
measurements from
vertical line
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21
THE LANGUAGE OF BUILDING
time at the drawing board compared to time in the shop
must always be considered. Generally speaking, time
spent in preparation and planning saves time in the shop.
Good furniture design is a combination of art and
engineering. This is always a balancing act. A distinc-
tive look won’t mean a thing if it can’t be built or if the
furniture falls apart due to faulty construction or failure
to understand the nature of the material. At the same
time, a piece of furniture that serves a practical purpose
but is painful to observe is also a failure.
Drawing and planning are essential tools for produc-
ing quality furniture. Using these tools, we can explore
more designs and variations of designs that we would
ever have time to build in one lifetime. We can deter-
mine the best way of joining two pieces of wood without
wasting time or materials. We can adapt and expand an
existing piece to fit nicely in our homes and to match
our skills and capabilities.
The next chapter will detail how to make a drawing
on paper using traditional drafting tools and techniques.
The skills and methods used in preparing paper draw-
ings will aid in the development of the skills needed in
the shop to do better layout and joinery work. The exer-
cise of making a drawing will help to connect the brain,
the eye and the hand. Working at a small scale develops
the ability to work precisely, and the process of building
mentally reduces the stress of making something in the
shop. Confidence comes when you’re working on some-
thing you know will go together rather than something
you hope will go together.
At the same time, many concepts for designing and
planning are also introduced. The ability to put together
a good design is not an innate ability that some of us are
born with and some of us will never possess. It is a pro-
cess that can be learned by almost anyone. Design and
planning are, at their core, problem solving, and often
the hardest part is taking the first few steps and making
the basic decisions. Knowing the basics of the process
will make it easier to learn from published plans, and to
transform your ideas into tangible things.
This is the foundation for planning, developing attrac-
tive designs and solving construction issues. These
concepts and techniques are crucial to learn, even if you
intend to do most of your work in CAD. Read the chapter
before deciding whether you want to work with paper
and pencil or computer screen and mouse.
Make the decision on which method to use based
on your own needs and inclinations. However, you’ll be
more efficient and get better results if you have a solid
foundation of paper-and-pencil concepts and skills. This
is the basic vocabulary of the language of design.
Create an exploded
view by projecting
lines from a known
point.
FIG. 1-16 Moving lines in the direction
of one of the drawing planes can create
an exploded view.
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22
CHAPTER TWO
2
DRAWING
ON PAPER
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Woodworking is easier and more efficient if you have a good bench and
decent tools, and creating drawings is also more enjoyable, productive
and convenient with the right work surface and good equipment. Before
we discuss techniques, we will review the basic set of tools and equip-
ment. As with any tools, there are variations in quality and price, but a
basic kit can be put together for little cost.
If you live in a large city or near a college, there will likely be a local
supplier. Look for a college bookstore or a drafting supplier. The basic
tools are often packaged for beginning students at a reasonable price.
Large office-supply retailers, such as Staples or Office
Depot, may carry some of the items. A good
online source is: www.suppliesnet.com.
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24
CHAPTER TWO
FIG. 2-1 A drawing board provides a clean  at surface,
and the T-square makes it possible to draw horizontal lines
quickly and accurately.
FIG. 2-2 This portable drawing board features a built-in T-square.
45° triangle
30°-60° triangle
FIG. 2-3 To create vertical lines, and lines at precise 30°, 45° and
60° angles, plastic drafting triangles are used in conjunction with
the T-square.
A. TOOLS & EQUIPMENT
The equivalent of the workbench is the drafting board.
This doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive, but it does
need to be flat and smooth. A piece of hardwood ply-
wood, sanded smooth and sealed with a few coats of lac-
quer or shellac is an inexpensive and workable surface.
Commercially available boards add legs at the back to
angle the drawing surface and a resilient pad that keeps
the surface from being gouged by pencils and compass
points. The pad, or cover, is available separately and can be
attached to a homemade board with double-sided tape.
To draw consistent parallel horizontal lines there are
two alternatives: a T-square or a moving straightedge
that is permanently attached to the board. The big
advantage of the T-square is cost; a 24" T-square costs
less than fifteen dollars, but it must be constantly held
against the edge of the board during drawing.
The parallel straightedge is usually attached to the
board with a system of cables and pulleys that keep it
in position while allowing it to move up and down. This
system frees the left hand during drawing and is much
easier to use. A decent board with a straightedge sys-
tem will cost less than $100; a board and a T-square will
cost about half that much.
A good alternative to this is the portable drafting
board. This plastic board has a built-in T-Square and
clips to hold the paper in place. It also includes a car-
rying case that can be used to store the board, paper
and other supplies. The optional drafting head takes up
too much space on the drawing area and isn’t needed.
Triangles are a more manageable solution.
Used drafting tables and supplies are easy to find, and
with the rising popularity of CAD, it is a buyer’s market.
Larger drafting tables can be inexpensive, but they take
up a good deal of space. I recommend a smaller board,
about 18" × 24". This will enable you to learn with a min-
imal investment and create 11" × 17" drawings.
To create vertical and angled lines, triangles that
rest on the T-square or straightedge are used. The clear
plastic triangles are accurate and inexpensive. They also
have a number of uses in the woodshop as well as at the
drafting board. They are available as 45° or a combina-
tion of 30° and 60°. 8" and 12" sizes are priced less than
$5 each.
If you’re only making three-view drawings, you only
need the 45° triangle, and if you’re limiting your draw-
ing sizes to 11" × 17", the 8" will do. When you begin to
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25
DRAWING ON PAPER
in most drawings, but it is a useful tool to have at the
drawing board and in the woodshop. The time will come
when you need it but it isn’t necessary to get started.
15° angle
(60° - 45°)
75° angle
(45° + 30°)
FIG. 2-4 Combining the two triangles creates lines at angles in
between the standard angles
FIG. 2-5 Combining the triangles in different ways allows the
creation of lines in 15° increments.
FIG. 2-6 The adjustable triangle
is used for angles not possible
to make with combinations of the
xed triangles.
create isometric and other projected drawings, you will
need to add the 30-60 triangle to your kit, and the 8" size
is recommended. The two sizes can be used in combina-
tion to make angled lines in increments of 15°.
Angles in between are drawn with an adjustable trian-
gle, which will cost about $20. This isn’t used very often
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26
CHAPTER TWO
FIGS. 2-7 AND 8
Keeping the paper
from being smeared
by graphite is ac-
complished with
the pounce bag and
drafting brush.
Before the advent of CAD, a paper drawing was a
precious thing. A finished paper drawing is the product
of hours of work, and the chances of ruining the work
are high. Overzealous erasing, a sweaty palm smearing
clean lines or the spill of a coffee cup can mean start-
ing over. Taking care of the drawing is one of the most
essential parts of drafting.
The two main tools used to protect the drawing are
the drafting brush and the pounce bag. The pounce bag
is a small fabric bag filled with fine powder. This powder
is absorbent and will attract loose granules of graphite
from the pencil, as well as moisture. Before beginning a
drawing, the bag is tapped over the surface of the paper,
releasing a small amount of the powder. This is then
removed with the brush.
The brush will leave behind a small amount of residue
from the bag. This acts to keep the T-square and trian-
gles above the surface of the paper, makes them easier
to move and prevents them from smearing freshly-drawn
lines. The bag and brush are also used after erasing to
keep the surface of the paper clean.
The best paper to use is called vellum. It has a smooth
surface, lines erase easily and it is translucent so it can
be used as tracing paper. The downside is that it is
somewhat expensive, about $20 for a fifty-sheet pad of
11" × 17" paper. I use less-expensive bond paper for pre-
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27
DRAWING ON PAPER
FIG. 2-9 Self-adhesive drafting dots are a
convenient method for holding the paper to
the drawing board.
FIGS. 2-10, 11 AND 12 Lines that differ in
darkness and thickness make different parts
of the drawing stand out. This is easily ac-
complished by using different weights of lead.
liminary layouts and then trace the
final drawing on vellum.
The paper needs to be firmly held
to the board. Precise work won’t be
possible if the sheet slides or oth-
erwise changes position. There is a
special drafting tape that is remov-
able, but it is far more convenient
to use Draft Dots. These are small
circles of tape on a wax paper roll.
Line Weights
The standard No.2 pencil has too
soft a lead to be used in drafting.
Pencil lines need to be clean and
crisp, and in the process of creating
a drawing there are times when you
need a narrow, barely visible line
and times when you need a wider
line. The best way to control this is
by using leads of different hardness.
Graphite is made in numerous
degrees of hardness, but you only
need three. 4H lead is the hardest
you will need and is used for pre-
liminary layout work and for very
thin lines on the final drawing. HB is
about the same as No.2 lead and is
used for lettering and for very thick
lines. 2H is in between and is used
most often. With proper hand pres-
sure, a 2H lead can develop both
thick and thin lines.
The lead must be kept sharp.
There's an old-style lead holder
that takes a 2mm-diameter stick
of graphite. The device to sharpen
these works well, but it is an inter-
ruption to the flow of making a
drawing and can be messy.
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28
CHAPTER TWO
FIG. 2-13 .5 mm mechanical pencils are a convenient way to organize
different weights of lead and never need sharpening.
FIG. 2-14 A pencil-sized eraser is convenient and the aluminum eraser
shield will protect the parts of the drawing you don't want to erase.
Mechanical pencils with a .5mm-
diameter lead don’t need to be
sharpened and are far more conve-
nient. Standard mechanical pencils
can be used, but pencils designed
specifically for drafting are easier to
hold and more comfortable to use.
These pencils cost between $3 and
$7 each and it makes sense to have
three, one equipped with each of the
three lead hardnesses mentioned.
Mechanical pencils for a smaller
lead, at .3mm, are available, but
this size is so thin, it is nearly
impossible to draw a line without
the lead breaking. Larger diameters,
.7mm and .9mm can also be found,
but these create lines that are too
thick. The .5mm diameter, with the
three leads mentioned will serve all
your needs.
A good eraser is a must and are
available either as a small block or
in a small cylinder in a plastic holder
about the size and shape of a pencil.
The second form is easier to use,
but slightly more expensive. To con-
trol erasing, a small aluminum plate
with holes and slots in the surface,
called an eraser shield, is used. This
is placed over the paper, with the
line to be erased showing through
one of the slots. With this device, it
is possible to erase up to an adja-
cent line without taking away from
the line.
Because drawings are smaller
than actual size, a scale is needed to
measure lines and establish sizes. It
is possible to create a drawing with-
out one, but the effort to convert
real dimension to scale dimensions,
and the opportunity to introduce a
mathematical error make the scale a
necessity. These rulers are generally
in the shape of a triangle with four
different scales on each face.
The two standard forms are engi-
neer’s scales and architect’s scales.
The architect’s scale is expressed in feet and inches and the scales range in
size from
3
/32"=1' to 3"=1'. Engineer’s scales will share some of the scales, but
will also include scales marked as
1
/2 size,
1
/4 size,
3
/8 and
3
/4 size. Which one
to use is a personal choice, but my preference is the architect’s scale. Scales
vary widely in price but the least expensive will serve the beginner well. Wait
until you’re a professional to buy the $30 version in purple anodized alumi-
num with laser engraved markings.
Dividers, which look like a drawing compass with two metal points, are
used for transferring measurements from the drawing to the scale, or for lay-
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29
DRAWING ON PAPER
FIG. 2-16
Architect's scales
are available in 6"
and 12" lengths
and are used to
make precise mea-
surements when
drawing.
FIG. 2-17 Dividers are used to transfer measurements and can be
left set to repeated measurements.
FIG. 2-18 The drafting compass has a  ne
adjustment wheel and can hold different
weights of lead.
ing out regularly spaced intervals. These are more of
a convenience than a necessity, but there will come a
point where you wish you had one. These are also valu-
able items to have in the shop.
A good drafting compass has a wheel to precisely set
the distance between the metal point and the graphite
point. There are other ways to draw circles and regular
curves, but the compass has several other uses — to
establish points on the drawing and to bisect angle. A
decent one is a worthwhile investment and will also find
uses in the shop.
Templates are thin pieces of plastic with holes or
other shapes cut through them. These are used to
quickly draw these shapes by following the outline of the
cutout with the pencil lead. They are available for nearly
any imaginable specialized purpose, including drawing
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30
CHAPTER TWO
FIG. 2-19 Templates are used to quickly draw particular shapes and are available in a wide variety of shapes and sizes.
FIG. 2-20 Not every curve can be drawn with a compass or template. French curves and
adjustable curves accomplish this task.
ellipses and other geometric shapes,
and for standard items in interior
layouts. A circle template will be
used most often.
French curves are used to draw
curved segments that aren’t parts of
circles or ellipses. These segments
are known as irregular curves.
French curves are used like tem-
plates. To make a mirror image of
a curve, a tick mark may be drawn
directly on the French curve to
line up the curved segment on the
opposing part of the drawing.
Adjustable curves are guides
that can be bent to a desired shape.
There are practical limits to how
tight these will bend. They are use-
ful for larger curved segments than
those drawn with the French curve.
The Ames lettering guide is a
small plastic template with numer-
ous holes. The circular portion in the
middle of the guide can be rotated
to change the distance between the
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31
DRAWING ON PAPER
FIG. 2-21 The lettering guide is used to quickly draw a series of
parallel lines for hatching or to keep hand-lettered text in line.
FIG. 2-22 This scale is
1
/
8 actual size. It’s small enough to  t on the page and large enough to show most details.
holes. This is used to quickly draw a series of parallel
lines for use as layout lines for lettering or for hatching.
The lower edge of the guide is placed against the
straightedge or triangle and the pencil point is inserted
in one of the holes. The pencil and guide are moved
together to draw a line, then the pencil is moved down
one row to the next hole and the process is repeated. It
takes a little practice to get the right motion, but this is
a fast method for generating many lines without measur-
ing or marking.
B. BASIC TECHNIQUES
Three-view Drawings
A drawing of a simple bookcase, 30" wide, 12" deep and
54” high will be used to demonstrate the basic tech-
niques for using the drafting instruments and for creat-
ing an orthographic projection drawing. Line up the top
edge of a blank sheet of paper with the horizontal edge
of the T-square. After securing the paper to the drawing
board with a Draft Dot in each cor-
ner, the first decision to make will
be what scale to make the drawing.
The drawing should be as large
as possible to show sufficient detail,
yet still fit within the sheet of paper.
Look at the surface of the scale that
has 1
1
/2 on the left and 3 on the
right. Just to the right of the 1
1
/2 is
a ruler that reads from right to left.
The numbers 9, 6, 3 and 0 indicate
whole inches. The longest lines in
between also indicate inches. The
next-longest lines indicate half-
inches and the shortest lines are
quarter-inches.
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32
CHAPTER TWO
FIG. 2-23 This scale is
1
/
4 actual size. It can be used for an entire drawing
on a large sheet of paper but it is most often used for showing detail.
FIG. 2-24 Scales read from two directions — it is important to keep
track of the direction you are measuring from.
Moving to the right, there is a
space equal to the marked space
designated by a long line with the
number 2 below. In scale, this is one
foot away from the 0 mark on the
1
1
/2"=1' scale. This mark is also 2'
away (in scale) from the larger 3"=1'
scale on the far right. The larger
scale reads from left to right, and,
because of its size, there is room to
divide the scale into
1
/8" increments.
With two sizes sharing an edge
of the scale the numbers can be
confusing. The larger of the two
sizes will have feet indicated by the
longer vertical lines and will always
be twice the size of the smaller size.
If you move one more increment
over to the right, there is a short line
with the number 2 below it. This
is 2' (in scale) away from the zero
point on the 1
1
/2" scale. The next
mark has a long line with the num-
ber 1 below, so we know that it is
1' from the larger scale on the right.
But we also know that it is between
the 2' and the 4' marks, so it repre-
sents 3' from the left-hand scale.
It’s okay to use the point of your
pencil to count off the marks from
zero to keep from getting lost. With
practice this becomes easier, as will
converting measurements in inches
(which cabinetmakers always use)
to feet and inches (which architects
and rough carpenters always use).
If we count off the 1' increments
on the 1
1
/2"=1' scale, starting from
0, we will see that there is 60" (five
feet) distance between the two
zeros on either end of the architect’s
scale. Our bookcase will be 4'-6"
high. Find the 6" mark to the left of
the 0, then count 4 spaces to the
right. The distance between these
points is the height of our bookcase.
Holding the scale against the
paper, we can establish that there
will be room on the sheet for the
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33
DRAWING ON PAPER
FIG. 2-25 Use the scale to roughly position the 3 drawing views on the page, making sure
there is room for the drawing. Leave some space for dimensions and notes.
height of the bookcase to be shown in elevation at the
1
1
/2"=1' scale. We can also see that there will be room
above the elevation for the plan view.
If our bookcase were taller, or deeper, there wouldn’t
be room on the page for the drawing and we would need
to use the next smallest scale, which is 1"=1'. Now we
need to establish the extents of the drawing, remember-
ing that some room above and below the actual drawing
is needed for dimensions and other information.
With the 4H pencil, make some light tick marks to
indicate the limits of the plan and elevation view. This
should be done by eye, and if you need a few tries, it’s
OK. You want to leave equal spaces between the edges
of the paper and the views of the drawing, and between
the views. But you don’t need to be exact and you don’t
want to take a lot of time.
There are two distinct phases in creating a working
drawing. The first phase is decision-making and problem
solving. We want to establish the size and shape of what
we want to build, how big the component pieces are and
how they will fit together. We want to draw light lines
that will be easy to erase if we need to. At this point, if
we need to use some space on the sheet to make a cal-
culation or sketch a detail, it’s OK to do so. When we get
to the second phase these won’t show.
The second phase is the presentation phase. This is
the “pretty” drawing that will give clear information in the
shop, or sell the drawing to the client. You may be the guy
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34
CHAPTER TWO
FIGS. 2-26 The edge of the pencil must be held consistently
against the straightedge for accurate drawing.
FIGS. 2-27 Rotat-
ing the pencil as
you draw will keep
the lead from
wearing unevenly.
This will produce
consistent lines.
in the shop and you may also be the
client. What degree of presentation
you need to reach can be decided
later on. Concentrate on solving the
problem and making decisions that
are easy to reverse on paper.
Hold the horizontal straightedge
or T-square against the bottom-
most tick mark on your sheet. Take
the 4H pencil and hold it against
the straightedge. Before drawing
a line, take a moment to look at
the relationship between the metal
barrel on the end of the pencil, the
edge of the straightedge, the lead of
the pencil and your tick mark. The
metal barrel of the pencil should ride
along the edge consistently. There
will be a slight offset between the
edge of the straightedge and the
lead of the pencil. In time, judging
this distance will become second
nature, but at the beginning you
need to pay attention to it to be able
to work accurately.
Draw a light horizontal line
across the sheet of paper, rotating
the pencil as you move your hand.
This rotation will make the wear on
the pencil lead consistent. If you
don’t rotate the pencil, one side of
the lead will wear, creating a flat
spot on the lead. This will make the
lead get wider as you use it, mak-
ing the weight of the lines heavier
as you go. After drawing the bottom
line, lower the straightedge about
half an inch and place the triangle
against the top edge.
With the vertical edge of the tri-
angle on the left, draw a vertical line
on the paper, moving the pencil from
the bottom to the top, again rotating
the pencil as you go. If you are right
handed, keeping the vertical edge to
the left whenever possible will keep
the heel of your hand off the paper
and will prevent your hand from
smudging freshly-drawn lines.
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35
DRAWING ON PAPER
FIGS. 2-28 Use the vertical edge of the triangle to draw lines. Hold the
base of the triangle against the T-square and keep your drawing hand
above the triangle to keep from smearing the drawing.
FIGS. 2-29 Use a 4H lead and a light touch to establish construction lines.
If you're careful, you won't need to erase them later on.
With one horizontal and one ver-
tical line drawn for reference, it is
time to set some precise parameters
for the three views of the drawing.
The tick marks drawn previously
were to establish, in a general way,
where the views would be located.
Without a true vertical or horizon-
tal reference these measurements
won’t be accurate — angling the
scale will make the distances less
than they should be.
Hold the edge of the scale
against the vertical line and make
marks 12" apart (in scale) for the
plan view, and 54" apart for the
elevations. Go ahead and draw thin
horizontal lines across the page at
these points. This will establish ref-
erence points that will be used to
transfer locations from one view to
other views. The goal is to minimize
measuring with the scale. It is faster
and more accurate to transfer mea-
surements by projecting lines rather
than measuring repeatedly.
On the horizontal line, make
marks that establish the sides of
the elevation view and draw verti-
cal lines at these points. The areas
within the intersections of these
lines are the limits of the plan and
front elevation views. It will be help-
ful at this point to go over these
lines again with the 4H pencil, stop-
ping and starting at the intersec-
tions. This will make it easier to see
each view separately.
Place the 45° triangle on the
straightedge with the angle going
up from the left side to the right.
Slide the triangle along the straight
edge until the angled edge meets
the intersection of lines at the upper
right corner of the elevation. Draw
a line at the 45° angle across the
sheet. This angled line will intersect
the horizontal reference lines from
the plan view. Vertical lines drawn
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CHAPTER TWO
FIGS. 2-30 Make marks that establish the sides of the elevation view
on the horizontal line and draw vertical lines at these points.
FIGS. 2-31 AND 32 Lines can be projected from the top view to the side view with the
assistance of a 45° angled line drawn from the corner of the front view.
from these intersections will trans-
fer the sizes from the plan view to
a side elevation. Draw the vertical
lines and go over them to establish
the extents of the side elevation.
At this point, we have three
views of a basic box. The vertical
dimensions of the front and side
elevations were drawn from one
group of measurements and the
horizontal measurements of all three
views were drawn from a second
group of measurements. As the
drawing continues, this technique
will be repeated. When a detail is
established in one view, transfer it
to the adjacent views. Because we
can transfer lines from one view to
another, we don’t need to do a lot
of measuring, and the relationships
between parts in different views will
be easily established.
At this point, some design deci-
sions need to be made. If we want
the bookcase to look like a simple,
unadorned box, we can proceed.
But, if we want to add some detail
with mouldings at the top and bot-
tom, we need to decide if these
details fit within the box or outside
the box. We also need to make some
decisions regarding the sizes of the
components of the box. And we
need to decide which view is the
best place to use to establish these
details.
Generally, the front elevation is
considered the primary view, and
this is the most logical view to use
to establish elements such as the
height and profile of mouldings. In
more complicated pieces, the size
and shapes of doors, panels and
drawer fronts are established from
the front elevation.
The plan view, however, is the
best place to establish the param-
eters for construction. Working to
make the drawing “perfect in plan”
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37
DRAWING ON PAPER
FIGS. 2-33 Perfecting the plan view will establish most of the dimensions
needed to create the elevation and side views.
FIGS. 2-34 Setting the dividers to the scale makes it easier to make
repeated, small increments on the drawing.
helps to keep things buildable.
Establishing the way components
relate to one another in the plan
view will keep the front and side
elevations from disagreeing with
each other.
Technically the plan view will only
show what is seen from above. For
this bookcase, and most furniture
projects, the plan will be much more
useful if it is drawn as a section.
We don’t really need a drawing to
tell us that the top of the bookcase
is one large flat surface. A section
view will tell us what is going on
below the top — how thick the sides
of the cabinet are, how the back fits
between the sides and the relation-
ship of the sides to the face frame.
My decisions on the bookcase
are these; the sides, shelves, bot-
tom and top will be
3
/4" hardwood
plywood. I want a solid-wood face
frame with
3
/4" × 1
1
/2" stiles. I’m
going to put it in the living room,
so I want an attractive moulding
around the top and another mould-
ing around the base. Looking at
similar pieces leads me to believe
that it will look nice if the top
moulding is 1
1
/2" high and the base
moulding is 3
3
/4" high. This doesn’t
have to fit precisely between any-
thing else, so I can make the cabi-
net box the size I’ve already drawn
and wrap the mouldings around the
outside of the case.
In the plan view, add two verti-
cal lines
3
/4" inside each of the two
lines that are already there. With
the scale, measure in and make a
mark, then draw a light vertical line.
This line will also appear in the front
elevation, but it will be behind the
face frame. I may want to show it
as a dashed line, or I may want to
make a separate drawing at some
point that only shows the plywood
box. Project lines down, but make
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CHAPTER TWO
FIGS. 2-35 Projecting lines from one view to another is more accurate than repeated measuring.
FIGS. 2-36 Details, such as the rabbets for the back, are added
after roughing-in the overall view.
them light, because there is a good
chance they won’t show in the
final drawing. Now that the outside
limits of each view are established,
these construction lines no longer
need to go completely across the
page, they can stop and start near
the edges of each view.
Still working in the plan view,
the thickness of the face frame is
measured and drawn as a horizontal
line above the front edge of the box.
Because I know that many of the
pieces of the bookcase will be
3
/4"
thick, and because measuring with
the scale can be awkward, I take the
dividers and set the two points at
3
/4" against the scale. I can leave the
dividers at this setting and make
pinpricks with the points when I
need to establish this measurement.
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39
DRAWING ON PAPER
FIGS. 2-37 For mouldings and other small details, erase the initial
lines that established the overall size before adding the detail.
FIGS. 2-38 The adjustable triangle is used for the odd angle of the moulding.
I mark off the 1
1
/2" width of the
face frame stiles in the plan and
project lines down to the front eleva-
tion. The next element to show in
the plan is the back of the cabinet.
I want this to be
3
/4" thick to give
the cabinet some strength without
adding extra braces, so I add a hori-
zontal line inside the top edge of the
plan view.
I’ve decided that the back will be
easiest to put in without showing
any fasteners if it sits in a rabbet
in the edge of the cabinet sides. If
the rabbets are
1
/2" deep, then I can
drive screws through the back and
into the cabinet sides. I measure in
from the sides and draw short ver-
tical lines to indicate the rabbets.
Projecting these lines to the eleva-
tion would only clutter that view.
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CHAPTER TWO
FIGS. 2-39 Elements that appear in both the front and side view only
need to be measured in the  rst view drawn. Project lines from the  rst
view to the second to quickly  nish the second view.
FIGS. 2-40 Go over the lightly-drawn rough lines with a 2H pencil and a  rmer
touch so that the important lines will show clearly in the  nished drawing.
Switching to the front elevation,
measure and draw horizontal lines
to indicate the top and base mould-
ings. While working on a drawing,
points like this will arise where a
design decision needs to be made. I
want some of the face-frame rails to
be exposed below the top moulding
and above the base moulding.
After scratching my head for a
while and drinking a cup of coffee, I
decide the edge of the top rail should
be 1" below the top moulding and
the top edge of the bottom rail should
be
1
/2" above the base moulding.
Sometimes decisions like this may
take another cup of coffee, a discus-
sion with the wife, a full-size sketch
or a trip out to the shop to hold two
pieces of wood against each other.
The small scale of the drawing
means that the profile of the mould-
ing will be too small to accurately
show its profile. A half-size or full-
size detail will be needed in most
cases. This detail can be drawn any-
where on the sheet or on another
sheet of paper. If the moulding is to
be made with a commercially avail-
able router bit, the profile of the bit
can often be found online or in a
catalog and then traced.
For the small-scale views an
approximation of the moulding is
good enough. Draw the horizontal
and vertical lines with the straight
edge and triangles and sketch in the
curved portions by hand. To draw
the moulding, it is likely that some
existing lines will need to be erased.
The eraser shield is placed on the
drawing, with the line, or a portion
of the line to be erased, exposed
in one of the slots in the shield.
Position the shield so the end of the
slot is just past the point where the
erasing should stop. Hold the shield
in place with one hand and erase
with the other.
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41
DRAWING ON PAPER
FIGS. 2-41 Avoid the temptation to put every dimension in every
view. A good drawing should lead the builder to study all the views
and details. Dimensions should only appear once and where they
make the most sense.
FIGS. 2-42 To avoid confusion, dimension lines and extension lines
are thinner than the lines of the drawing.
When finished, remove the shield and use the drafting
brush to remove the debris from the drawing. Then take
the pounce bag and tap it a time or two on the erased
area. Use the brush to remove the fine powder that will
fall from the pounce bag. This extra step after erasing
will keep the drawing surface from being smeared.
So far, most of the drawing has been done in the plan
(drawn as a section) and the front elevation. The side
view needs some attention, but first the decision must
be made about how to show the side elevation. A true
elevation will show how the side will look, but a section
will contain more construction information. If the sides
were detailed, frame-and-panel construction, they would
need to be shown.
The construction information from a section is also
important. In most cases both will need to be shown, but
at this point, developing the section view will answer
many construction questions. Since this drawing is still
in the early, problem-solving phase, I’ll work on the sec-
tion. If a side elevation proves to be needed later on, the
section can be traced.
All of the locations of lines for the side section view
are contained in the plan and front elevation. These loca-
tions are found, then transferred by projecting the lines
to the section view. The locations of points from the front
elevation are projected in one step — drawing a horizon-
tal line. The first step to transfer the locations of points in
depth that were established in the plan is to draw a hori-
zontal line that intersects with the 45° construction line. A
vertical line is then drawn down from these intersections.
Now that all three views have been established, the 2H
pencil is used to darken the lines that will show in the fin-
ished drawing, taking care to stop and start the lines pre-
cisely. In the section views, parts that are on the cutting
plane are shown with lines that are heavier than parts
that are behind the cutting plane. In the side section, this
means that the top, bottom and shelves are composed of
darker lines than the vertical front edge of the cabinet.
This makes the finished drawing easier to understand.
In a more complicated drawing, it is faster to place a
new sheet of vellum on top of the first sheet and draw
the darker lines. This will produce a cleaner drawing as
the construction lines from the problem-solving phase
won’t distract or need to be erased.
Hatching & Dimensioning
After the lines are darkened, two items remain to com-
plete the drawing, dimensions and hatching. Dimensions
have numbers that will give the size of the finished
bookcase as well as parts of components. The largest
dimensions are shown on the outer side of the views and
smaller dimensions are shown between the large dimen-
sions and the drawing.
There is an art and some principles to dimension-
ing that help ensure the builder understands what
the designer intended. These principles also serve the
builder to check the designer’s work to make sure the
drawings are correct. Dimensioning every possible part
in every view will waste the designer’s time, make the
drawing look cluttered and confusing and can lead the
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42
CHAPTER TWO
FIGS. 2-43 Arrowheads are drawn freehand, begin by drawing an
arc across the dimension line, then drawing another arc from the
end of the dimension line.
FIGS. 2-44 Hatching shows what parts were divided by the imagi-
nary cutting plane. Different patterns can be used to show different
materials, such as solid wood or plywood.
builder to assume that every number on the drawing is
the right number.
Even if the designer and builder are the same person,
following these rules will lead to better work and fewer
mistakes in building. The idea is that the builder needs
to spend some time looking at the entire drawing, taking
responsibility for generating an accurate bill of materials
from the drawing.
Many builders will become aggravated if they need to
add or subtract, or if they need to look to another view for
a dimension they want. This is exactly what a good draw-
ing will do. The purpose isn’t to hand someone every-
thing they need to know, it is to communicate to them
the designer’s intent and ensure that they understand it.
Major dimensions should appear only once in the
drawing and they should be in the most likely place to
look. Overall height and width should be shown in the
front elevation, although the width can be shown in
the plan view. Overall depth should appear in the plan
view but can be shown in the side elevation or section.
Smaller dimensions should be placed between the over-
all dimensions and the drawing.
Dimensions of component parts should also appear
only once and in the view that gives the clearest idea of
what the component is. For example, the width of the
face-frame parts should be seen in the elevation and the
thickness in a section view.
The lines in dimensions should be drawn with the 2H
pencil and should be lighter in weight than the drawing
itself. It should be clear in the finished drawing what
lines represent the object and what lines are dimensions.
Extension lines mark the beginning and end of dimen-
sions and there is a gap between the line on the drawing
and the beginning of the extension line.
Dimension lines go between the extension lines with
a gap in the middle of the line for lettering. If there are
several dimensions in one area, the gaps should be stag-
gered to keep the letters from being next to each other in
different dimensions. The dimension lines should termi-
nate in an arrowhead, although architects like to us a 45°
tick mark instead. Arrowheads are clearer to understand,
especially when a small object is being dimensioned.
Arrowheads are drawn freehand and can be either
straight lines or gentle curves. Drawing a bow that
defines the end of the arrow point helps to establish
consistent sizes of the other lines. If there isn’t room
between the extension lines for the arrows and the let-
tering, one or both can be moved to the outside of the
extension lines. In some cases, particularly with
3
/4"-
thick parts, the arrow line can become a leader and the
fraction placed where there is room for it.
Lettering for dimensions or notes should be at a uni-
form height. Light guidelines can be drawn to establish
top and bottom limits for the letters. The key to good let-
tering is that it be readable. Practice making letters and
numbers in a series of pencil strokes, “O”s are drawn as
two half circles.
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43
DRAWING ON PAPER
Components in section views that are on the imagi-
nary cutting plane are filled in to indicate this, and to
show what material they are. This process is called
hatching. The lines are lightly drawn with the 4H pencil.
Solid wood is usually indicated with hand-drawn parallel
arcs in an approximation of the appearance of end grain.
Plywood can be indicated either by light parallel lines at
an angle to the faces of the pieces or parallel to the faces
of the pieces. Grain can also be sketched on the eleva-
tions for the purpose of indicating grain direction of the
component parts.
Hatching is generally the last step and should be
done quickly. With practice this can be done entirely
without instruments, which will speed up the process.
A border and title block makes the drawing appear
professional, but if you are drawing for your own use
they aren’t necessary. They should be laid out and dark-
ened-in as other parts of the drawing and should contain
information such as the name of the piece, the name of
the designer, the date and the scale of the drawing.
FIGS. 2-45 To represent solid wood, grain lines can be quickly
sketched-in by hand.
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44
CHAPTER TWO
C. ADVANCED
TECHNIQUES
Polygons
Drawing a round dining table with a pedestal base will
introduce drawing circles and other curved geometry
as well as polygons at angles other than 90°. This table
will be 30" high from the floor to the tabletop and 42" in
diameter. The plan view will be drawn as a section to
indicate the locations of the table aprons and pedestal
base. Because the table is round, one elevation will pro-
vide enough information. There will also be a section
view to show how the legs, pedestal and top structure
join together.
The first step is to determine the space needed on the
paper to show the plan and elevation and to pick a scale
for the drawing. With the box-like bookcase in the first
drawing, we worked from one straight edge to another.
With a round object, establish where the center of the
plan view will be and work from the center out.
From the center point, draw a horizontal and a verti-
cal construction line. Keep the lines light in weight and
extend them beyond the edges of both the plan and the
elevation views. The compass points must be set to the
radius of the circular top. In this case the top is 42" in
diameter so the radius would be 21". On the architect’s
scale, 21" is equal to 1'-9". Set the metal point of the
compass in the etched line of the scale at the mark 1'
away from 0. Turn the wheel to extend the lead point of
the compass until it reaches the 9" mark on the scale.
Set the metal point of the compass on the center
mark of the paper and press down lightly. Spin the
compass between the fingers to draw the circle in one
continuous motion. It will take some practice to draw a
circle with consistent line weight around the perimeter.
The table has an apron 2" in from the edge of the table
so the compass must be set to a new radius. Return to
the scale, set the metal point in the same place as before
and reset the pencil point to the 7" mark. Draw a circle
from the same center point to establish the outside edge
of the apron.
The apron will be
3
/4" thick, so the compass must be
reset again to the smaller radius of the inside edge. The
pedestal will be an octagon that is 8" from flat surface to
flat surface. Legs will extend 14" from four opposing edges
of the octagon. Draw two circles to indicate the extents of
the pedestal and the legs. The circle indicating the ends
of the legs does not need to be complete. A small arc at
FIG. 2-2 Set the
distance between
the points on the
compass directly
from the scale.
This is easier to
see and is more
accurate than set-
ting it to marks on
the drawing.
FIG. 2-4 The compass can also be used to mark off repeated
distances in a short amount of time.
FIG. 2-3 Swing
the compass in a
smooth arc to draw
a circle. It will take
some practice to
achieve consistent
line weights around
the perimeter.
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45
DRAWING ON PAPER
the intersections of the horizontal
and vertical construction lines will be
sufficient and will keep the drawing
from becoming cluttered.
To draw the octagon for the
pedestal, we need to establish the
points in the plan view. Begin by
drawing a square that is centered
on the center point of the circular
top. The scale can be used to mea-
sure 4" off each side of each center-
line (horizontal and vertical) but it
is faster to set the compass to a 4"
radius and make a tick mark at each
centerline.
When the square has been
drawn, the compass is set to the
distance between any corner of the
square and the center point. Swing
the compass to make a mark on
each line coming out of the corner.
Repeat this at each corner of the
square, making two marks on each
side of the square. Using the 45°
triangle, draw an angled line con-
necting the lines from each corner
of the square.
Darken the perimeter of the octa-
gon with the 2H pencil. If the lines
drawn to construct the octagon are
light enough, they don’t need to be
erased. They will be useful later on
to construct the other views and to
dimension the drawing.
When the outer points have
been established, set the leg of the
adjustable triangle so that the edge
reaches a point of the octagon and
the center of the circle. Draw con-
struction lines back toward the cen-
ter from each point on the octagon.
FIG. 2-6 Draw the outside of an octagon by projecting lines with the 45° triangle
from the tick marks on the sides.
FIG. 2-5 Use the compass to  nd the distance from the center of the
square to any corner, then mark off tick marks along the sides.
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CHAPTER TWO
The sides of the pedestal will be 1
1
/4" thick. A sec-
ond octagon drawn inside the first will represent this,
but this will be far easier to draw. With the scale, mea-
sure from one vertical or horizontal face of the pedestal
toward the center and make a mark 1
1
/4" in. Draw a line
parallel to the one that was measured from. Where this
line meets the angled construction line is the corner of
the inner octagon. Next, draw a line at a 45° angle to the
next construction line. Continue around the perimeter in
this manner until the inner octagon is complete. If done
correctly, the last line drawn will neatly intersect with
the first.
The legs will be 1
1
/2" thick. The arcs drawn earlier
represent the outer ends of the legs, but the legs will
actually be square and not curved at the ends. The
points where the arcs meet the horizontal and vertical
construction lines are known as tangents.
Draw lines
3
/4" away on either side of the construction
lines. Close examination will reveal that the intersections
FIGS. 2-7 AND 8 The ends of the pedestal feet are arcs,
so a straight line must be drawn through the tangent of the
arc at the centerline.
FIG. 2-6 Set the adjustable triangle to line up one of the corners of the octagon with the center
to mark the miters between the pedestal sections.
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DRAWING ON PAPER
FIG. 2-9 Draw
dashed lines set-
ting the spacing by
eye. Start and stop
at the corners so
the location of the
corner is clear.
FIG. 2-9 After the plan is complete, the points of intersection are
projected down to the elevation.
of these lines with the arcs will be closer to the center of
the circle than the points on the centerlines. Draw short
straight lines from the tangents so that they intersect
with the lines on both sides of the centerlines.
A square plate connects the pedestal to the tabletop.
If this were shown in the plan view, then the pedestal
would be hidden below it. This is a bit of awkwardness
that often occurs in making drawings. If we choose the
cutting plane for the plan view to be in the pedestal,
everything on the viewer’s side of the plane should be
shown as a dashed line. It makes sense to show the
plate in dashed lines — the pedestal below it has many
more parts that intersect in miter joints and this detail
takes precedence over the outline of the square plate.
Technically, the top and aprons should also be shown
in dashed lines, but in this case, the plan is more useful
if they are shown in solid lines. Breaking the rules will
make the drawing easier to understand, it being obvious
that the top is above the pedestal.
The dashed lines should meet at intersections of two
lines, as at the corner of the square mounting plate.
These should also be slightly lighter in weight than the
solid lines of the drawing but not as light as dimension,
construction or hatch lines. Start the line from the corner
out and form the breaks in the lines by applying and
releasing pressure on the pencil.
Do this by eye rather than measuring the gaps. With
practice, the gaps will become consistent in size. Spend
time practicing and drawing away from each corner to
develop a good eye rather than worry about getting the
dashes and spaces exact.
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48
CHAPTER TWO
FIG. 2-13 After sketching the foot pro le, a circle template is used
to draw a clean arc at the end.
FIG. 2-14 The French curve is used to draw irregular curves. Match a
section of the French curve to the sketch.
Because the table is round, one
elevation will provide all the infor-
mation normally found in a front and
side elevation. Establish horizontal
construction lines for the tabletop,
the aprons, the top of the legs and
the bottom of the pedestal and legs.
Project lines down from the plan to
establish the edges of the tabletop,
aprons and pedestal. Notice that the
vertical lines of the pedestal only
show the true width of the pedestal
sides on the side of the pedestal fac-
ing the viewer.
In technical drawing, this will
happen whenever there is an
object that isn’t at a right angle to
the drawing view. In this case, it
shouldn’t cause much trouble; look-
ing at both the plan and the eleva-
tion make the shape and size of the
pedestal clear. In other pieces how-
ever, it may be necessary to develop
an auxiliary view to show details of
an angled object within a drawing,
or of an object that contains angles
other than 90°.
Regular & Irregular Curves
The shape of the legs is a combi-
nation of curves. In developing a
design of this type it is helpful to
first sketch the shape, then find a
method to neatly draw the curves. A
compass was used to draw the large
circle for the tabletop but it can be
awkward to use it for drawing small-
er curves, especially those where
the center may not be known.
Templates, small pieces of thin
plastic with a number of accurately
sized holes, are the solution. These
are inexpensive and are available in
a number of different sizes. There are
also templates available for ellipses
and other shapes that may be diffi-
cult or time-consuming to draw.
When drawing with the template,
place it on the paper in the desired
location. Normally there are short straight lines on the template that indicate
vertical and horizontal centerlines. Keep the pencil point vertical and against
the edge of the template as you draw. If you’re working on part of a drawing
where a curve and a straight line intersect, draw the curve first. It’s easier to
“cheat” the straight line to meet the curve neatly than it is to make the curve
meet a straight line.
French curves are used like templates, but for drawing irregular curves-
those that aren’t circles or parts of circles. Adjustable curves can be bent to
nearly any shape, but work better for drawing large curves rather than small
ones. The shape of the leg for this table is a combination of arcs at the ends
of the legs and irregular curves that connect the arcs.
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DRAWING ON PAPER
FIG. 2-16 Intersections that show in the section, but not in the eleva-
tion, are projected down the sheet from the plan view.
FIG. 2-15 It is usually faster to trace a portion of the drawing than it is to start from
scratch. A piece of vellum placed over the elevation will be used to create a section view.
Draw the arcs at the ends of the
legs with the appropriate circle
template, aligning the template
with the straight construction lines
that denote the limits of the legs.
The straight lines connecting the
arcs and completing the outline of
the leg will be drawn last. Place the
French curve on the end of each
arc and turn the French curve until
a pleasing transition that is close
to the shape of the sketched curve
meets the ends of the arcs. Make
a tick mark on the French curve
at each intersection so the reverse
curve can be easily drawn.
The section view is essentially
the same as the elevation but shows
different information. Rather than
repeat all of the work to draw the
elevation, place a new sheet of vel-
lum over the existing drawing so
the lines that appear in both the
section and elevation can be gener-
ated by tracing.
The cutting plane for the section
will be through the center of the
table. This allows lines from the plan
view to be projected down to the
section. The important information
the section will show will be the
location and thickness of the aprons,
the thickness of the upright parts of
the pedestal and the plate that con-
nects the pedestal to the tabletop.
Begin the section by darkening
the outer lines of the elevation, then
draw in the lines representing the
inner edges of the apron and pedes-
tal. The location of these lines will
be determined by projecting them
down from the plan. The thickness
of the plate at the top of the pedes-
tal is the only dimension in the sec-
tion view that will need to be placed
by measuring. All the other lines will
be projected or traced from previ-
ously established points.
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CHAPTER TWO
FIG. 2-17 Draw a baseline across the
page and use that to align the traced sec-
tion next to the existing elevation.
Complete the section view by adding dimensions and
hatching. To put all three views on one sheet of paper,
the section can be taped to the drawing board next to
the elevation, using the straight edge to align the two
views. This completes the problem-solving portion of
the drawing.
The entire drawing can be traced on the clean sheet.
This sounds like extra work, but with practice, this final
tracing will go quickly and the result is a much cleaner
finished drawing. The hatching and dimensioning in the
first two drawings can be roughly and quickly done, sav-
ing time and effort for the finished product.
The readability of the finished drawing is controlled
by the weight, or thickness, of the lines. There is a hier-
archy of lines, and, when producing the final version of a
drawing, it is most efficient to work with the lines from
thickest to thinnest. I prefer to produce the final paper
drawing by tracing over an earlier version, but the final
version can also be made by darkening the lines that
already exist.
There are two ways to control line weight. The first is
using harder or softer lead; softer lead will make heavier,
darker lines. The other method is by variation of hand
pressure while drawing lines. More pressure will yield a
wider, darker line.
Trace in a systematic way, beginning at the top of the
drawing and tracing all of the horizontal lines using a 2H
lead. After the horizontal lines are drawn, the pounce bag
is used on the entire drawing and the residue is removed
with the drafting brush. The vertical lines are then
drawn, working from the left side of the page to the right.
The outermost lines of each view are the darkest. In
each view, dark lines are used for lines nearest the view-
er and lighter lines are used for objects that are further
away. This is most evident in section views. Objects that
are on the cutting plane are drawn with dark lines and
objects in the background with lighter lines.
When the lines within the drawing are complete,
dimension lines, leaders and notes are added. Dimension
lines are drawn with a 4H pencil, using considerably
more pressure than when drawing construction lines
with a 2H lead and a light touch. Leaders, which point
from an object in the drawing to a descriptive note, are
drawn freehand with the hard pencil.
Guidelines should be drawn to aid in adding the
text of dimensions and notes. It is most efficient to add
guidelines where needed to the entire drawing and then
to place all the text. Using the Ames lettering guide
and a 4H lead, guidelines are drawn quickly with a light
touch. The guidelines should be barely visible when the
drawing is complete.
Lettering is called single-stroke
lettering and if you learn how to do
it, people will think you’re an archi-
tect when they see your handwrit-
ing. Single stroke is an apt descrip-
tion of the technique; each letter, or
part of a letter is made with either a
single straight line or an arc. An “O”
is not drawn as a circle, but as two
arcs that join at a vertical centerline.
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DRAWING ON PAPER
FIG. 2-25 Begin an oblique drawing by drawing a front elevation. This establishes major dimensions.
Oblique & Isometric Views
Following the example of a small end table will be a good
introduction to making an oblique or axonometric projec-
tion drawing. It will become apparent that having a three-
view drawing of this table will make the oblique drawing
easier. The advantage is that the dimensions and relations
of the parts will have been worked out using a system
where measuring with the scale is easy and straightfor-
ward. These dimensions and relationships can be estab-
lished in the projected drawing, but where measurements
are taken from, and the direction they take, are critical.
One of my drafting instructors in design school ham-
mered us daily about remembering reference points.
If you lose your point of reference, you become “lost in
space” and you are doomed to failure. “Smoking Boots!
You’re nothing but a pair of smoking boots!” he would
shout when he discovered one of us confused.
Begin by drawing an elevation of the two front legs.
From the outer corners of each leg, draw lines going
back at a 45° angle. Holding the scale against one of
these lines, measure back and make a mark to indicate
the distance from the front face of a front leg to the back
face of a back leg. Already you’re wishing you had a plan
view drawn and dimensioned.
Go ahead and draw some construction lines to form
an imaginary box that will contain all four legs. From the
inside corners of the legs in the elevation, project light
lines back to the back edges of the box. From the inter-
sections, draw vertical lines that indicate the outside
corners of the back legs. You could have measured from
the corners of the box to find these points, but it is faster
and more accurate to establish these points by project-
ing lines. Every measurement you make takes time and
ads a significant risk of making a mistake.
You will need to measure to establish the depth of the
legs, but you only need to make one mark for the front
and one for the back. This can be done by holding the
scale along any of the 45° construction lines. After mea-
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CHAPTER TWO
suring, add lines and darken exist-
ing ones to determine the outlines
of the legs.
Mark off the locations of the
rails at the top of the legs. Because
you’ll be making several marks at
the same distance, you may want
to use dividers instead of the scale.
Remember that each measurement
must be made in a specific direction
to be accurate. Horizontal distances
must be made along a horizontal
line, vertical distances must be
measured along a vertical line and
depth measurements must be made
on an angled line.
Lightly draw in all the rails. The
front legs prevent you from see-
ing the near ends of the two side
aprons. If you draw the ends of
these rails, you will need to erase
them later on, as they won’t show in
the finished drawing. Occasionally
you will need the information from
drawing these hidden surfaces, but
in general it is better to keep in
mind what won’t be visible in the
final drawing and to not draw lines
that will be erased later, unless you
need them to solve a design or con-
struction problem.
The two lower rails are drawn
in a similar fashion. Measure in
from the bottom of a leg along the
horizontal and measure up along
the vertical to locate a corner of the
rail. Draw vertical and angled lines
from that corner. The shelf between
the lower rails is also located by
establishing a corner from existing
lines. Use light construction lines for
established these points. Much of
the time the points that are easy to
locate by measuring will be hidden
in the finished drawing.
The shelf completes the work on
the base of the table and a decision
needs to be made on how to treat the
top. If the top is drawn in its proper
FIG. 2-28 Using the triangle, project lines back from the elevation. It is more accurate to
project lines to  nd points than it is to repeatedly measure.
FIG. 2-27 Use light construction lines to draw an imaginary box that will contain the entire
drawing. This sets the outer limits of the oblique drawing.
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DRAWING ON PAPER
place, it will hide the tops of the legs
and most of the lines for the top rails.
How to complete this view depends
on the purpose of this drawing. Is
it to show a more realistic view of
the complete table than that of the
three-view drawing? If so, then the
top should be drawn with dark lines,
and the lines within the top for the
legs and top rails should be erased.
Is this view intended to show the
construction details of the leg and
rail structure? If that is the case, it is
better to leave the top off, or to indi-
cate it with thin dashed lines.
Both views are useful and both
can be completed and included by
tracing the nearly complete draw-
ing. Drawings and details that solve
the puzzle of how to make a piece
aren’t useful if the information they
contain is covered up to make an
attractive drawing. The attractive
FIGS. 2-31 Locating a corner may involve measuring from two directions from a known point.
FIGS. 2-31 For measurements to be accurate, they must be made
along the correct drawing plane.
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CHAPTER TWO
FIGS. 2-33 If the top were drawn as a solid, it would cover up much of the detail
of the drawing. Showing it as dashed lines de nes its location without obscuring
other parts of the drawing.
FIGS. 2-33 Large-scale details can be added to a smaller scale drawing to clarify details.
drawing may be vital to the effort
of selling the work, but it will take
time to create it. If the goal is to get
to the shop and make the furniture,
time spent drawing should always
be considered.
There is no set rule as to how
many views you need to create
or the form these views take. One
piece of work may be completely
detailed from only a plan and a
section while another may require
many pages of details.
Scale drawings are convenient
in that a large piece of furniture can
be shown on a small sheet of paper.
There will be parts that can’t be
seen clearly in a scale drawing, usu-
ally joints or molding profiles. These
details are drawn separately.
Details are often drawn at full
size, but they only need to be drawn
at a scale that allows space to show
them clearly. If the main drawing
is at 1" = 1', or 1
1
/2" = 1', many
details can be drawn at 3" = 1' which is one-fourth actual size. If this isn’t
large enough to show things clearly, then details should be drawn at one-half
actual size or full size.
A dashed circle or box drawn on the main drawing will indicate that a
detail exists and there should be a note or tag indicating where the detail is
in the drawing.
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DRAWING ON PAPER
vertical rise at midpoint
Draw a straight
line between the
end points and
the midpoint of
the vertical rise.
Begin and end
arc away from
end
1
/
4" -
1
/
2".
radius
extend line
from end
points of
arcs
extend line
vertically from
midpoint
intersection
of lines is
center of arc
radius
radius
Finding the radius of an arc
Drawing an octagon
Strike an arc between
the center of a square
and one of the corners.
Swing an arc from
each corner,
intersecting the
sides of the square.
Connect the end points of
the arcs to create an
octagon with equal sides.
center
center
radius
radius
EQ.
EQ.
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CHAPTER THREE
3
DRAWING ON
A COMPUTER
Drafting and design is just one of many things that computers have
radically changed. Before CAD (Computer Aided Design), a paper
drawing was a precious thing, much like a manuscript for a book that
was prepared on a typewriter. It was the product of many hours of labor
and a great deal of that effort was spent in making sure that the details
were correct.
Like revising a manuscript, making changes to details in a paper
drawing means even more work and many times a seemingly simple
change can mean essentially starting the process over to produce a
clean, finished drawing.
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The biggest impact from the advent of CAD is in making changes and
editing. It still takes time to generate a basic drawing (although several
tools in CAD speed this process), but the ability to copy, change, edit and
print removes much of the tedium of drawing on paper.
Owning a word processor won’t make you an instant author, and
installing a CAD program on your computer won’t make you an instant
designer. You still need to know the basics
of making a plan, have an eye for pro-
portion, a knowledge of materials and
how parts work together.
If you skipped over the chap-
ter in this book about drawing on
paper because you want to start
designing in CAD, I urge you to
go back and read it. Even if you
never set pencil to paper, the
concepts of preparing drawings
on paper are essential to under-
standing what to do when
drawing with a computer.
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CHAPTER THREE
TWO-DIMENSIONAL CAD
Concepts
There are two distinct methods of drawing with the com-
puter: preparing two dimensional drawings and three-
dimensional modeling. Making two-dimensional drawings
on a computer is similar to using a word processing or
spreadsheet program. Many of the tasks that are time-
consuming on paper are faster and easier, but the basic
concepts and skills are identical to the manual process.
Three-dimensional modeling is more like heading out
to the shop, cutting some pieces of wood and seeing
how they fit together. Each of these methods has advan-
tages and disadvantages and different people will find
one method works better than the other for them.
Just as drawing on paper will make it easier to cre-
ate two-dimensional drawings in CAD, learning the
concepts of CAD will shorten the learning curve of
three-dimensional modeling. There are big differences
between paper and the computer screen, but the pro-
cess of drawing three-dimensional objects is translated
into two-dimensional lines. Modeling involves a similar
set of tools, but in addition to learning how to use the
tools, you also need to learn to navigate in what is essen-
tially a new world. If you learn the tools and concepts
on the solid, flat ground of CAD, it won’t be as easy to
get lost when you enter the wide-open spaces of three-
dimensional modeling.
When drawing on paper, the size of the sheet and the
need to work in a scale to fit on the sheet imposes some
immediate limits. On the computer, these limits don’t
exist. You can work through the problem-solving phase
of the design process in real dimensions and the space
you have to work in is infinitely wide and infinitely long.
On the computer, horizontal lines will always be per-
fectly straight and always at 0°. Distances between points
will be the precise distance you tell the computer to make
them. Just as a spreadsheet program can calculate your
monthly expenses for you, your CAD program can tell
you how long the rail between two table legs will be. You
can’t smudge your lines with a sweaty palm, and, if you
spill your coffee, you may short out the keyboard, but
you won’t ruin the drawing you worked on all day.
If you want to generate a section, or an additional
view on paper, you need to either trace existing lines, or
start the drawing over. With CAD, you can copy and edit
your existing work. You can also stretch or shrink your
drawing and see what will happen if you decide to make
something a few inches wider or narrower. All of these
tasks take time and effort on paper and it can be hard to
justify taking the time to pursue different ideas. In CAD,
these actions only take a minute or two and a few clicks
of the mouse.
With all these advantages, CAD has essentially
replaced drawing with paper, pencil, T-square and
triangles. Be aware, however, that the time and effort
required to create an original drawing is only a little fast-
er. Also be aware that as with most tasks now performed
on a computer, the potential exists to simply make a big-
ger mess in less time if you don’t know the basic skills
and concepts.
The time it takes to become adept at drawing in CAD
must also be considered. CAD programs are complex
and each program has a learning curve and an invest-
ment in time to become proficient. The computer may
be able to do a lot of the work for you, but it can’t do your
thinking for you. You can’t type in “coffee table”, hit enter
and wait for the computer to do the important work.
Programs
In this chapter, the basic process of creating a CAD
drawing will be detailed. Two different 2-D drawing
programs, one an inexpensive no frills, but functional
program (DeltaCAD) and a more costly, more versatile pro-
gram used by professionals (AutoCADLT), will be used.
In addition, a 3-D modeling program Sketchup, which
at this writing is available as a free download, will be
covered and explained. This will be in a distinct chapter
following the other CAD programs. Many of the concepts
used in 3-D modeling are based on 2-D CAD, but there
are important differences in concept and technique. In
the same way that learning CAD will be faster and easier
if you understand the concepts of drafting on paper,
learning 3-D modeling will be less painful if you know
the basics of 2-D CAD.
There is space in this book to detail the basics of using
the software, but to get good at running a particular pro-
gram you will need to practice. And, you will likely need
other resources, such as tutorials and manuals from the
software publisher or other authors, to understand some of
the more powerful and advanced tools and techniques.
Before examining the particulars of any software or
deciding which software to use, the basic concepts and
terminology of CAD should be understood. On paper,
you’re drawing lines. In CAD, you’re “creating geom-
etry”. It’s basically the same thing, but with a few impor-
tant differences. Most CAD programs will have a trial
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59
DRAWING ON A COMPUTER
FIG. 3-1 Most CAD programs have a "preferences" window that let you set parameters for how your drawing will
appear on screen and in print as well as the units of measurement the program uses.
version available as a free download. Before investing
time and money, take several of these for a test drive and
see how they fit with your style of learning and working
and what you want to do. Like any other tool, the right
software for me may not be a good fit for you. Ask other
woodworkers what software they like and why. There
are many woodworking forums on the Internet that are a
free and ready source of real-world feedback.
Before purchasing CAD software, consider what
documentation and learning information comes with the
program and what additional resources are available.
AutoCAD is widely used in architecture and in industry
and there are thousands of books available on using it.
There is likely a course in AutoCAD at a local vocational
school or community college. Many less-costly programs
can do most of the same tasks as AutoCAD, but have
almost no references available. If you pick things up
quickly on your own, this may be the route to choose.
If you’re the type of person who needs a reference book
or hands-on teaching to learn, the money spent on the
more expensive program might be worth it to you if only
to avoid frustration.
The first and most obvious difference is the space
you’re drawing in and the tools you use. Before begin-
ning to create geometry, some parameters need to be
established. In CAD, you have many choices about the
units you are drawing in, the color and weight of lines
you draw, how dimensions and text will appear and how
a finished drawing will be printed.
In some programs you may need to define the size of
the area that you are drawing in (AutoCADLT) and you
need to name and save the drawing file. Templates are files
that have these variables predefined so that you can begin
a drawing without spending time setting it up. Most
programs will have a default template, and until you’re
familiar enough with the program to make informed
decisions, it makes sense to learn in that environment.
You will also need to decide what units to work in.
Most programs will let you choose between metric,
feet and inches or inches. There will also be a choice
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60
CHAPTER THREE
FIG. 3-2 The number of tools available can be overwhelming and contribute to the learning curve when using CAD.
Tool sets exist to create geometry, modify geometry and to add dimensions and text to the drawing.
for dealing with fractions as decimals or as fractions. I
think in fractions and work that way in CAD, but round-
ing errors can creep into the drawing as the computer
converts fractions that I understand, to decimals that it
understands.
Just as there are tools in paper drawing, CAD
programs also have a number of tools: Those for creat-
ing geometry, those for modifying geometry that has
already been drawn as well as tools for adding text and
dimensions. In addition, there are tools for navigating
around the drawing and tools for organizing all the ele-
ments that make up the drawing.
The screenshots show the available tools for
AutoCADLT. Most other programs will have similar tool
sets, but they may function in different ways. The num-
ber of tools can be intimidating and a healthy portion
of the learning curve is connecting the symbols on the
tool icons with their specific functions. Most programs
also give you the option of using keyboard shortcuts to
perform the same tasks as the tool icons.
Many programs will have tool tips as part of the inter-
face. If you hover the mouse cursor over a tool icon, the
name of the tool will appear near the cursor. You may not
know intuitively what the polyline tool does, but know-
ing the name will let you know what to look up in the
help index. Some programs will also guide you in the
function of the tool, with text appearing on the screen.
Slowing down and using these two aids will make learn-
ing the individual program easier.
Begin by getting familiar with the basic tools for
drawing. The first task is to draw a line the length you
want, in the direction you want and connecting to spe-
cific points. Find the line tool and make some lines in
different directions and at different lengths. On paper,
the T-square and triangle were used to make vertical
and horizontal lines. In CAD, there is a function in each
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61
DRAWING ON A COMPUTER
FIG. 3-3 Lines are generated from one speci c point to another. Most programs feature a way to input a speci c
length and direction, either by manipulating the mouse, typing in information or a combination of both.
program to keep lines at 90° or 0°. It is also possible to
define the length of a line either as you draw it or imme-
diately after.
To begin a new line at the end of an existing line, the
program provides a way to ensure that the line is exactly
on the point. After starting the line command, move the
cursor close to the end of the existing line. When you get
close, the cursor will change and text will appear on the
screen. Clicking the mouse when this happens starts the
line at the indicated point. This process also works to
end a line on a specific, existing point.
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CHAPTER THREE
This attraction of the cursor to a point is known as
snapping. In addition to snapping to the end of a line,
options exist to snap to other specific points such as the
middle of a line, the center of a circle or polygon or an
existing or potential intersection.
To remove a line completely, select it by clicking on it
and hit the delete” key. AutoCAD has an eraser tool that
can be used instead of hitting delete.
To remove a portion of a line, the process is called
trimming. Different programs do this in different ways,
but the idea is to select an edge where you want the line
to end and then eliminate the unwanted portions.
FIG. 3-4 Snap is a term used to describe the attraction of points in CAD
programs, aiding precise drawing. The user can select a number of op-
tions for where new lines are attracted to existing points.
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DRAWING ON A COMPUTER
The reverse of this process is called extending and
there are a couple of ways to go about this. The obvi-
ous way is to select a line and then click the mouse on
the highlighted end, or grip. Holding the mouse button
down, move the cursor to the new location, and, when
you get there, release the button.
In AutoCAD, there is a tool called extend that is
essentially the reverse of the trim tool. Select an edge
FIG. 3-5 The easiest way to modify a line (or other geometry) is to select it with the cursor
and then pull the grips with the mouse.
that you want the line to extend to and then select the
line or lines than you want to extend. The advantage of
this tool in AutoCAD is that you can select many lines at
one time. With most other programs, you need to select
all of the grips and extend the lines as a group. If the
lines aren’t the same length to begin with they must be
extended one at a time.
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CHAPTER THREE
To join the ends of two lines that don’t intersect, the
fillet command is used. A fillet is a small radius in met-
alwork connecting two flat surfaces. In most CAD pro-
grams, the program assumes you want to join the lines
with a curve and has a default radius. If you set the length
of the radius at “0” and use the fillet command, each line
will extend to the intersection of the other extended line.
Making parallel lines a specific distance apart is a
common task in mechanical drawing. In CAD, this pro-
cess is called offset. When the command is invoked a
line is selected and the distance of offset is specified, as
well as the direction of the offset. Using offset in com-
bination with fillet, rectangular shapes can be drawn
rapidly without drawing each line individually from a
specific point at a specific length. This is one of the best
ways that using CAD can save time when drawing.
Another way that CAD saves time is copying all or
part of a drawing. Similar to copy-and-paste commands
in word-processing programs, you can select a portion
of your drawing and reproduce it at another location.
Creating section views and details is fast with this tool.
A variation of copy is the mirror. With the mirror com-
mand you can create half of a complex drawing and
instantly generate a mirror image along a centerline.
Copying also lets you try endless variations of a basic
design. After creating a copy you can move parts to new
FIG. 3-6 The offset command creates one line parallel to an existing line or an object inside
or outside an existing object. This is one of the fastest ways to create basic drawings.
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DRAWING ON A COMPUTER
FIG. 3-7 One of the ways CAD can speed the process of drawing is by copying existing geometry. In this example,
half of the drawing is made by creating a mirror image of the existing drawing.
locations and see what it would look like if the piece you
are designing was a little taller or wider. A great variation
of move is stretch. For example, if you have a drawing of a
table and you want the table wider, you can move one leg
and the end of the table top while extending all the hori-
zontal lines connecting them to the rest of the drawing.
In addition to lines, other types of geometry can be
generated. Circles, arcs, rectangles and polygons are
typical examples and making them is relatively straight-
forward. One term that can be confusing is a polyline.
To work successfully in CAD, you need to keep in mind
how the software defines different objects or entities and
how it behaves with them.
A line is simple — it goes from one point to another.
You can draw a square from four individual lines. If you
use the rectangle or polyline tool to draw a square, CAD
considers it one object. If you select a single line in most
programs, grips will appear at each end and in the mid-
dle. If you select a polyline, the entire shape is selected
and grips will appear at the corners.
When you move or copy something in CAD, the
specific points on one object will be attracted to spe-
cific points on another object. Different programs will
use different terminology and have various options for
this. Using these allows you to be very precise. One of
the caveats of using CAD is that two lines that appear
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FIG. 3-8 Layers are an effective way to organize a CAD drawing. In AutoCADLT, the layer manager controls line
weights and types, display colors and whether or not layers will appear in a printed drawing.
to intersect may only be close to each other. Using the
software to snap to a specific point prevents this. Snaps
can be a blessing but they can also be a curse. A good
CAD program should give you the ability to choose what
types of points you want the software to snap to and
which ones you want to ignore. The most obvious (and
useful) snap points are the ends and middles of lines,
existing intersections and centers of circles and radii. If
all possible snap points are turned on you will likely find
the cursor drawn to something you don’t want.
In many programs an optional grid can be displayed
as a background to the drawing and the cursor can be
set to snap to points on the grid. The grid is a vestige
of early versions of CAD and will be found to be more
trouble than it is worth. Learn other ways to keep lines
horizontal and vertical and the length you want them to
be. Unless you know that every dimension in your draw-
ing will be an exact increment of the displayed grid, you
will spend more time working around it than actually
using it.
On paper, there are two phases to any drawing — the
problem solving phase and the presentation phase. This
is also true in CAD. One of the concepts of CAD that
makes both phases faster and more manageable is using
layers to organize parts of the drawing. A layer is similar
to a clear sheet of film that you can lay over a drawing.
Each layer can have its own set of properties such as
color, line weight and line type.
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FIG. 3-9 Colors are often used to visually keep track of layers. Different types of lines, other
geometry, text and dimensions can be turned on or off.
Layers can be made visible or they can be turned
off. The layer you are currently drawing in is known
as the active or current layer. You can draw, add text,
dimensions or hatch patterns in one layer while view-
ing all the other layers. You can turn a text layer off so
it isn’t in your way if you want to go back and change
the geometry. Layers is another area where the versatil-
ity of AutoCAD gives it a distinct advantage over other
programs. Changes can be made to all objects on a given
layer by changing the properties of the layer. Not all CAD
programs can do this, but not every CAD operator has
the need for this. If you are only working on relatively
small, simple drawings, the ability to work with layers
may not be important to you. On the other hand, if your
work involves detailed prints, printed versions of your
drawings in other programs or computer-controlled rout-
ing or machining, control over layers may be vital.
In architectural drawings, layers are often used to cre-
ate different versions of the same drawing, each version
showing information that is relevant to a specific trade.
The master floor plan may contain all of the electrical,
plumbing, lighting or other details on separate layers. In
furniture and cabinet drawing there is less of a need for
this, but it is an effective way to organize things. If you
have a layer in your drawing for cabinet boxes, drawer
boxes, shelves and doors, you can dimension and print
each of these layers individually. Working on all these
different parts in the same working drawing helps to
ensure that all the parts fit. Each type of part separated
by layer makes gathering information from the drawing a
simple task.
In paper drawings, details are created separately and
at a larger scale than the main drawing. It can be easy
to fool yourself and draw a separate detail that doesn’t
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agree with the other view. In CAD, you can zoom in,
draw the detail in place and avoid this pitfall. When it
comes time to print, the detail can be copied and printed
at a larger scale.
This saves time and prevents errors, but it requires
moving around the drawing space on the screen.
Zooming and panning are the most-used commands
when drawing in CAD. Most programs offer several ways
to zoom. Learning how and when to use the variations
speeds the overall drawing process.
It won’t do you any good to zoom and pan around
an empty drawing, so when you have created your first
drawing in CAD, take some time to experiment with
these powerful tools. Some of them are common to most
FIG. 3-10 In a CAD drawing, information that may  ll several sheets of paper are all in one place,
organized much as a paper drawing. The zoom extents command displays the entire drawing.
programs, but there are a few that are specific to CAD
and are so useful to boosting productivity that they
deserve some practice. It’s easy to get lost in a complex
drawing and these tools are the ones to go to if you need
to get out of the dark and spooky geometric forest.
The zoom extents command will zoom out until all of
the objects in your drawing are displayed on the screen.
If you lose track of where you are in the drawing, this
command will instantly show you the big picture. One of
the most common mistakes in CAD is to make a typing
error or hit the wrong key, and place some geometry far
away from where you want it to be.
If you zoom out manually to find it, you’ll likely stop
when you see what you think is the entire drawing.
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FIG. 3-11 Because all drawing in CAD is done in actual sizes, details can be created where
they belong in a drawing. Zooming in allows these details to be seen.
Zoom extents will show you what the computer knows
is the entire drawing and the missing geometry will
appear. If the view of the entire drawing becomes tiny,
the missing bits and pieces will be off in one of the cor-
ners. Once you’ve found it, you can move it back where
it belongs and get back to work.
Zoom previous is another tool that most programs
don’t have. This will take you back to earlier views of
your drawing. Like zoom extents, zoom previous will
help you find where you want to be if you suddenly find
yourself lost in space. Zoom window will take you in
to get a close look at whatever you draw a box around
using the cursor.
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FIG. 3-12 Individual entities can be edited in the properties window. This helps keep the
drawing organized and simpli es changing of line types, line weights and layers.
Some programs will have an intelligent zoom com-
mand. If you place your cursor on one point on the
screen and turn the scroll wheel, you will zoom in or out
centered on the cursor’s location. The style of computer
or mouse you use can have a tremendous effect on your
productivity, especially when it comes to zooming, pan-
ning and generally navigating around the screen. If you
are trying to learn CAD on a laptop computer, your work
will be slow and inaccurate if you use the finger pad
instead of a mouse. If your software allows you to zoom
with the scroll wheel on the mouse you will soon be
moving around the screen intuitively and nearly effort-
lessly. If you have an older style mouse, you won’t be
able to use this feature. Many programs also make use of
clicking the right hand mouse button to bring up a menu
or options for a command. If you’re on a Mac and don’t
have the ability to right-click, you will be giving up a lot
of options before you begin.
The software also provides you with information about
the objects you have drawn. On paper, you need to keep
track of sizes and spaces, use the scale and do some
math. In most CAD programs, a properties palette or win-
dow gives information about selected objects. In better
programs, you can edit selected objects from this palette.
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FIG. 3-13 The drawing process is the same in CAD as it is on paper. Create one view (in
this case the plan) and create a related view by projecting lines.
Better programs will also have a tool to give you the
distance between two selected points. A common rookie
mistake is to create a dimension when this information
is needed, zoom in to read the dimension and then erase
the dimension. This works, but it takes several times lon-
ger and involves more commands and zooming. Learn to
use the distance command or the properties window to
quickly check your work as you go. If it is time consuming
or awkward to check sizes, you’ll likely develop the habit
of not checking as often as you should. Just as it is in
the woodshop, checking twice is always a good idea.
Creating a three-view drawing in CAD is essentially
the same process as drawing on paper. The views are
developed in the same relationship to each other — front
elevation below or above the plan and side elevation or
section beside the front elevation. Lines from one view
are projected or extended to another view to preserve
the proper relationship between the parts.
Perfecting the plan view is the first task. When the
plan is done, it can be copied, moved and rotated so
lines can be projected down to a side elevation or section.
In paper drawing, the trick to drawing an accurate
side elevation, based on information from the plan view,
was to space the three views equally apart and use a 45°
line drawn from the upper right corner of the front view
(see page 36). In CAD the trick is similar but slicker and
faster. When you have a plan view completed, make a
copy of it, move it off to the side, then rotate the copy of
the plan 90°. The side elevation or section can now be
drawn by projecting lines vertically down from the plan.
Copying one part of a drawing to create another is the
main way that CAD speeds up the drawing process. As
you learn to work with CAD, look for ways that you can
use copying to work faster. If you find yourself becom-
ing bored because you are drawing something for the
second (or perhaps the third or fourth) time, look back to
see if there was a way to duplicate the information from
another part of the drawing.
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FIG. 3-14 Copying elements of one view or an entire view speeds the drawing process.
Parts of this three-view drawing can be copied to generate sections.
FIG. 3-15 The side elevation is selected,
copied and moved parallel to the original
view of the elevation.
FIG. 3-16 Geometry that is common to
the elevation and section only needs to be
drawn once, making the creation of sec-
tions much faster.
Elevations can be copied and moved to generate sec-
tion views. Draw to solve construction problems before
worrying about how the finished drawing will appear on
paper. When you want to print, you will have the ability
to copy, move and scale the views quickly to develop a
presentation drawing. In some programs, the copy com-
mands may not be a separate, distinct command, but
a part of the move command often invoked by holding
down the alt or ctrl key while you move. Making copies
is a fast way to generate geometry, but you also need the
ability to control where the copy goes. Using the copy
and paste functions under the edit menu don’t always
allow you to place the copied object precisely where you
want it. In AutoCAD, there is a toolbar command that
allows you to select where the copy placement begins
and also where it ends. There is also an option in the
copy-and-paste menu commands to set a snap point for
accurate insertion of the copy elsewhere in the drawing.
If you can move a copied object or group of objects
accurately, you can also save time by copying elements
from one view to another and then altering the copied
geometry. For example, in Fig. 3-16, the horizontal lines
in the section view could be drawn one at a time by pro-
jecting lines from the horizontal lines found in the front
elevation. It is faster however, to copy the lines from the
front elevation as a group to the side elevation and then
trim them to the proper length. When drawing on paper,
one way to efficiency is not to draw lines you know you
will have to erase. In CAD, the thinking is, “How can I do
this in the fewest number of mouse clicks?”
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FIG. 3-17 In some programs, the direction a selection box is drawn determines how objects are selected. Move left to right and
everything the selection box crosses is picked. Move right to left and only those objects completely in the box are picked.
get confused, it will let you see your entire drawing and
you’ll be able to get your bearings again.
Learn how your specific program defines different
objects and what you need to do to select or move them.
You can move, copy or rotate a bunch of things all at
once if you know how to pick them out from everything
else in the drawing. Some programs allow you to keep
clicking the left mouse button to select multiple objects,
while others require that you hold in the shift or other key.
In AutoCAD and in SketchUp, you can select several
objects at once by drawing a box with the mouse cursor.
Many programs do this, but in these two, the way you
draw the box makes a big difference in what is selected.
The AutoCAD terms are bounding box and crossing
box. If you move the mouse from left to right, you are
making a bounding box — everything that is entirely
within the box is selected. If you go the other way, from
right to left, you’re making a crossing box — everything
that intersects with the box will be selected.
Thinking in CAD
When you move from drawing on paper to drawing on a
computer screen, it takes some time to understand and
get used to the different environment. The good news is
that most tasks in CAD are variations on paper drawing
techniques that are faster, more accurate and easier to do.
The bad news is that if you don’t understand what you’re
doing, you can get lost in this strange setting and end up
incapable of making the next move you want to make. Take
your time, start with the basics and don’t expect to sit
down at the computer on Saturday morning and be capa-
ble of producing complex CAD drawings by lunchtime.
In addition to learning how to draw, you will need to
learn how to navigate. Draw a few lines or a simple box
and practice zooming and panning around the drawing.
Save your file early and save often. One of the first com-
mands to learn is undo. If you get stuck, don’t be afraid
to back up by using undo until you’re out of trouble. Find
the zoom all or zoom extents command right away. If you
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FIG. 3-18 In AutoCADLT, layouts for printing are made in a distinct window called paper space.
This allows more control of the appearance of the  nished drawing than in other programs.
As with drawing on paper, there are two distinct
phases of drawing with CAD — solving a problem and
presenting information. The two programs used as
examples are typical of the software available at this
writing. DeltaCAD (and several similar programs) is
available for less than $100. AutoCADLT is a simplified
version of AutoCAD and costs about $800. (The full-ver-
sion of AutoCAD costs several thousand dollars).
For the problem-solving phase of design, there isn’t a
tremendous difference between the low-cost and high-
priced software. Either will generate accurate informa-
tion and either will take some time to learn. The biggest
difference is in the second phase — the presentation
phase of creating a drawing.
AutoCADLT has some features that give it a huge
edge in this area, notably the ability to work in a preview
of the printed drawing called paper space. Most CAD
programs only work in what AutoCAD calls model space
— the infinitely large world where geometry is created.
When it comes time to dimension, note and print a
finished drawing, most CAD programs become awkward
to use and produce results of only average quality. In
AutoCAD, most of the head scratching and heavy lifting
is performed by the software and the user has an incred-
ible amount of control over the appearance of the printed
drawing.
The key to generating an attractive printed drawing
in AutoCADLT is under the file menu. Select the option
page setup manager, then modify from the pop-up win-
dow. This opens an additional window where you can
select what printer to use, what size paper, orientation
of the drawing on the paper, what portion of the screen
to print and the scale of the printing. If you select layout
from the what to print drop-down list, you will be able to
effectively work in paper space.
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FIG. 3-19 AutoCADLT also provides more control over the appearance of dimension lines, arrows and text.
The program will automatically size dimensions to a preselected scale for printing.
At the lower edge of the drawing window are three
tabs, labeled model, layout 1 and layout 2. Selecting the
model tab puts you in model space — the infinite world
that most CAD programs share. Either of the layout tabs
moves you to paper space where the limits are the size
of a sheet of paper. A white rectangle will be displayed,
with dashed lines offset in from the page edges. This
represents the printable area of the page.
Further in on the page will be another rectangle called
a viewport. A viewport can be thought of as a window in
the paper, through which you can see all or part of your
drawing in model space. When you first click on the lay-
out tab, your drawing in model space may or may not be
visible. Double-click inside the boundary of the viewport,
and invoke the zoom extents command. Double-clicking
outside the viewport will move you back to paper space
— you won’t be able to edit the drawing itself — only
objects that you create while in paper space.
The lowest bar on the screen can help you keep from
becoming lost in space. The right-most tab will say
either paper or model and clicking the tab will move the
screen view back and forth. Many AutoCAD veterans
will set a dark background for the model space view and
leave the default white paper background in papers-
space to make it easier to keep track of the two areas.
Viewports can be moved or resized and you can add as
many as you want by going to the view menu, clicking
viewports/new viewports and the number you want to
add to the drawing sheet.
The scale of the drawing view shown in the view-
port can be set from the properties window. You can
still zoom and pan within the viewport, but you need
to be careful after you have decided on a scale to print
because zooming within the viewport will change the
scale. You can avoid problems with this by switching
between paper space and model space as you work on
the page view. There is also a button to the right of the
tabs called maximize viewport in paper space that will
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FIG. 3-20 AutoCADLT is more expensive than other CAD programs, but if you need to communicate with design
professionals, or print in large format, the investment in this software is worthwhile.
temporarily return you to model space and then return
you to paper space.
The beauty of this is that it fits perfectly with the
problem solving/presentation approach to creating a
drawing. Use model space for all the problem solving
parts of the process by placing additional details or cop-
ies of details wherever you want them and work on them
at full scale. For your presentation (the printed drawing)
you can place scaled viewports where you want them on
the page and selectively show only the portions of model
space you want to.
Using layers in combination with viewports expands
the functionality of this feature. If all the viewports are
placed on a distinct layer, that layer can be set so it
doesn’t print. You also have the ability to select what
layers appear within each viewport. In the drawing in
Fig. 3-20, the details are not separate drawings as they
would be if created on paper. The details are portions of
the larger drawings, displayed in distinct viewports. The
dimensions shown in the details are on a separate layer
that is turned off in the other viewports.
Dimensions are one of the things that AutoCAD does
very well. In fact, the program will automatically size and
scale the dimensions to any specific print size. You can
also control fonts, arrows, fractions and other variables.
One of the most important settings is found under the fit
tab in the modify-dimension-style popup shown in Fig.
3-19. Select the scale-dimensions-to-layout (paper space)
radio button and the software will scale all of the dimen-
sion lines, arrows and text to the viewport scale.
Other programs allow you to insert dimensions, but
the process is slower and less flexible. If the drawings
you make are solely for your own use, this probably isn’t
a major issue, but if you are creating drawings to sell
your work, or to communicate with design professionals,
then an investment in the more expensive software may
be justified.
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THREE-DIMENSIONAL
MODELING
SketchUp has been enthusiastically received — and for
good reason. This three-dimensional modeling program
has a short learning curve and delivers great results.
And, at the time of this writing it is available as a free
download from Google. (url=sketchup.google.com) In
addition to the free version, there is a pro version avail-
able at a cost of $495.
Unless you are heavily involved in either publishing
or CAD work, the free version works the same as the
pro version. The differences are mainly in the types of
files that SketchUp can export. In the free version, you
can only export 3D models to Google Earth and 2D files
as .bmp, jpeg, tiff or png files. The pro version gives you
the ability to export in file formats that can be edited by
other programs, in 3D to other CAD applications, and in
2D to Adobe Illustrator or Acrobat.
After downloading and installing the software, take
some time to get familiar with the interface. SketchUp is
available in both Windows and Mac versions. There are
a few differences between them. The Mac version lets
you open multiple files at the same time and custom-
ize the toolbar. If you’re learning SketchUp on a Mac,
instead of gloating about your custom toolbar, go out and
buy a three-button, scroll-wheel mouse.
An important part of becoming adept in SketchUp is
in navigating around the model and in using menu com-
mands that appear when you right-click (or context click on
the Mac). Fig. 3-21 shows the set up on my windows com-
puter. I have the zoom commands in three toolbar locations.
In SketchUp, you can also zoom and orbit using the
scroll wheel. The big benefit to zooming with the scroll
wheel is that the view will zoom in or out centered on
the location of the cursor. Point the mouse at what you
want a closer look at, turn the scroll wheel and you zoom
right where you want to be.
The developers of SketchUp were afraid that people
would be overwhelmed with the number of tools and
commands available, so, when you first install the pro-
gram, only a minimal amount of tools are displayed. As
woodworkers we know that the more tools the better.
Under the view menu, at the toolbars drop-down is a
list of available toolsets. Selecting large tool set will give
you most of them. On my screen, I left the getting start-
ed toolbar at the top, and have the large tool set on the
left. The camera toolbar will display another set of zoom-
ing and orbiting tools and the views toolbar will show a
line of little houses.
Navigating in Space
Practice doing some zooming and orbiting around the
screen. The green, blue and red lines represent drawing
axes. In Cartesian coordinates, the red is “X”, the blue is
“Y” and the green is “Z”. Orbiting around your model is
a lot of fun, but it is easy to get lost. In the default view
you will see a green background on your screen.
As you zoom and orbit around a light blue area will
appear, separated from the green by a horizontal line.
The green represents a ground plane, a flat surface
defined by the red and green axes. The blue represents
the sky. These cues will help you keep oriented as you
move around in this imaginary three-dimensional world.
When you start to draw things, the program will want
to stick them to the ground plane. This will help you
keep bits and pieces organized and in relation to each
other. If you’re not paying attention to this, it is easy to
draw something way off in space where you won’t be
able to reach it or find it.
The tool icon that will help most in bringing you back
is the magnifying glass with four red arrows radiating
from it. This is the zoom extents command and it is
also available by right-clicking if you’re in the middle of
another zoom command (context clicking on the Mac).
(From now on, I’m just going to refer to this as right-
clicking, you Mac guys do need to go get a real mouse.)
It’s also available from the camera menu at the top of the
screen but that’s the slow way to get there.
Zoom extents will back up your point of view until
everything in your drawing is displayed on the screen. You
may still be upside down or on your side (in the screen dis-
play) but from this viewpoint you can get your bearings.
The tools on the zoom toolbar (also available under
the camera menu or by right-clicking while in a zoom
command) will make life easier if you know what they do
and how to use them. The first of these is zoom window.
On the toolbar, it is the magnifying glass with a box with
red dashed lines on it. After invoking the zoom window
command, hold down the left mouse button and draw a
box around something small on the screen.
When you release the mouse button, the area you
drew is enlarged. If you came in too far, use the scroll
wheel to back up a bit. This is a powerful device when
you need to do something precise in a small area of the
drawing. To the right of zoom window on the toolbar
is a magnifying glass with a red arrow curving down
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FIG. 3-21 The drawing area in SketchUp is similar to other CAD programs, with similar tools. The big difference is
that it works in three dimensions. The colored axes keep you oriented as you zoom and orbit around the drawing.
to the left. This is called zoom previous and clicking it
will return you to the last view you had on the screen.
Practice zooming in on something small with zoom win-
dow and back to the original view with zoom previous.
The tool icons that look like little houses can also
come to your rescue to get you right side up and reori-
ented. The angled one on the left shows an isometric
view, and the remaining five show top, front, right side,
back and left side views. If your model seems all out of
whack, click the roof of the house to regenerate a top
view, then click the isometric view. If you want to peek
under something you need to use the orbit command.
One of the great things about SketchUp is that these
zooming commands are transparent. That is, you can
invoke them to take a closer look or a look from a differ-
ent angle while in the middle of another command.
After you’ve played around with zooming and orbit-
ing, go ahead and work through the tutorial that comes
with the program. If you went ahead and closed it, you
can find it again under the help menu. (Help/self-paced
tutorials/introduction.) It’s geared more toward archi-
tecture than furniture but it will get you moving quickly
through the basic commands.
Another set of training wheels you shouldn’t be
ashamed to use is the instructor window. Find it under
the window menu. When you click on one of the tools,
instructor will tell you what it does. If this window gets
in your way or starts to obscure the model, you can
move it by clicking and dragging its title bar. Clicking in
the title bar will minimize it and clicking again will bring
it back. You can resize it by grabbing one of the corners
with the cursor and holding down the left mouse button.
SketchUp has several of these windows, and, as your
skills advance, their use will come into play. In Fig. 3-
21 I have five of them minimized and stacked up in the
upper right corner of the screen. It is easy to get carried
away and open so many that you can’t see your draw-
ing. Keeping them small and in one area will help.
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CHAPTER THREE
Drawing in 3D
The most basic command in SketchUp is drawing a line.
The little red pencil, to the right of the black select arrow
will do just that. In the SketchUp world, objects tend to
be sticky and attracted to each other. Before we get to
stickiness let’s discuss attraction. When you draw a line
(or anything else in SketchUp) it will try to stick itself to
what is called the ground plane. This is the imaginary
surface that the framing square is laying on (if you told
the program you were a woodworker when you first
opened it).
If you chose architectural units (feet and inches, a lit-
tle guy is standing in the corner on the ground plane). If
you want to change the template and units, in Windows
go to the window menu to preferences. On a Mac, pref-
erences is under the SketchUp menu in the upper left
corner of the screen.
This initial stickiness helps keep your drawing
organized. Think of it as a floor. If you draw things on
the floor they will be easier to find and less likely to
cause trouble later on than if you drew them in mid air.
Because you are orbiting around in an imaginary 3D
world you can draw things that appear to be in the right
spot but in fact are far away. It pays to change your
point of view after you do something tricky to make sure
you have it right.
Once you have some stuff in your drawing, you can
draw on those objects to make things on the vertical
axis and one of the horizontal axes, instead of the two
horizontal axes. As you start to draw, the line made by
the pencil will change color, matching one of the axis
colors depending on the direction you’re going. If it stays
black, you’re drawing in some other direction. Most of
the time you want to stay parallel to an axis.
One of the most important tools in the program is
easy to overlook. It’s called the Value Control Box (VBC)
and it lives in the lower right hand corner of the screen.
As you start to draw a line the numbers displayed
change as the line becomes longer. If you back up, the
numbers become smaller as the line gets shorter. If you
want to draw a specific length (and you do), don’t try to
finagle the mouse until you see the number you want.
Instead, type the number on your keyboard and hit enter.
You can do this in the midst of drawing or you can
click your mouse a second time and then enter the num-
ber and the enter key. If you want to make a fraction, type
the numerator, the forward slash, then the denominator.
For a whole number/fraction combination, type the whole
number, hit the space bar and then type the fraction.
There is another form of attraction in SketchUp. After
you draw one line, begin to draw a second one near one
of the ends of your first line. As you get close to the end
(or the midpoint) of the line, a colored dot will appear
and a text balloon will show up on screen. The ends of
lines will turn green and the midpoint will turn cyan.
The mouse cursor will also jump (snap) to the illu-
minated point. This is another way to draw and move
objects with great precision. It can take a second or two
for these snap points to appear and you may need to
hover around them to get the colors to show. Don’t be
afraid to zoom in or orbit around in the middle of a com-
mand to catch a snap point.
SketchUp makes two types of objects: edges and
faces. If you draw a line with the pencil tool you’re mak-
ing an edge. If you draw four lines at right angles to each
other a face is created when the last line meets the first
line. The space inside the lines will change color, indi-
cating that a face is now present. If you remove one of
the lines, either by clicking on it with the black arrow
and hitting the delete key, or by using the eraser tool,
the face disappears.
Faces are defined by the edges around them, so, if
you open the shape by removing a line, the face ceases
to exist. Sometimes you will make a move and lose a
face you want to keep. Don’t panic. Redraw the line and
the face will come back.
Next to the pencil tool is a brown square, called
the rectangle tool. This will let you draw four times
faster than using the pencil. Click on the tool, click in
the drawing space to start and drag the mouse to make
the shape. The VCB will display two numbers sepa-
rated by a comma. To make a rectangle a specific size,
enter one number (for the red axis, “X” direction), then a
comma and the second number (on the green axis, “Z”
direction).
So far we only have a face, a flat surface that exists in
only two dimensions. To make furniture we need to add
the third dimension. The tool that will do this is called
push/pull and you can find it under the tools menu or
on the toolbar. It’s a short brown box with a red vertical
arrow coming out the top. You can also start it by typing
“P” on the keyboard. Draw a square, 2
1
/2" × 2
1
/2" with the
rectangle tool and then click on the push/pull tool.
When the command has started, move your mouse
to put the tool on the face and hold down the left mouse
button. The face will change color to let you know you
have it. Without releasing the button, move the pointer
up. Push/Pull will only let you move at 90° to the face,
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and once again, the value control box allows you to make
it a precise size. For practice, make the face 17
1
/2" tall.
That looks a lot like a table leg. And if we had three
more we’d be well on our way to making a table. The
move/copy tool will let us make three copies of the leg
and put them exactly where we want them. But before
we do that, we need to deal with the stickiness issue
and understand the way that this program defines what
we draw. What we’ve drawn looks like a single solid
object to me but SketchUp considers it to be eighteen
separate entities, six faces and twelve edges.
One of the problems with this is that your computer
has to keep track of all these pieces — what size they
are and where they are located on the X, Y and Z axes.
As a model gets more complex, all these bits and pieces
take a lot of memory. If we can convince the computer
to think of it the way we see it — as one thing — it will
use a lot less of the computer’s memory. The other issue
with keeping all these entities separate is that each one
of them is sticky and stretchy.
If you try to draw an apron to go with the leg, the
individual lines and faces of each part will stick to each
other. If you try to move the apron, it will stretch an
adjoining edge or face with it. Click the move/copy tool
(it has four red arrows) or type “M” and then click on any
edge or face that you have just drawn.
Now move the cursor and watch the precisely drawn
leg twist or distort. You can make some interesting shapes
doing this, but when you’re designing furniture, once you
have a piece the way you want it, you want to keep it that
way. This can be one of the most frustrating experiences
for the beginning SketchUp user, but developing the
habit of combining objects into manageable groups will
change the frustration to productivity. The first task is to
learn how to select what parts to include in a group.
FIG. 3-22 Objects in SketchUp stick to each other unless you transform them into groups.
This can make an interesting shape, but is frustrating if you don't want this distortion.
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Grouping
The black arrow (the select tool) can be used to grab all
the pieces at once. It actually works in three different
ways. You can click on things one at a time, and, if you
hold down the shift key you can keep clicking. What you
select will be highlighted, turning from black to blue.
You can also select multiple objects with the select
tool by drawing a box around a group of objects.
Because you’re working in 3D, this is much more effec-
tive than trying to click on things one at a time. On the
leg we’ve drawn, to select the entire leg you would have
to orbit to click individually on the edges and faces that
are behind other objects from your point of view.
If you draw the selection box from left to right with
the black arrow, it is called a bounding box and every-
thing entirely within the box will be selected. If you
move from right to left, it is a crossing box — anything
the box crosses is selected. Many commands like the
move/copy tool work on only one entity if you click on
the tool and then click on an object. If you use the select
tool first to grab a bunch of things, then click the move/
copy tool, it will work on the entire selected group.
Another feature of SketchUp that can be overlooked is
in the lower left hand corner of the screen. When you click
on a tool, a line of type appears giving you options for using
the tool. With the move/copy tool you can move something
or make a copy of it in a new location by holding down
the control key (alt on a Mac). Once again, the colored
guidelines and VCB give you control of where it goes.
This helps us to get the entire leg where we want it,
but it would be nice if we could get rid of its sticky qual-
ities and get the computer to continue to think of it as
one thing instead of eighteen. After you select the objects
right-click the mouse. A menu appears on the screen.
Click on the make group option and your computer will
now see this the way you do — as one object.
Making a group also cures those faces, edges and
the entire group of stickiness and stretchability. You can
FIG. 3-23 Pop-up menus are a key element of working in SketchUp. Select an object, then right-click with the cursor
over the object to access the menu. If you're using a Mac, you'll want to get a three-button mouse.
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FIG. 3-24 The move tool not only changes an object's location, it will make a copy if you
hold down the control key while using it.
connect other objects to the group, but moving some-
thing connected won’t distort the group. If you want to
change some aspect of the group, click on it to select it,
(one click will grab the group) and right-click. Select edit
group from the popup menu and make your changes.
When you’re finished the group will still be a group.
Select the leg, right-click, make it a group and then
click on the move tool. Place the cursor on the corner of
the leg closest to you, press the control key and move
the leg on the green axis away from you. Notice that
when you press the control (alt key on Mac) key a little
plus sign (+) appears next to the tool. This lets you know
that a copy will be made. Release the left mouse button
and type in 17
1
/2. Hit the enter key and you now have a
copy of your leg, 17
1
/2" away on the green axis. These
two legs will be on one end of the table.
To make two more legs for the other end, select the
two existing ones and then the move/copy tool. Hold
down the control key and move the cursor in the direc-
tion of the red axis. Type in 23
1
/2 and hit enter. To check
the distance between the legs click on the tape measure
tool. It’s the one that looks like a tape measure.
The tape measure has two main functions. By clicking
on one point on an object and then another, the distance
between the points will appear in the VCB. The distance
will also appear in a small text box next to the tool when
you hover the cursor over a point.
Measure twice, cut once in woodworking can be trans-
lated to measure twice, move once in SketchUp. Checking
distances immediately after performing an action will
save you from making numerous changes later on.
The tape measure tool is also used to create guidelines
specific distances away from existing lines. If you click
on a point, like the intersection of two lines, and move
the cursor, a guideline will be drawn at a 90° angle to the
existing line and a small cross, called a guide point will
appear at the end of the guide line.
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FIG. 3-25 Selecting two objects and using the move/copy tool quickly recreates objects like table legs. Only one leg
needs to be drawn — the other three are copied and placed in position.
Clicking anywhere else on an edge and dragging the
cursor will create a guideline parallel to the existing line.
With both of these methods, entering a number in the value
control box will locate the guideline precisely. Guidelines
serve the same purpose in a SketchUp model that con-
struction lines serve in a paper drawing. Think of the
guidelines as a rough drawing and take care to place
them exactly where you want them with the VCB. Later
on, you can quickly place edges and faces by snapping
to the intersections of the guidelines. Creating aprons to
go between the legs will demonstrate this.
Click on the tape measure tool, then click one of the
lines at the bottom outside of a leg. Drag the cursor
toward the inside and enter 1 in the VCB. A guideline
will appear 1" in from the outside face of the legs. Now
click on the guideline that was just created, drag the
mouse in the opposite direction and type in .75 or
3
/4.
SketchUp allows you to enter numerical values in either
fractions or decimals.
Repeat this on all four sides of the legs, zooming and
orbiting to grab the edges and make the guidelines. The
aprons will be
3
/4" thick and
1
/4" in from the outside face
of the legs. The guidelines are essentially a plan view
drawing of the aprons. While we’re down at the bottom
of the legs, go ahead and make guidelines to represent
the tabletop. Make these the same way you made the
guidelines for the aprons, but this time drag the guide-
lines 2" outside the legs.
To draw the aprons, orbit so that you are looking down
on the legs, select the rectangle tool and draw between
the legs and along the guidelines. Don’t be afraid to zoom
in to be sure you pick the right point. The cursor may pre-
fer to snap to the corner of the leg instead of the intersec-
tion on the guideline and the bottom edge of the leg. It’s
OK to zoom in, click the point you want and zoom back
to click on the next point. Remember, you can zoom, pan
and orbit in the middle of another command. An impor-
tant part of learning to use the program is finding a way
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FIG. 3-26 The key to precisely locating geometry in SketchUp is to use the tape measure to create guidelines. After
the guidelines are in place, trace over them with one of the drawing tools.
that is comfortable for you to orbit and zoom within the
model. In addition to the buttons on the toolbar, there
are also keyboard shortcuts (O=orbit, H (for hand)=pan
and Z= zoom). If you are inclined to work with menus,
the camera menu is another way to reach these com-
mands. Remember that the scroll wheel can also be used
to zoom in and out and to orbit around the drawing.
With the push/pull tool, make the rectangle 2
1
/2" high.
Select the apron with a bounding box (moving the black
arrow left to right) and make it a group. Click on the
group, grab the move tool and click on an upper corner
of the apron. Zoom out so you can see the top of the leg
and move the apron up on the blue axis by holding down
the left mouse button and dragging upward.
Zoom Toolbar
As in real life, you won’t be able to work precisely if you can’t see
what you are doing. The zoom toolbar includes these commands:
Orbit — Changes the point of view. Use it to look
under, over or on the other side of your model.
Pan — Moves the point of view up or down or from
side to side.
Zoom — Brings the point of view in for a close look or
out for a complete view.
Zoom window — Hold down the left mouse button and
draw a box around what you want to see up close.
Release the button and zoom in instantly.
Zoom previous — Remembers the last point of view and
returns to that setting. If you aren’t sure what you
zoomed in on or why you zoomed in, this will help.
Zoom next — The opposite of zoom previous. These two
commands will help retrace your steps and take you
back where you want to be.
Zoom extents — Backs up the point of view until the
entire model is visible. If you get lost in your model
or lose an object, this tool will help.
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FIG. 3-27 After moving the apron, use the tape measure to draw guidelines for the top.
FIG. 3-28 After guidelines are positioned
on the table legs, the rectangle tool is used
to draw the aprons and the push/pull tool
is used to complete it. After drawing, select
the apron and turn it into a group.
FIG. 3-29 Select several objects, hover
the cursor over them and right-click. Select-
ing make group from the menu allows you
to move all the bits and pieces at one time
and keeps them from sticking to other
objects.
The obvious use of the tape measure tool is to check
distances on objects within the model. Clicking on one
point and then hovering the mouse over another will dis-
play the distance between the two points.
The more powerful function of the tape measure is to
create guidelines in exact locations, then create objects
on the guidelines. Clicking with the tape measure on
a line at any point other than the midpoint or end and
dragging the mouse will create a parallel guideline. Enter
the distance by typing a value in the VCB to locate the
guideline quickly and accurately. Create a 2D layout with
guidelines by locating them off of an existing object or
one of the drawing axes before making faces and edges
in the model.
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When you reach the top of the leg, a text box will
appear that says “on edge in group”. When you see this,
release the mouse button and the apron will snap into
place with its top edge flush with the top of the leg. If
something goes wrong, you can always undo. Undo is
available on the edit menu or as a tool on the toolbar. It
is the curved black line with an arrow on the end point-
ing to the left.
The tool next to it, with the arrow pointing right is
redo. You can undo and redo back through your draw-
ing. If something happens that you didn’t intend, head
for the undo tool to get back where you started. If you
discover that your only mistake was to think you made a
mistake, redo will move you forward.
Be aware that undo and redo only work on drawing
commands and not zoom and orbit commands. They
take you back in time, action by action, but they don’t
take you back in space. Zoom previous and zoom next
FIG. 3-30 When moving an object, watch for a small text box to appear on screen when it reaches a snap point on
another object. Grab the top of the apron with the move tool so it will snap to the top of the leg.
will allow you to work your way through the different
views you used.
Make the other three aprons and move them into
place with the top edge of the aprons flush with the tops
of the legs. Use the eraser tool to get rid of the guidelines
you used to position and size the aprons. The eraser
takes a bit of getting used to. The tiny square at the
end of the pink eraser is what you use to pick specific
objects in your model. Several of the tools in SketchUp
have the selection point in a less than obvious location.
If you’re having a problem making a tool work, look at it
carefully to see which part of it is the functional part.
You can pick things one at a time, or you can hold
down the left mouse button and swipe it across what
you want to erase. Remember that if you erase an edge
that defines a face, the face will go away. If you get car-
ried away and erase something you really wanted to
keep, use the undo tool before you panic.
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Make the top by drawing a rectangle on the intersec-
tions of the guidelines. Don’t worry about the legs being
in the way, we can make the top down on the ground
plane, use push/pull to make it the right thickness and
then make it a group. It will be hard to see all of the
corners, but there is a feature on the camera menu that
will help.
Click the camera menu and select parallel projection
from the drop-down list. This will stop the program from
showing you a perspective view and you’ll be able to
easily see the corners. After the rectangle is in place, go
back to the camera menu and select perspective from
the drop down menu. Parallel projection is the type of
view seen in a mechanical drawing on paper and per-
spective is the program's way of making things look
realistic as the work on the model progresses. As in this
example, there are times when it is helpful to switch
from one to another to make things easier to see. Parallel
FIG. 3-31 With all of the table aprons moved into place, the top can be created from the guidelines drawn on the ground plane.
Use the rectangle tool, then push/pull to make the top. Draw a bounding box around the top and make the top a group.
projection can also be used to create a familiar ortho-
graphic view of the model.
Also located on the camera menu is an option called
field of view. Dragging the mouse after invoking this
command creates a view between the parallel projection
mode and the perspective mode. In effect, it is changing
the imaginary lens on the imaginary camera used in the
program from a wide angle to a narrow one. As when
using parallel projection, using the field-of-view option
can help you see what is happening when creating the
model and to adjust the output when printing a drawing.
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FIG. 3-32 Switch your point of view until all
of the corners of the top are in view. Getting
comfortable with navigating the drawing is
one of the keys to ef ciency. You can zoom,
orbit and pan while in the middle of a com-
mand so you can see what you're doing.
FIG. 3-33 After drawing the top, change
your point of view again to more of a realis-
tic view. This will make it easier to extrude,
group and move the top.
FIG. 3-34 Make the top the  nished thickness with the push/pull tool. Pushing it below the
ground plane will make it easier to locate the top in the following steps.
Use push/pull to make the top
3
/4" thick, pushing
down on the surface. Make the top a group and then
move the group up to the top of the legs. If you remem-
ber, the legs are 17
1
/2" tall, so invoke the move com-
mand. When you have the top started up in the direction
of the blue axis, enter 17.5 or 17
1
/2 in the VCB. Orbit and
zoom to make sure it’s where you want it.
You will see distinct black lines at the top of the legs
and aprons if the top is in the correct position. With the
tape measure tool you can check the length from the
intersection of the top and the leg to the bottom of the
leg. Unlike the real world, objects in SketchUp can be
absorbed by other objects. If you didn’t move the top far
enough, the tops of the legs and aprons will be inside
the face on the bottom of the top.
Save the file and start a new one. We’ll come back to
this later on to learn about dimensions, but now we’re
going to make another table to practice what we’ve done
so far and to learn a couple of ways to make it fancy.
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This time, make the legs 1
3
/4" square and 29" high.
Let the distance between the inside corners of the legs
be 20
1
/2" in one direction and 32
1
/2" in the other. The
aprons are 3
1
/2" high and
3
/4" thick and are set in from
the legs
1
/4". The edge of the top is 4" away from the
outside face of the legs in each direction, making it 32"
wide by 44" long. Make the top 1" thick. When you’re
finished, it should look like Fig. 3-37.
A different method that will speed up your drawing
will be to create a plan view of the entire table using
guidelines. With the tape measure tool, pull a parallel
guideline off both the red and green axes. These can be
at an arbitrary distance from the axes.
Before proceeding, click on the roof of the little house
to get to the top view and then go to the camera menu
and click on parallel projection. This will make drawing
the plan more like drawing on paper or in 2D CAD.
FIG. 3-35 Start moving the top, looking for the blue line to indicate it is moving along the vertical axis. Type in the
distance (you'll see the number in the VCB) and hit the enter key to position the top.
FIG. 3-36 Orbit down to make certain it's where it should be. If it is
really on top of the legs and aprons, distinct black lines will appear
at the intersections.
FIG. 3-37 Make a second table, using the dimensions listed in
the text. Practicing the basic tasks will shorten the learning curve
considerably. If the little houses aren’t visible on the toolbar, you
can add them to the workspace by clicking on the view menu,
then toolbars and selecting views. Using the little houses is a fast
method to change your point of view while working. Instead of
orbiting to see the part of the drawing you want to see, selecting
one of the houses will change the point of view to the correspond-
ing orientation. In addition to being an aid to speedy navigation,
checking these mechanical drawing views every now and then is a
good way to ensure that objects in the model are where they belong.
When working in perspective three-dimensional views, it’s possible
to place something off in space that appears to be connected to
an existing object. If you switch to one of the standard views, this
discrepancy will be revealed.
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Now pull guidelines off the first guidelines. Moving
from front to back, make a guideline 1
3
/4" back from the
first, then another 20
1
/2" from the second and the final
guideline 1
3
/4" back from that. Make guidelines at 90° to
the first set, using the same procedure — width of a leg,
distance between legs, width of a leg.
Pulling guidelines from the outside of the legs 4" will
generate the outline of the top. When you’re creating
guidelines like this, the tape measure command will try
to be helpful by guessing that you want to create evenly
spaced lines. When drawing the second line for the top,
a text tag will pop up when you get close to 4", display-
FIG. 3-38 Using the tape measure tool to generate several guidelines before beginning to
draw will speed things up. Begin by pulling guidelines off the red and green axes and con-
tinue to place elements of the plan view.
ing the dimension of the last guideline created. Click the
left mouse button when you see the tag and move on to
the next line.
After making the guidelines for the legs and the top,
you can go ahead and put in guidelines for the aprons,
1" back from the outside edge of the legs, and the sec-
ond line
3
/4" in the other direction from the first guide-
line. This will generate many guidelines and it can be
hard to pick exactly the ones you want.
At this point, I would stop, make faces for the legs
with the rectangle tool, make those four faces a group,
erase the guidelines for the legs and then draw the
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guidelines for the aprons. Zooming in on one leg at a
time to draw the guidelines will make it easier.
The tape measure tool will be attracted to end points
and intersections and will draw guide points instead of
guidelines if you start from a point. If you start from any-
where else on the line, tape measure will draw a parallel
guideline.
Switch back to isometric view by clicking on the first
house and use the rectangle tool to make the aprons. Try
using the scroll wheel on the mouse to zoom in and out
to pick the exact points you want. The program will pre-
fer to snap to the corners of the legs rather than to the
FIG. 3-39 After drawing the faces for the legs, erase the guidelines used to locate the legs,
then draw guidelines for the aprons.
intersections of the legs and the guidelines, so you need
to move in close enough for the software to know the
exact point you want to snap to.
You won’t be able to use push/pull to extrude the
legs because you made them into a group. This was a
good idea at the time because it prevented the faces of
the aprons from sticking to the faces of the legs. There
are two methods to extrude the legs. If you select the
group, then right-click, one of the options in the menu
is explode. Selecting this will transform the group back
to sixteen edges and four faces. You can explode, then
push/pull each leg one at a time.
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FIG. 3-40 The cursor will be attracted to the corner of the leg, so zoom in to position the guideline.
Remember that the zoom, pan and orbit tools will work in the middle of other commands.
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The other option that appears on the same menu is
edit group. If you select this option, the group will be
highlighted and the rest of your model will be dimmed.
You can go in and extrude each of the legs and then
click outside the group. This preserves the status of the
group. It is still a group, but the parts of it are different.
If you used explode and want each leg to be a group
or all four legs to be a group, you will need to select the
objects, right-click and select make group.
From this point, you can extrude the legs to the right
height, extrude the aprons to the right height and move
them into place and extrude the top and move it as in
the first table exercise.
Furniture parts start life as rectangles — square
edged pieces with straight lines cut from boards with
square edges and straight lines. The two tables we’ve
modeled have all their parts as straight sticks. SketchUp
has methods to make these parts more complex and we
can create more interesting, elegant designs.
The second table could benefit from a beveled edge
on the bottom edges around the perimeter of the top. In
the shop, we could set up the table saw to make a bev-
eled cut or put a raised-panel cutting bit in the router
table. By cutting four surfaces, the bevel would be pro-
duced quickly.
The tool to perform this task in SketchUp is called
follow me. The icon looks like push/pull with the arrow
curved to the left and a red arc above the arrow. Follow
me gives us the ability to take the profile of one face and
apply that profile to other faces. It’s almost as easy as if
you could click on a profile in a router bit catalog, click
along the edges of a board and have the profile magi-
cally created.
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Fig. 3-41 shows a profile drawn on the edge of the
tabletop. Draw the profile by creating a guideline 1
1
/2"
in from the vertical corner of the tabletop. I have a 15°
panel-raising bit for my router, so I want the next guide-
line to match this angle. The protractor tool in SketchUp
will do this easily. It’s on the tools menu and on the con-
struction toolbar. On the toolbar it’s right below the tape
measure.
Select the tool, click on the intersection of the guide-
line and the bottom edge of the top, then on the outside
bottom corner of the top. The tool cursor will change
color and direction as it approaches a face, letting you
put an angled guideline in any of the three drawing
planes, height, width or depth.
Slide the cursor up from the last corner picked and
the protractor will turn. Type the exact angle and hit
enter and the VCB will display that number as the
angled line is drawn. Use the pencil to draw an angled
line across the edge of the table. If you have the tabletop
as a group, you will need to draw a vertical and horizon-
tal line from each end of the angled line to create a face.
When you have a triangular face on the edge of the
table, erase the guidelines. The follow-me tool works by
selecting a face and then selecting a path you want the
face to follow. We want the angled face drawn in the cor-
ner to go all the way around the perimeter of the table at
the bottom.
To define the path, we need to select the bottom
edges of the tabletop. The problem is that we can’t see
them all at once without a lot of orbiting. If we were
Superman, we could use our X-ray vision to see through
the tabletop and pick the points we need.
SketchUp won’t enable you to leap tall buildings with
a single bound, but it will let you see through the objects
you have drawn. Click on the view menu, then on face
style. At the top of the window that appears it says
X-ray. Click on that, and all the faces in your drawing
become transparent.
FIG. 3-41 Adding a pro le to an edge begins by drawing the pro le on the existing surface. The protractor tool works
in a similar way to the tape measure tool to create guidelines at angles other than 90°.
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FIG. 3-42 Under the view menu/face style is the X-ray option. Clicking this will make all the faces in the model trans-
lucent. This can be confusing, but it makes it easier to select points located behind or below the faces.
It is confusing to work with this view all the time, but
it is a great time-saver when you need it. I use it often
enough that I created a keyboard shortcut for it. Under
preferences on the menu is a tab for shortcuts. These
already exist for some commands and you can scroll
through the list to create your own. I assigned the letter
“X” to view/face style/X-ray on the list and now I can
toggle back and forth from seeing the faces to seeing the
X-ray view by hitting the “X” key.
Zoom in on the corner and select the follow-me tool.
In the lower left corner of the screen, text will appear
saying “Select face to extrude”. Click in the triangle you
drew and the text will change to: “Drag face to extrude
Alt= face perimeter.”
Follow me can be used in several different ways to
extrude the bevel around the bottom of the table. After
selecting the face, move the cursor around the perim-
eter. The edges will turn red as you go. When you reach
the corner where you started, click the left mouse but-
ton. When you click, the path stops so you can bevel
three sides of an object if you like.
Because we want to go entirely around the edge, we
can use the alt key and click on the bottom surface after
selecting the triangle. SketchUp will extrude the shape
all the way around the face. This is faster than tracing
the path with the mouse.
An even faster method is to select the bottom face
with the black arrow before selecting the follow-me tool.
When you click on the face you want to extrude, it will
instantly appear around the perimeter of the face you
selected.
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FIG. 3-43 The follow-me tool transfers or extrudes the angled face around the perimeter. Watch for the red line as
you trace around and click when you return to the starting point.
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DRAWING ON A COMPUTER
FIG. 3-44 After drawing the faces for the legs, erase the guidelines used to locate the legs,
then draw guidelines for the aprons.
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Creating a pro le is the start of wrapping a moulding around an existing object.
Draw a section pro le of the moulding as a face.
Use the follow me tool to wrap the pro le around the edge. Options for the tool
can be found in the text lines at the lower left corner of the screen.
Follow Me
Follow me can be used to extrude
complex mouldings and even create
turnings.
Draw the profile of the moulding
and move it to the end of the surface
you want to shape. If you want to wrap
a moulding around three sides of the
top of a cabinet for example, draw the
moulding starting from a back outside
corner of the top. When you close the
profile and create a face, select the
follow-me tool, click on the face and
trace around three sides of the top.
When you click on the opposite back
corner, the moulding will be created
around the top.
Create a turning by drawing half of
the profile. When you have a complete
face, draw a circle. The circle com-
mand is similar to the rectangle, but
the starting point is the center. After
clicking on the starting point, move
away from it and enter the radius (not
the diameter) in the VCB. Select the
face of the circle, then the follow-me
tool and then the profile face.
The circle tool can also be used
along with the push/pull tool to cre-
ate holes. Draw guidelines with the
tape measure to locate the centers
and draw a circle the required size at
the intersections of guidelines or the
guide points. Then use push/pull to
push the face of the circle into the
face it was drawn on.
When you hit the opposite face,
a text box will appear that says “on
face” or you can enter the thickness
of the piece in the VCB. Left click
and a through hole will be created. If
you don’t want the hole to go entirely
through, enter the depth in the value
control box.
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CHAPTER THREE
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Turned shapes can also be made using
follow me. Draw a section view to start and
use follow me to make a circular form.
There are several options for the extrusion.
You can use the mouse cursor to follow
the edge or you can enter the radius of the
circle in the VCB.
The program automatically extrudes the
shape around the chosen perimeter trims
the outside corners into perfect miters.
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The table looks more refined with the beveled lower
edge and it will look even better if the legs are tapered.
I decided to start the taper 6
3
/4" down from the top of
the legs and to make the legs 1
1
/4" square at the bot-
tom. Make some guidelines to indicate these points and
switch to X-ray view. Draw lines from the outside cor-
ners at the top to the intersections of the guidelines at
the bottom of the leg.
The legs are still a group, so the lines that were just
drawn won’t have any effect on the legs yet. To trans-
form the legs back to lines and faces, select the leg with
the black arrow and right click. Select “Explode” from
the menu and the leg will cease to be a group.
FIG. 3-45 The top portion of the leg is straight and the taper starts 6
3
/
4" down from the top
of the leg. Use the tape measure to place a guideline, making sure it is on the blue axis.
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DRAWING ON A COMPUTER
FIG. 3-46 After switching to X-ray view, place guidelines on the bottom of the legs to represent the ends of the tapers.
Use the pencil to connect the corners on the bottom with the guideline at the top.
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CHAPTER THREE
With the eraser tool, start selecting the outer lines
that aren’t needed any more. At the end of the eraser
tool is a tiny square. To pick a point, edge or face with
the eraser, it needs to be inside the square. If you try to
use any other portion of the eraser it won’t work.
As you click the lines, the faces defined by these edges
will start to disappear. After removing the faces you don’t
want you will need to put in new faces. The tapered
lines that were drawn didn’t create faces because they
were drawn on an existing group — the legs.
FIG. 3-47 Select the leg, hover the cursor over it and right click. Pick explode from the pop-up menu so the leg is no
longer a group. As long as it is a group, you won't be able to erase the unwanted geometry.
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DRAWING ON A COMPUTER
FIG. 3-48 Use the eraser tool to remove the unwanted lines. There is a small pick box on the near end of the eraser that
is used to select objects — it can go unnoticed. When a line that de nes a face is erased the face will disappear.
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CHAPTER THREE
Go back to the guidelines at the top of the legs and
with the pencil tool, draw two horizontal lines, tracing
over the guidelines. The tapered legs actually create
two faces on each side of the leg, a vertical face coming
down 6
3
/4" from the top of the leg and an angled face
from that point to the bottom of the leg. The horizontal
line across the leg will define these faces, which will
appear when the line is complete.
These lines don’t look like they belong in the finished
drawing, but erasing or deleting them will make the
faces disappear. To work around this, select the lines
with the black arrow, right click, and then select hide
from the menu that appears. The lines are still there but
this command makes them invisible.
FIG. 3-48 Sometimes using the eraser will make a face you want to keep disappear. Don't
panic — trace the perimeter of the face with the pencil until it comes back into view.
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DRAWING ON A COMPUTER
FIG. 3-49 Horizontal lines that de ne the face will remain at the top of the tapers. If you don't
want to see them in the  nished drawing, select them, right-click and select hide from the menu.
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CHAPTER THREE
Dimensions, Layers & Scenes
Save and close this file and open the first table drawing.
So far we have a nice model, but for it to be useful in the
shop we need to have dimensions so we can make all
the parts to build a real table. As part of the process of
adding dimensions we will also look at some of the other
windows that we haven’t opened yet.
Zoom to extents and click the top view (the roof of
the little house) and then the isometric view (the 3D of
the little house). You should see the table in a view as
shown in Fig. 3-50. Go to the window menu and click
on layers and scenes. Clicking in the bar at the top of
these windows will minimize them so they won’t be in
your way and maximize them when you want to work
with them.
From the window menu, select model info and then
select dimensions from the list on the left. Here you will
be able to set parameters for how you want dimensions
FIG. 3-50 Zoom to extents and click the top view (the roof of the little house) and then the iso-
metric view (the 3D of the little house). You should see the table in a view as shown above.
in your model to appear. You can select the text size and
font and the style of arrowheads.
To display the dimensions the way you want them to,
click on units in the list on the left in the model info win-
dow. From the drop-down menu there are four choices
listed. Architectural will display dimensions in feet and
inches. Eighteen inches will show on the screen as 1' 6".
Woodworkers generally work only in inches. Selecting
fractional from the list will show numbers on the screen
as inches and fractions. Engineering will show inches as
decimals and decimal will let you choose metric units.
From this window you can also set the precision of
your model. In decimal units the number of decimal plac-
es can be set and in architectural and fractional displays
you can set the fractions up to
1
/64 of an inch.
The other options are for the display of feet and inch
marks and for the precision that the program will snap to
both for length and for angles. With all of these options
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you can select a combination that works well for you.
Choosing finer units will make your model more precise,
but it will also slow things down and occasionally make
it difficult to snap where you want to. Don’t be afraid to
experiment.
When you make a print of your model, SketchUp
prints what is on the screen. This makes it awkward to
print different views of your model or to print at an exact
scale. We’ll ignore printing to scale for now and concen-
trate on printing standard views that will be useful in the
shop but not necessarily in scale.
Unless you are involved in commercial construction
and need to submit scaled shop drawings to an architect
for approval, you should be able to function quite nicely
printing dimensioned screen views. If you are in that
situation, the Pro version of SketchUp has an additional
program called layout that makes producing scaled
prints relatively painless.
The beauty of SketchUp is that you only need to draw
your model one time. From that model you can change
your point of view and print plan, front and side eleva-
tions, 3D views and detail views. Scenes and layers pro-
vide a way for you to save these views.
If you create a top view, add dimensions and make
a print, when you orbit to another point of view, the
dimensions will still be there. The dimension tool looks
like a dimension with the number “3”. It’s simple to use.
Click on one end of an object in a group, click on the
other end and then drag the dimension off to the side of
the object. When the dimension line is where you want
it, click the mouse to place it.
Dimension lines will appear perpendicular to the
object. In a 2D view the dimension can only be placed in
one plane. In a 3D view you can drag the dimension in
either of the two planes that is at a right angle to the object.
To dimension a line that isn’t part of a group, select
the dimension tool, hover over the line until it is high-
lighted, then click and drag the dimension. The model
will be more manageable if most objects are combined
as groups, so, most dimensions will be made by clicking
from point to point. You may need to orbit and zoom to
get the dimensions you want to display.
For the simple table drawing, the exercise will be to
create three dimensioned views: a plan, a front elevation
and a side elevation. We will also print a 3D view. Using
scenes and layers, we will be able to do all of this with-
out changing the model.
Scenes are simply saved views of the SketchUp
model. When you click on window from the menu, then
the scenes window opens on the screen. When the plus
sign in the upper left corner is clicked, a tab appears
at the top of the screen and the blank space for name
changes to “Scene 1”. There is a list of properties to save
and at this point they should all be checked.
When you click the plus sign, a warning may appear
about changes to your style. Styles are different ways the
model is displayed and for now we are simply using the
default style. The safe thing to do is select the radio but-
ton that says do nothing and click on create scene.
Place your model in an isometric view, create a scene
and name it “3D”. Click on the name in the window so
that it is highlighted. To the right of the plus and minus
signs is an icon that is two arrows chasing each other
around a circle. Hover the cursor over the icon and a tool
tip appears that says update scene. A pop-up window
will appear when this is clicked that again asks about
display options to save with the scene.
Updating a scene saves that particular point of view
of the model. It does not save the state of the model
itself. Switching from scene to scene will return you to
where you were looking from and it won’t ignore chang-
es you may make to what you were looking at. For this
reason, it is best to wait until the problem-solving phase
of designing the model is complete before generating
scenes to print.
Create another scene and name it plan. Make sure to
click the tab at the top of the screen. Clicking the tab
moves your point of view to that particular scene and
highlights the name in the list. If you only click on the
name the program highlights it and will let you change
the name and perform an update, but it doesn’t return
you to that point of view. Double-clicking on the name
will change the scene.
Click the tab to move to the tab you named plan and
make some changes so that you are looking straight
down on the tabletop. Click the roof of the little house
and select parallel projection from the camera menu.
From the view menu select X-ray. Update the scene to
save this view.
Updating the scene does nothing to save the drawing
file. Just in case something catastrophic happens I make
it a habit to save the drawing before updating a scene.
Use the dimension tool to place dimensions in the
drawing by clicking on one point, then another and
dragging the dimension lines where you want them.
When you dimension something small, like a leg, there
won’t be room to fit the numbers between the arrows.
Go ahead and put the dimension in, right-click on it and
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CHAPTER THREE
select text position from the pop-up menu. Now you can
place it outside the dimension lines.
Save the file, update the scene and switch back to
the scene named 3D. The dimensions created in the plan
view are now there but they don’t look like they belong.
What we need is a way to make them invisible in the 3D
scene. Using layers will let us do that.
Layers will let us separate parts of the drawing and
give an easy way to turn these parts on or off. Old biol-
ogy books had an anatomical drawing that consisted of
several pages of clear mylar with different systems of the
body on each sheet. As you turned the pages you could
see muscles, then organs and then bones. Layers are like
this but even better. You can turn individual layers on or
off so you only see the layer or the combination of layers
you want to see.
From the window menu select layers and a box much
like the scenes box appears. When you first open it, layer
0 is listed with the radio button to the left selected and
a check mark in the box in the column headed visible.
Objects in the model live on a certain layer and every-
thing in this model is on layer 0.
There are two ways to assign any given object to a
specific layer. The first is to simply create it and it will
be assigned to whatever layer is current in the drawing.
Because we only have one layer, that layer is always the
current one and everything in the drawing lives there.
The second way to change an object’s layer is by
opening the window called entity info. With the entity
info window open, select any object in the model. This
window will show several different features of the object
selected and these features can be edited from the win-
dow. One of the options is what layer the object is on.
That is the only option we will work with at this point.
The drop-down menu lists all the layers in the draw-
ing, and, because we only have one layer, the list is very
short. Creating a new layer for the plan view dimensions
will provide a way to turn them off in other scenes. The
plus sign on the layers window will do it.
Clicking on the plus sign adds a highlighted name
below layer 0 in the window. Rename it “plandim” and
make sure that the visible box is checked.
If the radio button to the left of the name is selected
it means that the layer is current. Anything created on
the current layer belongs to that layer. One way to put
the dimensions on a discrete layer is to create the layer,
make it current and then draw the dimension.
The alternative is to select the dimensions, and, while
they are highlighted, open the entity info window. The
layers dropped down in that window will now have both
layers on the list. Selecting plandim from the list will
move the selected dimensions to that layer, removing
them from layer 0.
When all the dimensions for the plan view have been
placed on the plandim layer, return to the 3D scene.
When that scene is displayed on screen, uncheck the
box for the plandim layer in the visible column in the
layers window. Update the 3D scene to save this change
to the scene. Now, when you toggle between the plan
and 3D scenes the dimensions will only show in the plan
scene.
Create a scene for each of the front and side eleva-
tions and a new layer for the dimensions for each scene.
In each of the scenes check only layer 0 and that scene’s
dimension layer as visible. Click on the front or side view
of the little house for each scene. Add dimensions to the
scenes with each scene’s dimension layer current.
Save the file and update the scene before moving
on to the next scene. In each scene, you will need to
uncheck the boxes for the layers that you don’t want to
be visible.
Styles & Printing
Styles are a combination of the way SketchUp displays
edges, faces and background colors. An incredible num-
ber of combinations can be used and it’s beyond the
scope of this book to give them a thorough discussion.
Fortunately, a few basic styles will do everything we
need for basic furniture drawings. Later on you can play
around with the options for style and create and save
your own. Because the program was designed to be
used for architectural drawings, most of the available
options don’t make a significant difference in relatively
small-scale models.
Under the window menu is an item marked styles.
Clicking it will bring up another small window on the
screen. The window is in two parts. If only one is visible,
click on the icon to the right of the style name. The drop
down list shows groups of styles available as well as an
option called in model.
The default style shows the ground plane, a blue sky,
edges as black lines and the faces as white. The ground
and sky use a minimal amount of the computer’s resources
and help to keep the user oriented while orbiting around
the model and the plain edges and faces. Getting fancy
with the style can slow the program down considerably.
The default style should be the only item displayed
under the in model tab. Keeping in model selected in the
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upper portion of the styles window will make it easier to
switch back and forth between styles.
If you select styles under the drop down, a series of fold-
ers will be displayed. Any of the other selections will dis-
play thumbnail views of available styles. To generate some
usable prints and to avoid a lengthy side trip to the world
of styles, select default styles from the drop down menu.
Double clicking any of the thumbnails will change
your model to that style and place the style in your
model. If you want to remove a style from the model,
right click on it and select delete. If one of your scenes is
using that style, the program will remind you and ask if
you really want to remove it.
The default style is great for working on the model,
but to print a drawing to take out to the shop the back-
ground colors are a distraction. Selecting one of the
other styles without a background will be better for
printing.
The names of the default styles are based on their
face and edge styles. 01wireframe displays thin edges
and no faces. 02hiddenline has slightly thicker edges
and hides lines behind faces. 03shaded lets the faces be
colored in and makes the faces translucent.
The tabs for edit and mix will show exactly what
these face, edge and background settings are. You can
make changes and grab parameters from one style and
apply them to another. There are more options than can
possibly be covered in this book, so for now only add
03shaded and 05xray to your model.
If you open both the style and scenes window at the
same time, you can apply different styles to the scenes.
Closing the lower, secondary window on the styles win-
dow will provide more room to work. In this example,
I’ve assigned 03shaded to the front and side elevations
and 05xray to the plan.
The 05xray style effectively creates a section view.
In a more complex model, I might want to create two
scenes from the same point of view, one showing the
outside and one showing the X-ray view.
Print and print preview under the file menu bring up
the same options box. The top of the window allows you
to select a printer. Below that, on the right, is an option
for the number of copies to be printed. To the left is an
option to select printing the current view only or all the
scenes in your file.
If you select all the scenes you lose access to the
remaining options in the lower half of the window. In
the lower half, the first check box is fit to page. If you
select that, SketchUp will size the scene to fit the page
at whatever size produces a large image on the paper,
without regard to scale.
To the right are some windows that will let you
choose a standard scale and give you some control over
the way the page will print. If the use model extents box
is checked the program will focus on the model on the
screen. If this box is unchecked the program will print
the entire screen view.
Below the title scale are two boxes that express scales
as ratios. When we dealt with drawing scales earlier, it
was in terms of how many inches in the drawing rep-
resented how many feet in reality. This is the way that
architect’s scales are made and we can use these same
terms in SketchUp. Entering 1.5 and inches in the in the
printout box and 1 feet in the in SketchUp box will print
at 1
1
/2"=1'.
This can also be expressed as a ratio of 1:8, meaning
that the print will be
1
/8 of the actual size. Depending on
the object in the model it may take some trial and error
to find a scale that will work for all or at least most of the
scenes in the model. You may want to print some scenes
at a small scale and some details at full size.
Picking a large scale can force the drawing on to more
than one sheet of paper. SketchUp will automatically tile
the sheets if you select a large scale. If you hit enter or tab
after specifying the print scale, the tiled sheet print range
will show you how many sheets of paper will be needed
and let you select printing just a few or all of them. The
print preview will display the extents of each page.
These print settings can’t be saved with individual
scenes but will be saved with the drawing file. The last
setting you use before a save will appear the next time
you open the print preview window. If you are using
different scales for different scenes, you will need to go
through and make changes as you are printing. You can
save notes about an individual scene’s print settings in
the description box in the scenes window.
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CHAPTER THREE
Components
Combining edges and faces into groups makes working
in SketchUp much like working with wood. Instead of
dealing with abstract lines, modeling deals with objects
that exist in three dimensions. Components are similar
to groups but they have some extra features and func-
tions that make them even more useful.
Any objects drawn in SketchUp can be made into com-
ponents. Select them as you would to make a group, but
when you right click, select make component instead of
make group. This opens up a window where you can give
the component a name and a description. There are other
options available but for now don’t bother with them.
When you make a group it stays as a group and if
you want to duplicate it you need to track it down in the
model, select it and then use the move/copy tool to make
another. When you make a component, a copy of it lives
in the components window of the drawing. If you want
to repeat it in your model, all you need to do is click on
the thumbnail in the preview window and then click
again in the drawing window.
The other great feature of components is that if you
edit one component, all of the other components with
the same name in your model will change also. Anything
that appears more than once in your model, or anything
you’re really proud of that you might want to use in
another drawing, should be made into a component.
Fig. 3-51 shows two kitchen cabinets that I drew and
made into components. One is a modified version of the
other. After dragging the component in, I made some
quick changes, making it 4" wider and saving it with a
different name. This is much faster than starting from
scratch. If I want to design a complete kitchen I only
need to draw one cabinet of each type.
If I need more than one cabinet at a given size all I
need to do is drag another instance of the component
into the drawing. Also on the screen is the components
window. Similar to other windows, it can display both
components that are in the model and components that
live somewhere else.
In addition to being saved with a drawing, compo-
nents can be saved to a library or collection of compo-
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DRAWING ON A COMPUTER
nents. There are several component libraries that come
with the program, with additional libraries available from
the SketchUp Web site.
The details icon on the component window has
a pop-up menu and if you click get more your Web
browser will open and take you to the SketchUp site.
From there you can download collections of components
created by Google or you can go to the 3-D Warehouse.
3-D warehouse is a repository of components created by
other SketchUp users.
If you want to change a component, select it and right
click to bring up the menu. The important items on the
menu are edit component, make unique and explode.
Editing a component is similar to editing a group. Be
aware that the component can be made up of other com-
ponents or groups. To make changes to the component
it might be necessary to edit the other components or
groups. The dangerous part of this is that if you change
one component all the other instances of it in your draw-
ing will also change.
If you only want to change one component select
make unique before doing any editing. In the model
shown, I made the 24"-wide cabinet a component and
then dragged a copy into the drawing. After clicking on
the copy and make unique I moved some things around
to make a 28"-wide cabinet. When I was finished with
the changes, I clicked to select it and changed the name
in the entity info window.
Going through the process I used will show several of
the different ways to make and use components. The con-
struction of these cabinets is similar to the construction
methods in my book The Complete Kitchen Cabinetmaker.
If you’re going to be planning a kitchen, the drawings in
that book will help you with variations and details you’ll
likely encounter. The cabinets for this exercise will be
kept simple to show how to use components.
Start by drawing a cabinet side. Make a rectangle
3
/4" × 23
1
/4". Pull a guideline
1
/4" in from the edge and
another
1
/2" from the back. With the pencil, trace the
guidelines and then erase the original corner. This will
FIG. 3-51 Components are groups of objects or even entire drawings that exist as one object. You can save them to a
library and use them over and over. If you change one component in your drawing all the other instances will also change.
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CHAPTER THREE
create a rabbet in the back edge of the cabinet side for
the plywood cabinet back
Use push/pull to make the side 30
1
/2" high and make
a
1
/4"-deep ×
3
/4"-wide rabbet along the bottom edge.
Make a copy of the side a few feet away along the red
axis. To make the copy a mirror image of the first side
(so that the rabbets for the back are both on the inside)
select the copy, right click to bring up the menu and
select flip along.
Flip along will make a mirror image of what you
select, along one of the three axes. Selecting green direc-
tion will move the rabbet to the front, so select red direc-
tion to move the rabbet from the outside to the inside.
The blue direction will flip it vertically.
Move the cabinet sides so they are 24" apart, outside
to outside. Select one of the sides, right click and then
click make component. Give it a name you can easily
recall and click create. Repeat the process for the other
side and open the components window.
Select in model from the drop-down list and you should
see thumbnail versions of the two cabinet sides. In a typi-
cal cabinet project all of the sides will be the same size.
The horizontal parts of the cabinet, the bottom, rails and
shelves will have common widths but will vary in length.
Left and right sides can be pulled into the drawing as
needed because they now exist as components. If the
horizontal parts are also made as a component, these
can be placed in the drawing all at once. With some fore-
thought, this can be done so that the variable distance,
in this case the lengths, can be adjusted.
Draw in the cabinet bottom and rails as shown. The
bottom is flush with the front of the cabinet sides and
ends at the edge of the rabbet at the back. The rails are
4" wide, and there is 5
3
/16" of space between the two
front rails. Use guidelines to fix these dimensions and
draw the rails, then use push/pull to make them 4" wide.
Remember that you can draw one rail and use move/
copy to create the others. One rail at the back is vertical.
FIG. 3-52 Select an existing group or other existing geometry and right click. The make
component option on the menu starts the simple process of making a component.
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DRAWING ON A COMPUTER
FIG. 3-53 The components window shows all the components in your model and can also display other components that have been
saved in a library. To place a component in your model, just drag it from the components window into the drawing space.
After making a copy of one of the horizontal rails, use the
rotate tool to orient it correctly. Draw a
1
/4"-thick back for
the cabinet by pulling guidelines 6" away from the cabi-
net edges that will intersect with the back. Use the rect-
angle tool, snapping at diagonally opposite intersections
of the guidelines to establish the size. Push/pull to make
it
1
/4" thick, select the entire back and move it into place.
At this point we have a complete cabinet box. The
two sides are components but all the other parts are not
grouped. The black selection arrow can be used to make
a bounding box, selecting one side and all the ends of
the other pieces. When this selection has been made
the move tool can be used to stretch the cabinet to any
desired width.
The box can be saved as a component at this point
or we can add doors and a drawer front that we can
also adjust in width. When working on a project with
many similar elements, components are a tremendous
time saver. By combining objects and groups into com-
ponents, you make models such as the base cabinets
shown that are easily adjusted in size.
The caution in working with components is that
editing one will also change all other instances of that
component in the model. Using the make unique menu
option before editing will keep you out of trouble. The
edited component will appear in the components list
with a number following the original name. This can be
edited in the entity info window if desired.
With these basic SketchUp skills in place you are well
on your way to being able to design and plan your own
furniture and other projects. In addition to SketchUp
being a nice piece of software, there is also a develop-
ing online community of SketchUp users. As your skills
improve, look on the internet for additional resources.
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CHAPTER FOUR
4
DEVELOPING
DESIGNS
ENGINEERING AND ART
Successful furniture design is part engineering and part art. The fasci-
nating part of building wood furniture is that the ratio of engineering to
art is constantly changing. It varies from one design to another and can
change at any moment, depending on materials, tools or the skills or tem-
perament of the designer or the builder.
Both the practical left-brain and the artistic right-brain must be
involved. One may take over temporarily, but, to be successful, the two
must reach an agreement and come to terms. And to complicate the sit-
uation, wood itself has both structural and visual properties that become
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DEVELOPING DESIGNS
part of the equation. The successful furniture maker must balance these
qualities with his own tendencies.
The good news is that most of the variables have already been
worked out. Furniture construction has been going on for thousands of
years and methods of joining one part to another have evolved. Think of
it as an ongoing trial-and-error experiment. An apprentice learns from
the mistakes of his master, who learned from his master, and this contin-
ues back in a continuous line to the first guy to whack a tree trunk with a
sharp rock.
Historic forms may not appeal to your artistic sense, but knowing why
a piece of furniture can stay together for hundreds of years is essential.
You may only want to solve a practical problem, but studying shapes and
proportions from the past will let you do it in a visually pleasing way.
Studying past designs is also the best way to develop your own artis-
tic sense of what looks right or works visually. Even if you have no inten-
tion of ever building a reproduction, if your interest is in creating some-
thing new, the more time you spend examining existing work the better
your own work will be.
On each side of this dichotomy are rules and formulas. These are
helpful to the aspiring designer but can’t be regarded as absolutes.
Following one rule will usually involve breaking another. Rules and formu-
las aren’t a form of magic dust that will guarantee success. That follows
an understanding of the principle behind the rules and knowing the risks
of bending or breaking them. In time this becomes intuitive. Great wood-
workers are seat-of-the-pants engineers with an artistic eye for propor-
tion and detail.
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CHAPTER FOUR
VITAL ENGINEERING
PRINCIPLES
Understanding the way wood behaves is essential to
producing successful work. Most other materials are
essentially inert — once they have been cut and shaped
they stay put. Wood, on the other hand, expands and
contracts in reaction to changes in its environment
— mainly changes in humidity. Different species and
different trees cut in different ways will all move and any
individual example can vary from the norm.
This action, and ignorance of how, when and why it
takes place is the direct cause of most problems in fin-
ished furniture. Wood movement is a powerful, natural
force. It can be accommodated but it cannot be con-
trolled. The wise furniture maker can take some steps to
minimize wood movement, but no one can stop it.
In a tree, water travels from the roots to the branches
through hollow cells arranged about a central core.
Picture a group of straws glued together and you have a
basic model of a tree trunk. A horizontal cut through the
trunk of a tree reveals the familiar annual ring structure.
When the round log is cut into boards, some of these
hollow tubes will remain intact and some will be cut
along their length. How and where these milling cuts fall
across the tubes affects how the board will look. It will
also affect how the board will move as it loses moisture
during drying.
Each tubular cell will expand in the presence of water
and contract when moisture is removed. The tubes get
fatter and skinnier but they don’t get longer. Before a
tree is cut it is full of water. After cutting, this liquid will
evaporate, but there are only a few ways that moisture
can leave the wood. The fast way is out the open ends of
the tubular cells. Cells that have been cut longitudinally
will also lose moisture where the edges of individual
cells have been severed.
If trees grew perfectly straight and the cells were per-
fect round tubes, drying of these outer cells would take
place quickly. In reality, these cells are not neatly cut
when a log is milled into boards. Some spots are open to
the air and some are not. While water can migrate from
one cell to another on the interior of a board, the moisture
lost through an opening to the atmosphere is much faster.
As the cells dry they shrink. Cells are connected
to each other, so shrinkage in one area of a board can
cause other areas to bend, resulting in warp, bowing,
twisting and cupping of the board. Most of this happens
FIG. 4-1 One of the all-time classic design mistakes is to house a
solid wood panel in a mitered frame. Expansion and contraction of
the panel will ultimately destroy the assembly.
FIG. 4-2 Most wood species can expand and contract
1
/
8" per foot
of width. This movement can be accommodated in a good design,
but it can't be prevented.
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DEVELOPING DESIGNS
early on, as fresh cut wood loses more moisture in the
early stages of drying.
Most hardwoods are allowed to dry in the open air
until the moisture content reaches about 20%. They are
then placed in a kiln and dried further to 6-7%. This is
the end of formal drying, but it is not the end of moisture
exchange between a piece of wood and the atmosphere.
Wood is continually in a process of seeking equilib-
rium with its environment. In humid areas, wood fresh
out of the kiln will begin swelling slightly as it takes on
moisture. If there is a significant difference in humidity
levels between summer and winter, any wood in that
environment will shrink during dry times and swell dur-
ing damp periods.
This seasonal movement varies from species to spe-
cies and from one geographic area to another. How the
wood is cut from the log also has an effect. Plain-sawn
material (with growth rings roughly parallel to the faces
of the boards) will move mostly in width. Quarter-sawn
material (with growth rings roughly perpendicular to the
faces) will move more in thickness.
In most species, widths less than 6" won’t move
enough to cause problems. The exception to this is a
tightly-fitted drawer. A piston fit drawer made in the win-
ter will become an immobile drawer in a humid summer.
Parts wider than 6" are a cause of concern and several
methods have evolved to work around this issue. Solid-
wood tabletops are generally fastened so the top can
expand and contract. One edge (or the center) can be
firmly fastened, but the rest of the top should be allowed
to float.
Doors and panels are other problematic areas and
the traditional solution is to house the wider piece in a
grooved frame. Tongues in the panels float within the
frame. In addition to letting the panel expand and con-
tract the frame will also help to keep the panel flat. A
door can be made from a single, wide slab, but the odds
of it warping are higher than a framed door and seasonal
movement can cause problems with the door fitting
within its opening.
JOINT PROPORTIONS
AND APPLICATIONS
Gluing two pieces of wood together long-grain to long-
grain is incredibly simple. In most cases a simple butt
joint, properly glued, will be stronger than the surround-
ing wood. At the opposite extreme, gluing two pieces
FIG. 4-3 Shop-made buttons in a groove inside the apron allow a
solid-wood top to expand and contract. An oversized hole in the but-
ton is home to a wood screw.
FIG. 4-4 Cleats are another method for attaching tops.
Fasten a screw in a hole at the center of the width and in
slots at the outside edges.
FIG. 4-5 These mechanical fasteners will swivel as the top
expands and contracts, keeping the top in place and allowing
the wood to move.
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CHAPTER FOUR
end to end is nearly impossible. This has to do with the
cellular structure of the wood.
If you think back to the hollow-tube example, gluing
edge to edge provides the most solid surface area. Turn
one piece at a right angle and you are gluing a solid
surface to a surface that contains a lot of empty space.
Good joint design will maximize the long-grain gluing
area and minimize the hollow end-grain area.
In between the extremes fall most common wood-
working joints. Successful methods provide long-grain to
long-grain surfaces. Long grain provides strength even if
the long-grain surfaces are at 90° to each other. Dovetail
and mortise-and-tenon joints are strong mechanically
but they also gain considerable strength because of the
amount of good glue surfaces available. Miter joints are
mostly end-grain and hence don’t bond well with only
glue as reinforcement. Miters in structural applications
should have some sort of reinforcement to connect long-
grain surfaces.
FIG. 4-10 The mortise-and-tenon joint is considered the strongest
joint in traditional woodworking. Proportions for the size of the joint
depend more on the mortised piece than the tenoned piece.
FIG. 4-7 A short mortise the depth of the
groove will work, but it isn't the strongest
possible connection. For small assemblies
it is adequate.
FIG. 4-8 A deeper mortise and longer
tenon make a stronger corner. The
haunch in the corner  lls the open space
of the groove.
FIG. 4-9 Reversed moulding pro les are a common method of join-
ery in cabinet doors and small assemblies. It solves some problems
caused by the presence of the pro le but isn't the strongest joint.
FIG. 4-6 Panels in grooves are a tradi-
tional solution for doors as well as panels.
The corners of the frame are fastened
permanently, but the panel is not glued in
place. Trapped by the grooves, it will " oat"
with the seasons.
FIG. 4-11 When the piece containing the mortise is thicker, as in
a table leg/apron joint, the tenon may be nearly as big as the piece
it is cut from. The important thing is to leave at least two-thirds the
thickness of the piece containing the mortise.
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123
DEVELOPING DESIGNS
FIG. 4-12 If the two pieces are equal in thickness, as in a door,
the mortise and tenon should be no more than one-third of the
thickness. For
3
/
4"-thick material, a
1
/
4" joint would be correct.
More wood at the ends prevent blowing out the end grain near
the mortise.
FIG. 4-13 It takes greater care to make a joint
in equal thickness stock, in order for the faces of
both parts to be  ush after the joint is assem-
bled. If hand-mortising, extra material can be left
beyond the mortise and trimmed  ush later.
FIG. 4-14 When two pieces are joined to a single leg, care must be
taken to leave enough material beyond the mortises, and to keep
one tenon from interfering with the other.
FIG. 4-15 The offset between the face of the legs and the faces
of the aprons makes for visual interest in addition to being a more
practical joint to cut and assemble.
FIG. 4-16 Keeping the tenons short will avoid interference in
the corner but can compromise the strength of the assembly.
Strength in mortise-and-tenon joints comes mainly from the
length of the tenon.
FIG. 4-17 Mitering the ends of the tenons allows for the mortises
to intersect and the tenons to be longer. The miters are only for
relief, they don't need to meet each other tightly. Leave a gap of
about
1
/
4".
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CHAPTER FOUR
8
12.0°
11
14.0°
7
7.13°
8.13°
FIG. 4-18 The standard layout for dove-
tails has a half-width pin at the beginning
and end. Hand-cut dovetails should be
irregularly spaced and have small pins.
FIG. 4-19 Half-blind dovetails are often cut
with a router and jig and will have regularly-
spaced tails and pins.
FIG. 4-20 The length of the tails should
be about two-thirds the thickness of the
drawer front.
FIG. 4-21 The angle of hand cut dovetails is expressed as a ratio
of 1:8 for hardwoods and 1:7 for softwoods. Most of the time
machine-cut joints are 12° or 14° angles. These angles may be
varied for aesthetic reasons but there is not a signi cant difference
in strength.
FIG. 4-22 Through dovetail joints are stronger and faster to make
than half-blind dovetails. The ends will show in the  nished work
however. Traditionally this was covered with moulding. Half-blind
dovetails are mainly used for drawers.
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DEVELOPING DESIGNS
FIG. 4-23 Miters aren't very strong due to the presence of large
amounts of end grain in the joint. Reinforcing the miter can be done
with hidden splines or it can be done decoratively.
FIG. 4-24 Leaving the end of a spline exposed is the least visible
method. A groove is cut across the end of each piece and a thin
piece of wood is glued in between.
FIG. 4-25 Turning the spline 90° so it is exposed on the face holds
the two mitered ends together and introduces a decorative element.
FIG. 4-26 Dovetail-shaped butter y keys add strength and visual
interest. Additionally, the shape of these splines holds the joint
together mechanically.
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CHAPTER FOUR
joints at top
are vulnerable
FORCE
no
resistance
resistance
FORCE
joints protected
from leverage
38
11
/
16"
39
1
/
16"
38
3
/
8"
FIG. 4-27 When consid-
ering what joint to use,
keep in mind the overall
dimensions of the piece
and outside forces that
may act upon the joints. On
long pieces, leverage is a
signi cant structural factor.
FIG. 4-28 Most common
construction methods
have evolved over time
and counteract the forces
that conspire to destroy
furniture.
FIG. 4-30 A small deviation from square in
one corner will have a disastrous effect on
the  t of doors or other components.
FIG. 4-29 Four-sided structures can easily rack or be forced out of square. Adding a
cross rail to the structure in one or more places will prevent this.
LEVERAGE &
STRENGTH
The forces that work against a joint
are greatly increased by leverage.
The intersection of a table leg and
apron may be strong at the joint, but
pushing on the end of the leg may
generate enough force to break the
joint. Lower rails (horizontal parts
near the bottom of the leg) will mini-
mize this force.
In cases (or any box structure),
racking (the movement of the box
out-of-square) is also the result of
leverage working against the joints.
A small difference at the joint (in
these illustrations only 2° between
the bottom and the side) will move
the opposite end of the box sig-
nificantly. Imagine the difficulty of
trying to fit doors to the racked cab-
inet, or what will happen to nicely-
fitted drawers if the cabinet racks
when moved.
Once again rails come to the
rescue. At the back of the cabinet, a
relatively narrow rail at the top and
bottom will greatly increase the sta-
bility of the box.
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DEVELOPING DESIGNS
FIG. 4-31 Rails
across the back of
a cabinet prevent
racking and can
also be used to
attach the box to
a wall or a back to
the cabinet box.
FIG. 4-32 The tra-
ditional face frame
is an excellent
method to over-
build a structure so
that it stays square
over time.
FIG. 4-33 Non-tra-
ditional methods,
such as plac-
ing rails behind
drawer fronts, will
strengthen the
structure without
being obvious.
FIG. 4-34 Web
frames are the
ultimate method
to stiffen a cabinet
structure. They can
also be used as
visual elements
and as a structure
for drawers to
travel on.
At the front of the cabinet, vertical pieces called
stiles work in conjunction with the horizontal rails to
strengthen the box.
Sizes of these components can vary from narrow to
wide, depending on the style of the piece and other visu-
al considerations. As a solution to the engineering prob-
lem, nearly any practical width will act favorably to brace
the structure. A good example of this is in chairs, where
delicate appearing components work to strengthen the
entire structure.
These components don’t always need to appear in the
finished piece. Rails that brace the front of a case piece
can easily be located behind doors and drawer fronts,
leaving a frameless appearance outside a strong structure.
Going one step further, adding a frame behind the
front rails will make the strongest possible case. Panels,
known as dust panels, between these frame members
are often added. As the name implies, these will keep
dirt and dust from settling from one drawer to the drawer
below it. In the era of coal heating, unpaved streets and
open windows these panels were a practical addition.
Today, they are more a sign of taking an extra step and
aren’t necessary for their original purpose.
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CHAPTER FOUR
The resistance of a piece of wood to bending is differ-
ent across the grain than it is along the grain. If you pick
up both ends of a long board, it can sag under its own
weight along the length and the longer the board the
easier it is for it to bend. The obvious places where this
can create problems are in shelves and the tops of tables
and cabinets.
In shelves, typical
3
/4"-thick material can begin to
sag when the length approaches 32"-36". This should be
considered a practical limit for unsupported horizontal
pieces.
Adding an additional piece of wood, oriented so that
the width of the board is vertical, will add significant
easy to
bend
along
length
hard to bend
across width
FIG. 4-35 Due to the structure of wood, a board is less likely to sag or bend across its width.
structural strength. Even a relatively narrow piece will
make a large difference. For example, in a
3
/4"-thick
shelf, a 1" or 1
1
/4"- wide edge is enough to prevent sag-
ging in lengths of 32" to 48". This edge can be placed
below the shelf, but attaching it to the front edge will
give both a better appearance and additional strength. A
rabbet cut on the inside of the edge will give more glu-
ing surface to the connection of edge and shelf and will
be stronger and easier to align.
In tables, this support appears as an apron, which will
typically be at least 2" wide. Aprons are often up to 4" or
5" wide, but beyond that point interference with the legs
of a person sitting at the table becomes an issue.
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DEVELOPING DESIGNS
FIG. 4-36 The likelihood of a board sag-
ging is directly related to its length. As
lengths reach 36" or more the amount of
sag will increase dramatically.
FIG. 4-37 Reinforcing the long edge with one of several methods will
greatly increase the strength of a shelf or other horizontal element.
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CHAPTER FOUR
STRUCTURAL SHAPES
Engineering a furniture design is often a problem of
making the strongest possible structure, using the least
amount of material. This may be for practical or artistic
reasons. Combining two or more pieces as simple struc-
tural elements allows the use of relatively thin pieces,
like
3
/4" thick wood in places where a much thicker
piece would otherwise be needed.
FIG. 4-38 The "L" shape reduces the tendency of both pieces to bend along their length. The "T" shape is also an
effective way to strengthen both parts. An "I" Beam is a way to maximize strength using a minimal amount of mate-
rial. A "U" shape is nearly as strong as a completely enclosed box.
The four combinations in the illustration Fig. 4-38,
“L”, “T”, “I”, and “U” are typical methods to make use of
wood’s strength in one direction, overcoming its weak-
nesses in another. Table aprons and cabinet rails are
examples of this. The trestle table shown is an assem-
bly of I-beams. (See Fig. 4-39.) If you are working on a
design and are concerned about pushing the limits of
the material, look to these simple forms.
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DEVELOPING DESIGNS
FIG. 4-40 This strong, light, yet delicate
structure is a combination of I-beams.
FIG. 4-39 Basic design
elements, such as the
I-beam can be used to
form attractive furniture.
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CHAPTER FOUR
THINKING
INSIDE THE
BOX
Other common constructions offer
advantages in overcoming struc-
tural and aesthetic design issues.
One way to develop a design and
successfully engineer it is to think
“inside the box”. Most complex
designs can eventually be reduced
to a series or combination of simple
boxes. Starting at the box level
allows you to establish sizes of indi-
vidual elements that can then be
refined.
A large flat box placed on top of
two smaller boxes gives the basic
form of a table or desk, and, different
size boxes stacked on top of each
other form the basic structure of a
china cabinet or entertainment cen-
ter. Establishing sizes shapes and
proportions early on in the process
gives a solid point of reference from
which more refined elements can be
developed, and to which details can
be added.
This also simplifies the task of
engineering the entire piece. Each
box can be built as an independent
structure that rests on or supports
another structure. Solving several
small, simple problems will provide
the solution to the larger, more com-
plex problem.
FIG. 4-41 Simple elements form the basis for more complex
assemblies. Two boxes and a slab form a desk or table.
FIG. 4-42 The mass of a combination of simple box shapes varying
in size forms the basis for most case work.
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DEVELOPING DESIGNS
THE POWER
OF THREE
The triangle is an important structur-
al device. A four-sided box can dis-
tort or rack out of square and remain
intact, but three sides cannot. This
is often seen in roof framing, but it
is also important in furniture. It is
most often seen as a brace in seat
rails in chairs, or in aprons of tables.
The triangle can also be inte-
grated into a design, becoming an
interesting visual element as well as
a structural brace. Joinery becomes
more involved because of the angle,
but a single triangular piece can effec-
tively replace several other parts.
Supporting an object from three
points instead of four will also give
a stable structure that won’t rock.
As an example, a three-legged stool
sits solidly on the most uneven floor
where one with four legs will wobble
due to the slightest deviation from
flatness.
Arches are similar structurally,
keeping two pieces in place at the
same time. Again this adds a com-
plication in building and joining but
the value of this form is visual as
well as structural. Arches are often
seen in the negative, as a cutout in
a rectangular piece. In tables and
desks, an arched apron will make
a piece appear lighter and can also
serve to provide clearance for a
person’s legs while stiffening an
adjacent corner. At the bottom of
case pieces, an arched cutout will
let a piece sit squarely on an uneven
floor and lead the eye up.
FIG. 4-43 A triangular structure
is incredibly strong. Unlike a 4-
sided structure, a triangle can not
be racked out of shape.
FIG. 4-44 Like the triangle,
the arch is a simple device to
strengthen assemblies with-
out using a lot of material.
FIG. 4-45 Arched cut
outs will lighten the ap-
pearance by introducing
negative space. The
creation of feet, due
to the arch will make it
easier for a cabinet to
sit level.
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CHAPTER FOUR
FIG. 4-46 The basic functional and structural elements
of these tables is the same, but the style of the individual
elements makes a signi cant difference in appearance.
FIG. 4-47 These two tables are nearly identical in overall size and would function
equally well. The proportions of the parts create a dramatic difference in the visual
appearance and feel of the tables.
VISUAL EFFECT
OF STRUCTURAL
FORMS
While these elements have been dis-
cussed from an engineering standpoint,
they have the same effect mentally from
an artistic point of view. The charac-
ter of a piece can change dramatically
based on the inclusion or even the sug-
gestion of a structural form.
When you are developing a design,
try several variations of a basic form to
achieve the affect you want. Thicker ele-
ments can look masculine and solid, but
if you overdo it, the piece will only look
clunky. Gentle curves and thinner parts
will look more feminine and refined, but
the risk is making a piece that is too
fragile to be functional.
Looking at examples from different
periods and different styles will show
you some methods (or tricks) to inte-
grate the look you want to achieve while
maintaining functional and structural
integrity. The eye will tend to follow
curves and angled lines, and these ele-
ments help to add a sense of grace and
dignity to the overall form.
A cove or bevel on the bottom edge of
a horizontal element, like a tabletop, will
reduce the thickness visually. Tapered
legs will lighten the look of an object
while leaving plenty of material where
joints are needed. Open space can also
achieve these things. A table with a
large overhang on the edge will appear
lighter visually although the entire table
could, in fact, weigh a ton.
Adding elements can also make a
piece appear larger or stronger than it
really is. One of my all time favorite piec-
es of furniture is a glass door bookcase
designed by Harvey Ellis and manufac-
tured by Gustav Stickley. The propor-
tions and architectural elements of the
piece make it appear monumental, but
in actuality it isn’t very big. I was sur-
FIG. 4-48 This bookcase breaks many of the standard rules of design, but the overall
proportions and details work together for a successful design. Don't be afraid to bend
or break the rules.
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DEVELOPING DESIGNS
prised the first time I saw one in real life — it was much
smaller than I expected. This combination of visual
weight and proportion in a small package makes this an
interesting piece to live with. It has characteristics that
command attention without being overbearing.
Successful designs, regardless of style will have a
combination of proportions, design elements, textures
and colors that will get your attention and cause you to
linger. And the longer you look more interesting things
will be discovered. A function is served, but it is per-
formed with style and grace. Decorative touches may
not be needed for the thing to function but they look like
they belong.
Bad designs are either boring, don’t function well or
are bad combinations of elements that live in discord
rather than in harmony. Being able to hit the mark with
a good design isn’t the result of applying formulas or of
breaking rules for the sake of being different. It is the
result of being intimately familiar with what has been
done before and then taking a risk for a good cause.
ERGONOMICS AND
STANDARD SIZES
Most types of furniture have evolved into more or less
standard sizes. These are best expressed as ranges of
sizes rather than strict rules. Functional pieces such as
chairs, tables, cases and beds need to hold a certain
amount of stuff — one or more people or their posses-
sions — in a certain place or position.
Following strict rules can lead to unimaginative
designs, but ignorance of the principles can lead to piec-
es that may look nice but be impossible or uncomfortable
to use. If you go out on a limb to make an artistic point,
keep in mind functional needs and historic precedents.
The chances of coming up with something completely
new are next to nothing, but the odds of producing a
nice variation are pretty good. As long as you don’t do
something stupid due to ignorance of what has been
done before you came along, and decided to be a furniture
maker. What follows are ranges of sizes for common items.
Chairs and Tables
I once read a newspaper interview with a traditional
Appalachian chair maker. This colorful old guy followed a
tradition that goes back hundreds of years, splitting parts
from logs, shaping them on a shaving horse and putting
them together to make a solid, functional, beautiful and
practical chair. The interviewer asked him “What type of
chairs do you make?” His reply was “There ain’t but two
types, rockin’ and settin’ and I make ‘em both.”
The reporter was obviously looking for a thought-
ful discussion on styles and forms but I like the man’s
response. Chairs are one of the oldest, possibly the old-
est, types of furniture and the design parameters that
have evolved work very well — most of the time. As
chairs evolved they also became a status symbol. The
throne of the Middle Ages and the Lazy Boy recliner of
today have more in common than you might think.
The modern, manufactured dining chair, while not
always the best example of construction quality or
design elegance, is a good example of what works, most
of the time and for most people. Let’s start by looking at
some of the dimensional constraints.
The first consideration is how far the seat is from the
floor. Industry standards are around 18", within a range
of 17"-19". This, of course relates to the standard heights
of dining tables, which today are between 29" and 30"
from the floor to the tabletop.
The drawings show three subtypes of dining chairs,
including stools of two heights. The difference in height
between the typical dining table and the typical dining
chair is 12".
The standard working height for a kitchen counter
is 36", so a stool intended to be used in that location
should have the seat at 24" off the floor.
Bar tops are commonly 42" above the floor and this is
often seen in raised tops intended for dining in kitchens.
Again the height difference of 12" is applied and the
common barstool has a seat 30" from the floor. These
dimensions can vary of course, but straying too far from
these standards will lead to an uncomfortable relation-
ship between the sitter and the table.
In fact, some restaurants deliberately design their
tables a bit high and their chairs a bit low so people will
be uncomfortable after finishing their meal and won’t lin-
ger. What’s good for the restaurant business isn’t so good
for the furniture maker, so stay close to the 12" difference.
With higher seats, as in stools, the feet need some-
thing to rest on. When designing a stool, keep in mind
the difference between the seat of a chair and the floor
and provide something for the feet to rest on 18" lower
than the seat.
One of the measurements critical to comfort in a chair
is the distance between the back of the knee and the
bottom of the foot. For most people, the standard 18" dis-
tance allows the foot to reach the floor with some allow-
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CHAPTER FOUR
18"
30"
24"
36"
30"
42"
FIG. 4-49 The standard height of a dining
table is 29"-30" and a typical dining chair
has the seat 12" lower.
FIG. 4-50 Maintaining the difference between
seat height and table height makes a 24" stool
correct for use at a 36"-high kitchen counter.
FIG. 4-51 Bar tops are 6" higher (42"
above the  oor) than kitchen countertops. A
30"-high barstool will make for comfortable
seating, but a place should be provided to
support the feet.
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DEVELOPING DESIGNS
42"
42"
42"
72"
72"
84"
FIG. 4-52 The relationship between diners and each other and between the
table and the room should be considered when sizing a table. A narrow width
is intimate, but there may not be room for the turkey on Thanksgiving.
ance for shifting position to maintain comfort. If
this distance is too high, there will be pressure
on the thigh behind the knee, and the weight of
the lower leg will be concentrated on this pres-
sure point.
The distance between the knee and the back
is of equal importance. The depth of the chair
seat should be a bit less than this distance for
maximum comfort. The goal is to support the
body while giving it some room to shift around.
Too little depth on the seat and the weight of
the upper body will be concentrated either
entirely on the buttocks, or in the muscles on
the bottom of the thigh. Too much depth and
the sitter’s back won’t be supported.
The seat shouldn’t be perfectly horizontal,
it should be lower at the back, angled between
one-degree and five degrees. This yields a dif-
ference in height from front to back of about
1
/2"
to 1". If a chair has arms, the arms should be
located roughly where the elbows fall, a couple
of inches above the tops of the thighs or about
6" above the seat.
To further complicate matters, the surfaces
of the seat and chair back shouldn’t be perfectly
flat either. This is an easy way to build, and you
might be able to pass it off as minimalist mod-
ern design, but flat surfaces will concentrate too
much weight on a small portion of the sitter’s
body. Gentle curves and padded surfaces will
spread this weight out.
If you’re building the chair for someone
with a body close to average, these parameters
will be a good starting point. For folks above
and below the norm, bear in mind the relation
between foot and knee and knee and back and
make some adjustments. In any case, chair
design really benefits from building a mock-up
that can be sat on before making multiples.
Seating at locations away from the table is
generally an inch or two lower to the ground;
the seat is an inch or two deeper, and the angle
of the seat to the floor and the back to the seat
up to five degrees more. All of these changes
make for more relaxed seating at the expense of
easily reaching with the arms.
Having the seat lower to the ground encour-
ages extending the legs. Go too low and you
can have a chair that is comfortable once you’re
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CHAPTER FOUR
Ø30" Ø36"
Ø42"
Ø48"
Ø54"
Ø48"
Ø54"
FIG. 4-53 Round dining tables provide more  exibility for seating arrangements than rectangular
tables, but there are limits to how many diners can squeeze around the table.
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DEVELOPING DESIGNS
Ø60"
Ø60"
36"
60"
36"
72"
FIG. 4-54 As round tables increase in diameter, the ability to reach across the table becomes an issue.
FIG. 4-55 Increasing size must be weighed against a practical
increase in seating area. Layout an actual place setting during
planning to help  nd the ideal size.
in it, but nearly impossible for some people to
get in or out of.
A rocking chair is also difficult to effectively
design without building a prototype. The sug-
gested parameters for seat height, seat angle
and back angle still apply and a radius of 36"-
42" for the rocker is a reasonable starting point.
The trailing edge of the rocker should be far
enough behind the chair back so that the chair
doesn’t tip backwards when rocked.
Tables
Just as chairs were easily categorized on a
practical basis, tables can be classified as one
of three types: eatin’, relaxin’ or workin’. Within
each of these types there are some design
parameters that fall in a narrow range, but other
parameters that can vary almost infinitely.
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CHAPTER FOUR
30"
30"
36" 42"
36" 42"
30"
36"
48"
60"
FIG. 4-56 Square tables provide some extra
space between diners, but it is more dif cult to
squeeze in an extra seat and it can be harder to
navigate around the table in a small room.
The fixed parameters are those of height, followed by
the width and depth needed for the task at hand. For
dining tables the standard height is 29" to 30". Each
diner needs some room, so the overall size of the table
depends on the number of place settings and the size of
the room. Shape and overall size can range from a small
round table for one to a huge banquet table in a palace.
The illustrations give some examples of typical
shapes and sizes and the number of seats that can be
placed around the table. In some of the illustrations,
there is a “normal” spacing for place settings along with
a “crowded” setting. This is a realistic consideration
when trying to determine the size of table needed.
Some references have tried to simplify this by making
the number of possible place settings a function of the
length of the perimeter of the table. This almost works
for round tables, but fails miserably when employed for
rectangular tables. When you turn a corner, you need to
consider that parts of the available area are width for one
diner and depth for the one around the corner.
Also keep in mind the distance across the table. A
30"-wide table will provide a more intimate experience for
people across from each other, but there may not be room
to place serving dishes and available space at the corners
will be limited if you squeeze in an extra seat. A 48"-
wide table will give plenty of room for the turkey platter
at Thanksgiving but it can be too far to reach across.
Many tables expand for special occasions, so consider
both versions in your planning. 18" of expansion is about
the minimum for an additional place at each side of the
table, but this can be affected by the shape of the top
and the location of the leaves in the center.
The location of the legs can also affect the number
of available places, as well as the placement of trestles,
rails and other structural elements. There may be room
on top of the table for two place settings, but will there
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DEVELOPING DESIGNS
FIG. 4-57 One way to lighten the appearance of a table without sacri cing territory is
to alter the corners or the overall shape of the table top.
FIG. 4-58 Consider other polygons as well as circles and rectangles to
create a more interesting design.
be enough room below for two pairs of
human legs? A trestle base close to the
end may make a dramatic visual state-
ment but can prevent the end from
being used for seating.
And last but not least the size and
shape of the room enters into the equa-
tion. It’s great to have a dining table that
can expand to accommodate everyone
for a holiday dinner, but if it expands so
far that it blocks the door to the kitchen
it won’t be much of a benefit.
The shapes of most tabletops start as
squares or circles, pushed or pulled to a
number of alternatives. Clipping the cor-
ners of a rectangular top will allow more
table width in a narrower room and the
space removed at the corner won’t be
missed. This makes for a more interest-
ing look, and not having a sharp corner
makes the table more user-friendly for
inattentive people in a crowded room.
Also consider some non-traditional
shapes. These can be a practical as well
as an esthetic improvement in many
cases, but this departure must be bal-
anced to the overall shape of the room.
A shape that works in one environment
can easily be awkward and non-func-
tional in another.
Occasional tables also have relatively
standard sizes, but there is a much
wider range within these standards.
Coffee or cocktail tables are usually
within an inch or so of standard seat
heights, 16"-18", but higher or lower
tops will also work. It’s a balancing act
between function and appearance.
End tables are usually between
24" and 30" in height. Often these are
matched in height to nearby seating,
with the top of the table slightly higher
than the arm of an adjacent chair or
sofa. Too low and it becomes awkward
to reach around the arm of the chair to
place or retrieve something from the
tabletop. Too high and it begins to feel
like you’re putting something in the
overhead bin on an airliner.
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CHAPTER FOUR
16"
16"
24"
22"
24"
24"
14"
31"
30"
FIG. 4-59 Coffee or cocktail tables didn't exist until the 1920s, so it can
be dif cult to create a design true to an historic style.
FIG. 4-60 End tables
can also be used as
night stands and there
are endless possible
variations. Match the
size to the function and
placement of the table.
FIG. 4-61 One way
to lighten the appear-
ance of a table without
sacri cing territory is
to alter the corners or
the overall shape of the
table top.
Tables for hallways or for behind
sofas are close to the 30" standard
height of dining tables, but this can
vary to be nearer to the height of
the back of a sofa or to accommo-
date some object on the tabletop.
Desk surfaces are also close to
dining table height, but an inch
or two lower is often helpful. This
encourages and makes sitting
upright more comfortable so you
can pay attention and get some-
thing done. Surfaces for keyboards
are lower — 25" to 26" is a reason-
able working height.
For work surfaces designed for
use in a standing position, start
with the standard kitchen coun-
ter height of 36" and adjust up or
down as needed. This type of sur-
face is best matched to both the
task to be performed and the indi-
vidual user.
In addition to the height of the
tabletop above the floor, it is also
vital to consider the space immedi-
ately below the top. The height of
an apron shouldn’t intrude into the
knee space available when seated.
Casework Basics
The majority of bookcases are
made about 12" deep. The major-
ity of bookcases are also 2" to 3"
deeper than they need to be. It is
easy to calculate a cutting list for
a 12"-deep bookcase if you’re cut-
ting parts from a sheet of plywood
— and the one book you own that
is deeper than 9" will be supported
— but the 12"-deep bookcase is
a waste of material in most cases
and doesn’t look quite right.
If you’re making shelves for
something else, 12" may be ideal.
The point is to match the dimen-
sions of the case to what it will be
holding. This is true for all cabinets
and casework, and learning this
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DEVELOPING DESIGNS
36"
37
3
/
4"
24"
32"
49"
72"
FIG. 4-62 Many bookcases are too deep — they
don't need to be 12". The trick to good bookcase
design is a nice arrangement of the shelves,
whether they are adjustable or not.
FIG. 4-63 Although a bookcase may be built at any size, width
should always be considered to avoid sagging shelves.
lesson on the simplest of casework will make for better
designs of more complex pieces.
Height between the shelves is also a critical dimen-
sion. Obviously there needs to be space between
individual shelves for books to slide in and out. At this
location 12" does work, but if most of your books are
paperback novels, it makes sense to shorten this dimen-
sion. Keep in mind that the space between shelves and
the number of shelves will determine (or at least strongly
influence) the overall height.
A bookcase may be beautifully proportioned, but if
the height requires too much space between shelves,
or if the books won’t fit, those proportions are now
meaningless. The easy way out is to rely on adjustable
shelves. This avoids using math when designing but it
isn’t a valid solution.
Considering the number of shelves and the spaces
in between at the start of the design process will give
far better results. Dividing the vertical space is easy,
but it confuses many people. Start with the thickness
of one shelf and multiply that by the number of shelves.
Subtract the combined thickness from the overall verti-
cal space, then divide the space by one plus the number
of shelves.
If there is 48" of space available and you’re trying to
decide if you can have three or four shelves, here is the
formula, assuming the shelves are
3
/4" thick:
48"–2
1
/4" (3 shelves,
3
/4" thick each) = 45
3
/4"
45
3
/4" / 4 (number of shelves + 1) = 11
7
/16"
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CHAPTER FOUR
6
11
/
32"
6
29
/
32"
7
13
/
32"
7
29
/
32"
8
13
/
32"
8
29
/
32"
9
13
/
32"
55
1
/
4"
32"
24"
32"
20"
60"
FIG. 4-64 The easy way out when designing case work is to divide things equally. In
some styles this will look OK, but varying the sizes is more interesting.
FIG. 4-65 With an odd number of divisions, the center space will
be the average size of all the spaces.
This works, but if the shelves are
a little thicker, the spaces between
will be less than 11" and books
will no longer fit. If you reduce the
number of shelves to two, the space
between will increase to 15½”. This
will let books fit, but all that extra
space will look awkward in the fin-
ished product.
Getting the vertical spacing cor-
rect is a piece of cake with pencil
and paper or on the computer, but
if you’ve gone ahead and cut the
wood, your options are limited and
the choices may be painful.
The practical width of a shelf is
a function of the thickness of the
shelf, or at least its front edge. Solid
wood will be less likely to sag than
plywood and a solid-wood edge will
reinforce plywood to a great degree.
We tested different shelf materials
for an article in Woodworking maga-
zine and found that the distance
a shelf will bend as the length is
increased isn’t exactly linear.
Lengths up to 36" are quite
resistant to sagging, but once you
cross that line any material becomes
more likely to noticeably sag. Some
materials, like
3
/4" plywood or par-
ticleboard will begin to bend under
their own weight at these lengths.
Keeping shelves short (36" or less)
and reinforcing at least the front
edge is a workable solution.
If you insist on making the shelf
longer, reinforcing the back edge
as well as the front, or making the
solid-wood front edge wider will
help. This is a situation where
mocking up the proposed shelf and
piling on some weight will likely be
necessary.
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DEVELOPING DESIGNS
8
15
/
32"
8
31
/
32"
55
1
/
4"
9
15
/
32"
9
31
/
32"
10
15
/
32"
7
29
/
32"
FIG. 4-66 With an even number of spaces, the two spaces above and below the centerline
will be the average size, plus or minus half the incremental change.
Adding Doors and Drawers
The addition of doors and drawers transforms the basic box of a bookcase
into a china cabinet, armoire or dresser. Before examining the visual impact
these additions will make, consider the practical constraints.
Just as there are limits with shelves on size, there are also practical limits
on doors and drawers. The danger is in making a door or drawer bigger than
the material, hardware or function can reasonably accommodate. It may look
dramatic to push the limits to make a design statement, or to fulfill a practi-
cal need, but those limits will push back if you go too far.
Looking at past examples is a good way to establish general sizes for a
new design. Leverage comes into play as it did with the stresses on struc-
tural elements. The farther you go the more force can be generated to work
against your design. With doors, this translates into increased stress on
hinges and corner joints.
A door made too wide can also cause difficulties by being in the way
when opened. A door wider than about 24" may require taking a step or two
back while opening it. Too narrow
can also be an issue, particularly
with raised panel doors. Less than
8" and the raised field of the panel
becomes a narrow strip.
With drawers, leverage works
against bringing a wide drawer
smoothly out of the opening. Pulling
slightly more from one side or
another can result in the drawer
jamming in the opening or stressing
a mechanical slide to the breaking
point. With narrow drawers, the
designer must consider all the ele-
ments of the drawer, and perhaps
the hardware, that occur within the
drawer opening.
A typical drawer with mechanical
slides will take up 1" for the slides,
and 1" for the combined width of
the drawer sides. An 8" wide drawer
opening will only have 6" of usable
space inside the drawer.
In addition to these mechanical
considerations, the wood itself pres-
ents more problems as door parts
or drawer fronts become longer and
wider. A
3
/4"-thick × 2"-wide door
stile can be made straight if it is
less than 30"-36" long. Beyond that
length the piece will be more diffi-
cult to mill initially and the chances
of it bowing over time are greater.
As the length of a piece such
as this increases, an accompany-
ing increase in both thickness and
width will make for a more stable
assembly. To be conservative, limit
the widths of cabinet doors and
drawers to a range between 12" and
24". Drawers in dressers may be as
wide as 30" or 36" but they must be
carefully made.
Dividing the front elevation in
a case piece is an opportunity for
both an artistic expression and an
increase in function. There are any
number of schemes for doing this,
but it is important to avoid blindly
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CHAPTER FOUR
following a formula. Rather, develop an eye for balance,
proportion and harmony. Many of the best designs are
those that take a formula and turn it on its ear.
The easiest thing to do is simply divide the opening
by the number of drawers and make them all the same
size. In a modern piece this can work and there are
those who find comfort in regularity and repetition. The
danger in this is that the result tends to be bland and
boring.
Graduating the drawers will add more visual interest,
and, in a practical sense, make the drawers more useful.
The bulky sweaters in the bottom drawer each take more
space than the jockey shorts in the top drawer. Larger
at the bottom and smaller at the top is the standard
method, but don’t be afraid to mix things up. The tallest
drawer doesn’t always need to be at the bottom.
Working from the size of the opening, the first deci-
sion to be made is the number of drawers. An odd num-
ber will make the math involved a little easier. The next
step is to determine the difference in height between
any two drawers. In Fig. 4-65, the opening is 55
1
/4" and
the difference in height is
1
/2". After this is decided,
divide the opening height by the number of divisions.
Because I’m working in fractions, there will be a
slight rounding error. This is a common occurrence
in woodworking, but it isn’t any reason to convert to
decimals or the metric system. It’s easier to adjust the
sizes minimally than it is to switch to a system that will
require measurements too small to conveniently make in
the shop.
If the space is divided into 6 segments, and six-
teenths is as fine as we care to measure, the average
size will be 9
3
/16". If thirty-seconds is chosen, the num-
ber will be 9
7
/32".
1
/32" isn’t much, but added to each of
the drawer fronts it adds up and the six-drawer case will
have an overall error of
3
/16". That’s more than enough
to prevent the last drawer from fitting or leaving an
unsightly gap.
The best solution is to be aware of this and decide
how to compensate before building. A full-size drawing
or storyboard will help. One of the beauties of working
in CAD is that you can work accurately with the draw-
ing. Essentially you are making a full-size drawing when
you’re working in CAD.
When dividing spaces such as this, work from the
center out, rather than from one side to the other. This
allows more places to make fine adjustments — the cen-
ter and both ends. The small differences can be spread
out over the entire length. Working from one end paints
you into a corner and all the tiny errors will be bunched
up at the end opposite from where you started.
For an odd number of drawers, the center drawer will
be the average size, each drawer above will be
1
/2" small-
er and each drawer below will be
1
/2" larger. In Fig. 4-64,
the seven-drawer case on the right has an average size
of 7
29
/32", with the topmost drawer being 1
1
/2" smaller
and the bottom drawer being 1
1
/2" larger.
With an even number of drawers, the center of the
opening is between two drawers, so there won’t be a
drawer that is the average size. The drawer above the
center will be smaller than the average size calculated
— by half the increment between two drawers. The case
in Fig. 4-66 has six drawers and the difference between
any two drawers is
1
/2". Adding
1
/4" to the average size
gives the height of the drawer below center, and sub-
tracting
1
/4" from the average gives the height of the
drawer above center.
Other mathematical schemes can be used to varying
degrees of success. The Fibonacci sequence is based
on adding two numbers in a sequence to produce the
next number. 1 + 2 = 3, 3 + 2 = 5, 5 + 3 = 8 and so on.
As seen in Fig. 4-67, portions of the sequence will look
attractive and make sense visually but others will not.
Hambridge rectangles are based on a square, using
a radius across the corners of the square to strike an arc
for the next increment. After drawing a horizontal line
from the intersection of the arc and the vertical line,
another arc is drawn using the first point of origin and
the corner of the line just drawn. This produces gradu-
ally decreasing horizontal spaces but it isn’t always pos-
sible or practical to use this method to fit things within a
given space.
These systems are only an aid to developing a design
and shouldn’t be seen as an ideal form that must be fol-
lowed at all costs. Developing an eye for proportion is far
more valuable and that can’t be reduced to a recipe with
step-by-step instructions. Play with these formulas but
aim for the ability to develop a design that looks right
without relying on an involved explanation of why it
looks right.
Frames for Cases and Panels
The sizes of individual elements in frame-and-panel
designs have a significant effect on the appearance of
the panel and on the entire case piece. After establish-
ing a minimum size that will work structurally, larger
sizes, and the variation of sizes, will serve to make a
design more interesting or to make a statement.
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DEVELOPING DESIGNS
24
24
521/32
67/16
75/8
915/16
1
2
3
5
8
13
21
FIG. 4-67 Mathematically generated variations in size can
look attractive, but blind adherence to a formula will likely
lead to furniture that doesn't function well.
First, let’s define some terms used in frame-and-
panel construction. The vertical parts of the frame are
called stiles, and the horizontal parts are rails. Unless the
outside corners of the frame are mitered, the stiles are
the same length as the overall length and the rails fit in
between. There are structural as well as visual reasons
for this.
Visually, full-length stiles hide the end grain of the
rails. When a panel is used as a door, this elimination
of the end grain makes it easier to hinge and fit the
door. If the panel needs to be reduced in size, only the
long-grain edge of the stile is trimmed — it's easy to
cut with a plane. Planing end grain, long grain, and
then end grain again is more difficult and more likely
to tear or chip on the end grain. This also holds true if
the panel is part of a case that butts against a wall or
another cabinet.
In complex frames, intermediate stiles and rails are
added to define spaces and provide strength. There is a
hierarchy to placing these pieces. Intermediate stiles go
between outer rails, running the full height between the
rails. Intermediate rails terminate at intermediate stiles.
This makes construction simpler and more stable.
While it is certainly possible to alter the construction
for appearance's sake, the result will have to overcome
the fact that it doesn’t look right and there may be struc-
tural problems in the future. I’m not a proponent of fol-
lowing a tradition merely for the sake of conformity, but,
breaking a tradition that has a logical basis and has been
used for centuries isn’t an easy task to do successfully.
On the other hand, varying the sizes of components
follows the conventions of construction while allowing
the designer a place to add visual interest. Fig. 4-68
shows some variations of a typical frame. In the top left
frame, all the stiles and rails are the same width. Any
interest in this elevation can only come from the sizing
of the spaces.
Changing the sizes of the stiles and rails provides
another place to play with proportions and add interest.
In the top right frame, the widths of the rails and the
intermediate stile have been changed slightly. The inter-
mediate pieces have been narrowed, lightening the look
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CHAPTER FOUR
of the frame. The bottom rail is a bit wider, giving the
feel of a more solid foundation.
In the bottom two examples, opposite approaches
have been taken. Widening the stiles and rails gives a
more solid masculine feel, while narrowing them makes
the overall appearance lighter and more delicate. All four
frames are the same size and will serve the same func-
tion equally well. How they look and the story they tell is
quite different.
Beds
Traditionally, beds consist of a headboard, a footboard
and connecting rails. Slats between the rails support the
mattress and box spring. In recent years it has become
fashionable to see a headboard used only with a metal
frame to support the mattress or a platform bed.
Casework is often added to the headboard, providing
some storage or shelving, particularly in more contempo-
rary designs or in children’s furniture. This casework can
be less than useful if the designer fails to consider the
use of the bed primarily as a place to sleep.
Due to the size of the bed, the joints between the rails
and the head and footboard are knockdown so that the
bed may be moved. Modern hardware, developed spe-
cifically for this application works well, provided that it
is firmly attached to the wood elements. Bed-rail fasten-
ers work by a combination of hooking the rail in position
and then wedging it down to make a firm connection.
In older forms of furniture, a tenon on the end of the
rail fits in a mortise in a post, with a bolt between the
two parts to tighten the connection. At the headboard
end, the bolt will not be seen, but at the opposite end,
the bolt will show. Traditional furniture makers used a
small decorative plate to cover the bolt head.
The bolted mortise and tenon is slightly stronger, but
not enough so as to give it a real advantage over other
hardware. The exposed fastener can be a problem in
designs other than those that reproduce a traditional
form where the bolt covers would be expected.
The rails hold the entire structure together and are
usually made at least 1" thick. In traditional construction,
a cleat is screwed to the back of the rail to support the
slats. This also serves to stiffen and strengthen the rail.
Standard sizes of beds range from the twin (or single)-
3'-3" × 6'-3", full-4'-6" × 6'-3", queen-5'-0" × 6'-8" and
king, which can vary in size in both dimensions. A
2
2
1
1
/
2
2
1
/
2
1
1
/
4
1
1
/
2
1
1
1
/
4
2
2
1
1
/
4
2
3
3
2
1
/
2
1
1
/
2
1
1
/
4
2
FIG. 4-68 Keeping all the parts of a face frame the same size may speed manufacturing,
but varying the sizes can make the furniture more attractive as well as more functional.
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DEVELOPING DESIGNS
54" Full
39" Twin
60" Queen
75" Eastern King
80"
84"
80"
75"
75"
72" California King
FIG. 4-69 Plan your bed around the
mattress. Standard sizes are shown
but there can be considerable varia-
tions from different manufacturers and
in different areas.
western, or California King is 6' wide × 7' long, while an
Eastern King is 6'-3" wide × 6'-8" long.
The given sizes are for the mattress and except for
the king size, it is relatively safe to assume the mattress
will be the given size. Allowing an extra inch in width
and one or two inches in length will give some leeway
and allow thick bedcovers to be tucked in. Some manu-
facturers don’t follow these sizes exactly, so it is a good
idea to double check before building. The good news is
that mattresses and beds don’t need to be an exact fit.
With a king-size bed, it is best to determine the size
of the mattress before designing as different areas of the
country and different manufacturers have different stan-
dards for sizes. The two main variations are California
and Eastern king, but some manufacturers make a king
that is essentially two twin beds placed side by side.
The best approach to designing a bed is to start with
the mattress size to establish the inner dimensions for
the frame. Add the rail thickness to each side and then
establish the size of the posts and their relationship to
the rails. When these parts and their sizes are known,
work out the headboard and footboard appearance.
This inside-out approach will ensure that the final
design is practical. The height of the mattress and box
spring will also affect the design and should be consid-
ered at the beginning. When the bed is complete, the
top of the mattress should be between 20" and 27" above
the floor. This range of heights can, of course, be adapt-
ed. Storage drawers below the bed may require a higher
finished height and some contemporary designs are at a
lower height.
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CHAPTER FOUR
16.180
10.000
5.000
10.000
10.000
10.000
14.142
11.180
15.000
FIG. 4-70 The Golden Rectangle gets a lot of
attention, but it isn't a cure for every situation.
Other proportioning methods are equally valid.
FIG. 4-71 Is one of these rectangles better than the others? It all
depends on function and other parts of the design and the setting.
Some will say that "A" is quite special.
AB
CD
PROPORTIONS
Design is a problem-solving process, the fulfilling of a
practical need in a visually pleasing way. Some designs
start with an emphasis on the visual — the finished
object will look a certain way and perform a given func-
tion. Other designs start as a practical solution — this
room in the house needs a table, chair or cabinet and it
ought to look like it belongs there.
Either approach provides a starting point, and, in the
end, the finished work will be a combination of practical
and artistic elements. There is a danger either way of
emphasizing one part to the detriment of the other. A lot
of ugly furniture exists that meets a practical need and
there are a lot of pretty pieces that aren’t sound structur-
ally or aren’t really good for much.
The artistic side is harder to quantify and teach.
We can develop formulas for meeting practical needs,
but the things that please the human eye are naturally
resistant to the scientific approach. Unfortunately, much
time and effort has gone into attempts to make the art
of design a science. One area where this is especially
prevalent is in proportions.
Look at Fig. 4-71, the drawing of the four rectangles,
and try to pick the best looking one. As long as they are
abstract shapes it’s hard to rank them. Even when we
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DEVELOPING DESIGNS
COVE
(cavetto)
BEAD
(ovolo)
OGEE
(cyma recta)
REVERSE OGEE
(cyma reversa)
SCOTIA
R
R X 2
FIG. 4-72 Classical moulding pro les
are time-tested and time-honored ways
of enhancing the appearance of furniture.
say these are possible cabinet elevations or tabletops,
the ratio of vertical to horizontal doesn’t mean anything
until we start to apply some practical questions. How
many people need to sit at the table? What goes in the
cabinet? Where in the room will this be placed? Without
the context of these questions we can’t arrive at a good
answer.
Rectangle “A” is often touted as being so perfect it is
nearly magical. This is the Golden Rectangle, developed
by the ancient Greeks. To draw one, start with a square,
find the center of one side and set a compass from that
point to the opposite corner. Swing an arc from the cen-
ter of the side until it intersects a line extended from the
side. Mathematically the ratio will be 1: 1.618.
This ratio does indeed work well in many designs, but
applying it doesn’t guarantee a good design. If you’re
really stuck for proportions, it can be a good place to
start, but developing a good eye will take you farther.
Developing that eye is a process of trying different
things and finding one that works.
The other rectangles are also developed by starting
with a square shape and stretching one side by a given
amount. “B” and “C” are the result of playing around
with a compass and in “D” the long side is simply one
and a half times the length of the short side. In the right
circumstances, any of the shapes could be considered
well proportioned. In the wrong circumstance they each
could be inappropriate.
The point is that there aren’t any shortcuts to devel-
oping a sense of good proportion. Studying existing
examples of furniture will take the would-be designer
a lot further in less time. Hundreds of years of furniture
making have left us an extraordinary amount of resourc-
es. It also has given us an evolved system that works
most of the time for most people.
Find a style of furniture that appeals to you, consider
the relationships between the pieces and parts as well
as the relationship of the furniture piece to the person
using it. Adapt those elements and design a piece that
doesn’t exist but is in that style. Most successful designs
are a combination of what has been done before along
with breaking some of the established rules.
The choice of which rules to break is the most impor-
tant choice a designer can make. If you randomly break
(or follow) rules without understanding them and appre-
ciating what they do, the chances for success are slim.
Studying existing designs and finding the parts that
appeal to you will be far more productive and will help
you find your voice as a designer sooner.
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CHAPTER FOUR
single bead
triple bead
triple flute
single bead
on corner
cove on
corner
single flute
FIG. 4-73 Bevels can soften hard
edges and lighten the appearance of
planes. Consider different angles and
locations in creating new designs.
DETAILS
The treatment of edges and planes has as at least as
much impact on any given design as the overall propor-
tions. In many cases it has more of an effect. The result
of changing overall proportions to meet a practical need
can be emphasized or reduced with the right detail.
There are only a few things that can be done to an
edge. It can be left square, making it a hard defined
boundary. It can be rounded, making it a softer, more
subtle transition. It can curve in to give a lighter, more
delicate appearance or it can bulge out, adding a sense
of solidity.
The shapes in Fig. 4-72 have been used for centuries.
The cove tends to draw the eye up and the fact that
material is removed can make an edge appear thinner
than it really is. The bead is an opposite shape and tends
to have an opposite affect visually by drawing the eye
back down and making a piece appear thicker.
Combining the two shapes provides a more subtle
effect and tends to look more formal than either shape
alone. When developing a design, try both options to see
which is more pleasing to you. Creating these designs
by drawing is indicated in the illustration, but it is wise
to consider how the profile will be formed when the time
comes to actually make the piece. Available router bits
and cutters may have an impact on deciding what you
can accomplish.
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DEVELOPING DESIGNS
FIG. 4-74 Beads and  utes tend to add a more formal
appearance when used in edge and face treatments.
45° bevel
60° bevel
30° bevel
30° bevel below
Beads and Flutes
Beads and flutes (Fig. 4-73) are another way to add
detail to an edge or to a surface. Usually smaller in size
than moulding profiles, beads add interest to an edge
by creating an additional line. This effect is softened by
the curved shape. Beads are often applied as a separate
piece inside the frames of doors and drawers so the
inside corners can easily meet in a miter joint.
Flutes on surfaces recall ancient column designs and
a fluted stile is a traditional method of disguising a joint
between two case pieces in formal and traditional work.
In this case the fluted piece becomes a decorative ele-
ment instead of a pragmatic solution.
Chamfers
Chamfers are most often seen at 45° and small in scale
(Fig. 4-74). This has the effect of breaking a hard edge
while preserving straight definable lines. There is a
slight softening effect, but not as much as there is when
an edge is rounded.
Chamfers at other angles can be interesting but can
be difficult to work at the intersections if they are used
in more than one plane or in planes at right angles to
each other. The main benefit to using them is seen in
the drawing at the bottom, where the chamfer on the
underside lightens the appearance of the piece.
This is a typical treatment for tabletops and the tops
of cases in some styles of furniture and will make a piece
appear more refined and delicate. To use this chamfer on
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FIG. 4-75 Adding a hard edge to a chamfer or roundover will give
more de nition to the edge and it will appear more re ned.
FIG. 4-76 Varying planes on the front
face of this bookcase make it more
interesting than a single  at surface.
the bottom side, the top must be large enough to provide
space for it.
Adding a hard line at the beginning and end of
a curve or chamfer is a small element that has a big
impact, as seen in Fig. 4-75. Once again, there are bits
manufactured to make these cuts and, often, when
working with router bits, changing the size of a guide
bearing will enable the option of adding a line to a
moulding profile.
A simple rounded or chamfered edge tells a different
story when a fillet or quirk is added. The additional line
creates more interest at the line of the moulding, making
the piece appear more detailed and formal.
Another simple method to add visual interest to a
piece is by varying the planes of adjoining parts. The
first example likely to come to mind is in a table, where
aprons are typically set back from legs. This is also quite
effective in case pieces — setting doors and drawer
fronts slightly back from surrounding frame members
serves several important purposes.
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DEVELOPING DESIGNS
FIG. 4-77 In unadorned furniture, interest
comes from the interaction of various parts.
Construction is also easier if surfaces are
set back from each other.
The main effect of setting back doors and draw-
ers about
1
/16" is that it adds a shadow line at the gap
between the front and the frame, making it more inter-
esting visually. Breaking the plane of the front of the case
adds definition to the openings and takes the emphasis
off the gap between the edge of the front and the frame.
In Arts & Crafts furniture, this setback of varying
planes is almost the only visual design element. The
photos demonstrate this. If these pieces were made
with all of the faces in the same plane, the character and
charm of them would be destroyed.
It is also possible to achieve this effect in the opposite
direction — by having the door and drawer fronts stick
out slightly from the surrounding case. The common
method for this is to work a rabbet in the back edge of
the drawer front and have the front overlap the frame
opening by about
1
/4". In this case, a bead around the
perimeter of the front softens the edge and blends the
protruding part into the face of the frame.
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5
PUTTING
DRAWINGS
TO WORK
GENERATING MATERIAL’S LISTS
With a finished drawing in hand, it’s tempting to head for the shop and
go to work. But there is an important step that shouldn’t be ignored —
developing a cutting list and a strategy for building.
Everyone wishes for a piece of software that will automatically gener-
ate a complete list of parts and pieces from information contained in a
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drawing. While this would be a convenience, reviewing a drawing and
manually creating a parts list is absolutely the best way to prove that the
plan is workable.
It's a challenge, and the more involved the project, the more tedious
and time consuming it will be. It is, another opportunity to build some-
thing mentally, avoiding the risks of wasted time and ruined material.
This can be done with pencil and paper or in a spreadsheet program.
There are add-ons to CAD programs that will help with this process, but
a systematic approach while reviewing the drawing will give a better
understanding of what is to be built.
Begin with a simple list. Start with the largest pieces or subassem-
blies and go over the drawing, listing these parts in a column. If it’s a
table, start with the top, if it’s a large cabinet or other furniture piece,
start with the largest parts.
After listing the major elements, such as panels and doors, go back
through the list and add in the parts that make up these components. If
a paneled door is listed, it will be followed by a list of the parts that com-
pose it — the rails, stiles and panels.
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CHAPTER FIVE
FIG. 4-1 One of the big bene ts of a good drawing is the ability to generate a good cutlist.
The mental exercise of making the list is much like a practice session in building.
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Listing the dimensions as
3
/
4" thick X 5" wide X
24" long (
3
/
4 X 5 X 24) means the grain
direction runs along the length of this piece.
Listing the dimensions as
3
/
4" thick X 24" wide X
5" long (
3
/
4 X 24 X 5) means the grain direction
runs across the width of this piece.
FIG. 4-1 Listing parts in a consistent way will eliminate confusion
and parts made with the grain running the wrong way.
CALCULATING
MATERIALS NEEDED
In many cases, it will be necessary to list both an overall
length for a part, as well as the part of it that shows. A
door rail may have 10" exposed between stiles, but a
1
1
/4" long tenon on each end will make the part to be cut
12
1
/2" long.
There are a couple of ways to do this. When a piece
has tenons on the ends, I note the length as 14" (11
1
/2"
between tenons). Others will designate this as 14", 1
1
/4" tenon both ends. The result is the same, but I prefer
knowing the exposed length, as that is more important
in the finished piece.
Individual pieces should be listed in the following
order: thickness × width × length. This is a convention
in woodworking that makes the flow of work and the
milling of material proceed smoothly. It also answers the
question of which direction the grain of the wood goes.
A drawer front that is listed as 5" wide × 24" long will
have the grain running horizontally. Listed the other way,
24" wide × 5" long, the grain on the drawer front will run
vertically.
When milling parts, it is wise to prepare some extra
material, and having the list organized by thickness,
then by width, makes it easy to plane some extra stock
that has the potential to be any part in the list. When
cutting material, follow the same procedure that was
used in making up the cut list — work from the largest
parts down to the smallest.
This will reserve the most attractive stock for the
most visible pieces. A large part that might be miscut
can still be used as a smaller part. Some people will
prepare two lists — one list of rough sizes and one of
finished sizes. I only list finished sizes even though I will
initially make parts bigger than they need to be.
The reason for making parts larger is to allow for
re-straightening of stock when making a finished part.
Solid wood will often move a little during or shortly after
being cut from a larger piece of wood. The reason for
not making a rough list is that it imposes a limit that
may prevent the builder from using an otherwise useful
piece of material. If I’m cutting parts
1
/2" wider than the
finished size, I can remember that easily enough. If I find
a piece of rough wood that looks right but is only
3
/8"
wider, I won’t feel like I’m breaking a rule by using it.
Having a good cutting list doesn’t mean that every
piece should be cut to the finished size at the begin-
ning of the project. I mill parts to thickness and width
but avoid cutting to specific lengths as long as possible.
Minor errors in cutting or assembly can be compensated
for by adjusting the length of parts during assembly. If
all the parts have been cut to the finished size first, that
closes off that avenue of escape.
If the joinery hasn’t been considered during the draw-
ing process, now is the time to figure it out. How long
should the tenons be? If the panel is cope and stick, how
much longer does the piece need to be to accommodate
the joint? Again, if there is a difference between the
overall length of a part and the exposed length, it should
be noted on the cutting list.
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Round
3
/
4 up to 1,
and multiply X 6
1
/
2 X
48 = 312.
Divide by 144 = 2.166
board feet
Round 1
3
/
4 up to 2,
and multiply X 6
1
/
2 X
48 = 624.
Divide by 144= 4.332
board feet
A board foot is a measure of
volume.
1" thick X 12" wide X 12" long, or 144
cubic inches
1"
12"
12"
48"
48"
6
1
/
2"
6
1
/
2"
1
3
/
4"
3
/
4"
FIG. 4-1 A board foot is a mea-
sure of volume, and the amount
for each piece can be derived by
multiplying thickness X width X
length (all in inches) and dividing
by 144.
These questions can, of course, be answered during
the construction process, but there are several good rea-
sons to know these things before beginning. There is a
rhythm in building and if you’re confident of the numbers
you’re using it is a lot easier to keep the flow of work mov-
ing if you’re not having to stop to figure something out.
The likelihood of wasting expensive material is also
reduced if a plan is thoroughly developed going in. When
all the parts are listed, go back through the drawing
making sure you haven’t missed any and that the sizes
on the list agree with the sizes on the drawing.
The next obvious question is, “How much lumber do
I need to purchase?”. A simple enough question, but the
answer to it can be long and involved. It all depends on
what wood happens to be available when you happen to
need it.
Hardwoods are usually sold in random lengths and
widths. If you buy a hardwood 1 × 6, you will be paying
too much for it — if you can find it. Many magazines
and other publications like to print cutting diagrams
where all the parts neatly come from a few pieces of
dimensioned stock. In real life, things rarely work out
that way. Available pieces of wood won’t match the list
and the nicest looking pieces available can work — but
not the way the diagram shows.
Depending on the size of the project and your access
to a good source of lumber, there are a couple of different
approaches to take. If the project is relatively small and
the lumber dealer allows you to pick through the available
material, the best bet is to take the drawing and cut list
with you, along with a tape measure and a piece of chalk.
Look through the stack, again working from the larg-
est pieces needed to the smallest. When you discover a
likely candidate, write the name of the part or parts on
it in chalk. I go so far as to make rough outlines for cuts.
As I set the lumber I want off to the side, I mark off those
parts on the cut list.
This does take some time and it is an imposition on
the lumber seller. You are effectively picking the best
stuff from his material, leaving behind pieces that are at
the lower end of the grade. Eventually, the seller has a
pile of less than ideal wood. If this is how you purchase,
expect to pay a premium price and don’t leave a mess
behind you.
Hardwood is sold by the board foot, which is a mea-
sure of volume equaling a rough board 1" thick × 12"
wide × 12" long, or 144 cubic inches. Serious builders,
and professional furniture and cabinetmakers generally
buy in bulk amounts. The lumber is graded, and when
you buy in bulk, you are buying a pile of random width
and length material.
Lumber grading rules are complicated, but select and
better is generally the best (meaning it will yield the
largest amount of clear pieces) followed by No.1 com-
mon. Within each grade there will be pieces that just
make the grade and other pieces that are almost good
enough for the next higher grade. In most cases, this
works out for the builder because not every piece of
wood will be in a highly visible location.
The thickness of hardwood lumber is expressed in quar-
ters of an inch of the rough lumber. 4/4 stock is 1" thick and
8/4 stock is 2" thick. There can be some variation due to
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FIG. 4-1 When working with plywood, lay out some blank sheets and see where the parts will  t.
You need a certain amount of square feet, but that amount must  t within standard size sheets.
shrinkage of the lumber during drying. An honorable saw-
yer will cut the material thicker than the nominal size so
that, after drying, it is at least the labeled thickness.
If your project requires any amount approaching a
common unit for bulk sales (100, 250 or 500 board feet)
the cost savings will likely make up for the extra material
you will be purchasing. If you are serious about wood-
working, you won’t mind having extra material around
for small projects and if you save some money in the pro-
cess, it’s easy to justify.
Before you can make the decision about how to buy,
you need to determine how much material you really
need for the project at hand. You can calculate the board
footage for each part by multiplying the thickness times
the width times the length in inches and dividing by
144. Keep in mind that you will need to buy the lumber
the finished parts come from, not the finished parts, so
make some allowance for waste.
Round up fractions in thickness to the rough size you
will need.
3
/4" or
13
/16" finished material comes from 1"-
thick (4/4 or “four quarter”) material. To speed the pro-
cess and to also make some allowance for waste, round
up any fractions in width to the next whole inch and add
a few inches to lengths.
Adding up the volume of all your parts will get you
close to what you need, but if you calculate you need
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Once again, start with the largest pieces and work
your way down to smaller sizes. I sketch parts and label
them with their names from the cut list. If it’s a big proj-
ect, like a kitchen full of cabinets, there may be several
sheets cut exactly alike. I don’t bother to draw each one,
I’ll simply mark that sheet as “×4” or “×5”, indicating
how many sheets are needed.
When laying out the sheets, it’s important to remem-
ber the rule on grain direction — width before length. It
is also important to account for the kerf width of the saw.
Each cut will take away at least
1
/8" of material — you
can’t get two 24"-wide pieces from a 48"-wide sheet of
plywood.
With experience, this becomes part of the design and
planning process. Widths and lengths of parts can easily
be adjusted while drawing to get the best yield from avail-
able sheet goods. You don’t want to radically alter a good
design, but small adjustments or methods of assembly can
have a huge effect on the amount of material needed.
DEVELOPING A WORK
SEQUENCE
Drawings are an excellent tool for planning the sequence
of work. Most furniture projects involve subassemblies.
The flow of work will be smoother and faster if things are
done in the most efficient sequence. If there are a num-
ber of panels that require parts to be glued for width,
making the panels first will allow plenty of time for the
glue to dry while the rails and stiles are being milled.
FIG. 4-1 On a large project, take
the time to plan the sequence of
work. This will enable you to use
shop time more ef ciently.
71.2 board feet of wood, you will come up short if you
buy exactly that amount. The randomness of solid wood
boards will get you every time. If you need 6"-wide piec-
es, all the yard will have in stock is 5" and 8". If you need
parts 34" long you could easily get three pieces from a
ten-foot length. If all the mill has that day are eight-foot-
ers, that’s what you have to work with.
It is also possible to roughly calculate board feet by
finding the area of the finished surface and adding 25%-
35% more for waste. If you have a cabinet 36" wide and
60" tall, the area of the front would be 15 square feet.
Assuming it is made from 4/4 thick material, purchasing
20 board feet of rough lumber should give you enough
raw material for this portion of the piece.
As a rule of thumb, if I’m not picking boards indi-
vidually, I add 25% to 50% to the calculated board feet
needed for a project. This allows selecting for the best
appearing material in the most visible places and leaves
material on hand if a mistake or miscalculation is made.
It’s a better situation to have some material left over at
the end than it is to have to make a trip to the lumber-
yard for one piece of wood.
With plywood or other sheet goods, it is easier to
predict how many sheets to buy. I list sheet goods parts
separately on the cut list and sketch out whole sheets
of plywood on graph paper. I use two squares to a foot
as a scale on the graph paper (several pieces of sheet
goods will fit on a page). It’s easy to estimate sizes to
increments of 3". If I want to be extremely accurate, I
can use my architect’s scale, but most of the time that
isn’t needed.
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If you mill the rails and stiles first, everything will
come to a halt while the panels are glued or work on the
panels will be rushed, compromising the integrity of the
work. Look at major components and ask “what will I do
while the glue is curing”. Plan ahead so that the final
assembly consists of as few parts as possible, and don’t
paint yourself into a corner.
Details in drawings give a quick reference to compli-
cated structures and joints. If the drawings are prepared
in CAD these details can be printed at full scale. If the
drawings are prepared by hand, the extra time in draw-
ing a few full-size details will be rewarded by the sav-
ings of more time in the shop.
One way of having full-size details available is by pre-
paring a story board or layout rod. I think it is one of the
most valuable steps to take in preparation for building.
The story board is essentially a full-size section drawing.
Some projects can be completed with only one show-
ing vertical elements, while others may require several
showing the details of the width and depth of the fin-
ished piece.
A straight piece of scrap, a few inches wide and as
long as necessary is used and openings between parts,
the parts themselves and relevant joinery are shown.
One of the advantages of this is that much measuring
and the risk of making a mistake in measuring is avoid-
ed. After I’ve laid out the mortises for several parts on
the story board, the layout of each of those parts can be
taken from the story board.
The second advantage is the prevention of mistakes
caused either by a flawed design or poor strategy in the
work sequence. It is an opportunity to catch something
that may not have been apparent in planning, or to real-
ize the best way to fit parts to each other.
The third advantage is the allowance for adjustments
to be made for materials that may not be exactly as
planned. I may have planned on side panels being
13
/16"
thick at the drawing board, but difficult grain or cupped
material may have yielded
3
/4"-thick stuff. I can use the
thinner material if I hold the outside, visible faces where
I planned, but I will need to adjust parts that meet the
inside faces.
If I deal with this discrepancy when making the story
board — no one will know the difference in the finished
piece. If I ignore it and follow the drawing, I don’t really
know where to adjust the sizes of other parts and it’s
quite likely I’ll have something
1
/8" too small or too large
— too late to fix without starting over or sticking out like
a sore thumb.
A simple list of the construction steps in sequence
can turn an overwhelming project into a manageable
one. If you’re not sure of the proper sequence, begin by
listing all the steps you can think of, then put them into
a sensible order. Many times it won’t make any differ-
ence what part you tackle next and this allows you to
plan the work around available space, tools or skills.
At other times, it will be obvious that certain steps
need to be performed before others or that there will be
a significant risk. You can build doors before building
the cabinet they will fit in, but you will need to build the
cabinet exactly. If you make the cabinet first, you can
then adjust the size of the doors if something changes or
goes wrong.
A planned sequence can be used as an insurance pol-
icy. If you aren’t sure of your abilities to work precisely
to the numbers generated in your plan, or if a mistake is
made that you need to make adjustments for, it pays to
wait until the first steps of the sequence are complete
before making parts and subassemblies that fit them.
With experience will come the ability to judge the
sequence of work, and how far to take parts to comple-
tion. If you are confident that you can work accurately
and without making mistakes, you can go ahead and
take things to finished sizes.
While you are gaining experience, it is often better to
avoid committing until you absolutely have to. Leaving
parts a little larger than needed until the time comes to
fit them to another part will save time in the long run.
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CHAPTER SIX
6
SKETCHING AND
DESIGN
DEVELOPMENT
THE IMPORTANCE OF SKETCHING
I often find myself beginning a conversation about a piece of furniture
or some detail of construction and hitting a point where I’m unable to
continue without picking up a pencil. Most of the people I have worked
with over the years are the same way. Sketching is a way to clearly
show, in a simple picture, something that a thousand words might not
adequately describe.
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Most of these sketches are absolutely terrible. They look like chicken
scratches or a childish attempt to draw a house. In spite of this, these
sketches work. In the language of building, sketches are shorthand. It
takes time to put a detailed scaled drawing together and the detail and
scale aren’t always needed.
In addition to using sketching to solve problems on the fly in the shop,
I also use quick sketches while making formal drawings to visualize the
appearance of the finished drawing. When I’m at a museum or an auc-
tion, I take along pencil and paper and make quick sketches for use at a
later time. When I’m trying to design a new piece, several quick sketches
will get me headed in the right direction or let me know if I’m heading in
the wrong direction.
As in most activities involving the hand, eye and brain, each of us
has a certain amount of innate ability. We also have the potential to
take what ability we have to start with (in my case, very little) and,
with practice, develop useful skills. I can’t draw a straight line — very
few people can —but I’ve learned enough to make sketching a powerful
and valuable tool.
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CHAPTER SIX
FIG. 4-1 When starting a design, block out the overall size and try several variations to
arrive at a workable concept. Work quickly to keep the ideas  owing.
AIDS TO
SKETCHING
One of the best aids to developing
skill in sketching is graph paper.
Following the horizontal and vertical
lines, or doing the best I can to fol-
low those lines, develops the ability
to draw what I want to draw and
keep things in good proportion and
in relative scale.
Isometric graph paper is also
available, although it can be hard
to find. Instead of the grid being at
90°, this paper has a set of vertical
lines, and two sets of lines at 30°
from horizontal in different direc-
tions. This enables the drawing of
more realistic, three-dimensional
sketches.
Using graph paper is like train-
ing wheels on a bicycle or a safety
harness in rock climbing. There
isn’t any shame in using these aids,
especially when basic skills are
being developed. They will keep
you safe as you develop skills and
become confident.
Most graph paper is made so that
the blue lines won’t be reproduced
when photocopied. The grid lines
can be distracting and a photocopy
may be easier to read than the
original sketch. You can also show
someone a photocopy of a drawing
you made on graph paper and they
will think you can really draw.
I often use a piece of graph
paper under a piece of vellum when
sketching. It makes the grid more of
an aid and less of a distraction than
drawing directly on the grid. It also
makes the finished sketches easier
to decipher.
Graph paper is also a tremen-
dous aid in the field when a tape
measure isn’t available or isn’t
allowed. Holding the paper near an
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SKETCHING AND DESIGN DEVELOPMENT
FIG. 4-1 Don't be ashamed of using graph paper to keep the lines of your sketches straight. The goal is to compile
and transfer information, not win an award for a pretty picture.
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CHAPTER SIX
object and marking sizes and relationships on the paper
can give accurate information for later use.
Following the process used in mechanical draw-
ing when sketching on graph paper will make those
sketches more accurate and useful. Count off squares
to establish a dimension, mark the location of important
intersections and draw lines in between. You may not be
able to draw well, but you can likely connect the dots.
Rough in the overall size and then fill in the details.
This will help to keep the overall sketch in proportion.
For complicated pieces, start by lightly drawing a box
large enough to surround the piece. This helps to keep
FIG. 4-1 If you don't want anyone to know you use graph paper, place a piece of vellum on top.
You'll still be able to see the guidelines and the  nished drawing will look better.
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SKETCHING AND DESIGN DEVELOPMENT
the lines of the piece being sketched in the proper
planes and in proportion.
This strategy will give better quality sketches. Decide
the start and stop points of lines, then draw a line between.
This frees up some brain cells to concentrate on making
a good line. It can be a struggle to draw nice straight
lines. A trick I use is to think of watching the line being
drawn rather than trying to control my drawing hand.
Sketching for design development is also a valuable
way to distill ideas into a tangible form. Don’t be con-
cerned about the appearance of initial sketches. The
idea is to identify ideas worth pursuing and reject ideas
you don’t like — not to win an award for making a pretty
drawing. The more sketching you do the better you will
become, so don’t let the appearance of your initial efforts
keep you from continuing.
Most people have the expectation that they should be
able to sit down, pick up a pencil and draw what they
want to build on their first attempt. Very few people can
actually do this or even come close. A better approach is
to sketch as many ideas as you can imagine, even if you
know you won’t want to build some of them.
Make a quick sketch of something that would fit in
the Jetsons’ home, followed by a rock and a log that the
FIG. 4-1 Work out variations in details by sketching quickly before investing time and effort in preparing a formal
drawing. This drawing was made on vellum over graph paper and only took a few minutes.
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CHAPTER SIX
FIG. 4-1 Quickly sketching what you don't want to build will
free your brain of clutter and clarify what you do want to build.
Make a group of quick sketches to arrive at an overall concept.
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SKETCHING AND DESIGN DEVELOPMENT
FIG. 4-1 As a design comes to form, make sketches a bit larger and a bit more detailed. If you get locked into the
rst concept that comes to mind, you might miss a better idea that's right around the corner.
Flintstones would use. Draw several more in between.
Do a few in a style you like and a few in a style that you
hate. Make as many as you can in a short period of time.
Try different shapes and different combinations of shapes.
Keep the size small, making several quick sketches
on a single sheet of paper. This is a warm up exercise for
the brain, the hand and the eye. Even if you have a good
idea before you start, exploring other ideas and varia-
tions will make it better in the end.
If you don’t have a clear idea in mind, sketching
things you don’t want to build will often lead in the right
direction. The idea is to eliminate bad ideas from your
brain so that the good ones can bubble up to the surface.
This exercise will clarify in a short period of time what
works for you and what doesn’t. You may be surprised
that a detail or proportion from something that initially
has no appeal will translate into something interesting
when applied to something else.
As your design ideas become more refined, make a
series of sketches with different variations. Rough out four
or six boxes on a sheet of paper representing the overall
size of what you intend to make, then sketch different ver-
sions. Don’t lock yourself into one idea at the start, but
try different ideas until the best idea clearly stands out.
As your design develops you will want to move from
free-form sketching to more mechanical means. You
want to be sure you’re working on an idea that will be
buildable, but don’t lock yourself in too quickly. Make
some preliminary drawings to work out details or to
establish overall shapes and sizes.
When I have a size and shape established, I’ll make
photocopies of a rough drawing of those shapes and
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CHAPTER SIX
FIG. 4-1 Choosing elements that appeal to our tastes, style and
methods of work, and eliminating ideas that don’t  t these criteria.
sizes. I then sketch freehand on those copies to try out
different ideas. This is like a bridge between designing
and planning. Starting planning too early in the process
can lead to a good idea being missed.
Developing designs is a process of choosing ele-
ments that appeal to our tastes, style and methods of
work and eliminating ideas that don’t fit these criteria.
In some situations the options are few and the choices
are easy. At other times, sifting through all the possibili-
ties can be overwhelming. A good designer knows how
to sift efficiently.
Sketching is a good tool to use for this process, as
is modeling. In modeling, a three dimensional object
is made as quickly as possible to help refine ideas. In
the same way that a scale drawing conveys informa-
tion about a much larger object, a scale model will show
things in three dimensions that a drawing won’t show.
On rare occasions, a full-size mockup might be help-
ful. Most of the time something smaller, lighter and
easier to put together will accomplish the same task.
Use one of the standard drawing scales, such as 3"=1'
or 1
1
/2"=1'. These will be one-fourth or one-eighth of the
actual size.
One of the best materials to use for modeling is art-
ist’s foam-core board. This comes in several thicknesses
and is easily cut with an Xacto knife or razor blade.
Choose a thickness that is close in scale to the material
you plan on using.
1
/8" thick material is 1" thick in scale
if you’re working at 1
1
/2"=1', and
3
/16" material is
3
/4"
thick in scale if you’re working at 3"=1'.
You can lay out the pieces to be cut with standard
drafting tools or you can print a CAD drawing and
adhere the paper to the foam board with a spray adhe-
sive. Don’t use plastic drafting triangles to guide the
knife — it is very likely you will cut the plastic edge. Use
a metal straightedge or ruler instead and make a series
of cuts until you go completely through the material.