5 Steps for Planning Your Woodworking Project
Before diving into your project, it is important to visualize each step to of your woodworking project to ensure you achieve your desired result. Planners like the one below can be a simple way to start to bring the elements of your woodworking project to light.
CAD programs can be very useful design tools, but unless you already know them, you will spend a lot of time learning the software before you can even begin your design. Sketchup is a simple drafting program that can help firm up the design. Of course, pencil and graph paper are my go-to design tools.
Here are 5 steps to help you design your woodworking project from tools to finish.
Step 1: Always start with function
What is the function of your piece? How will it be used? For instance, if the woodworking project is a cabinet, what will the cabinet be storing and what visual effect do you want it to have?
If it is a table, how many people do you need to seat and what type of visual effect do you want it to have in its setting?
It seems simple; however, if you don’t pay attention to this stage of the process, ultimately the end product will only become more diluted and less defined as you progress.
Now you have an idea of the general direction you want to move in based on sketches, of course, using our handy worksheet above.
Step 2: What type of materials will you need?
Of course, material selection varies depending on the project, but function will dictate some of your choices. You would not choose a softer wood for a table top unless you were okay with the inevitable dings in the surface you will accumulate over time.
Additionally, the look you are trying to achieve will drive you further toward some materials vs. others. Would you choose pine if you wanted a darker, richer look when finished? – Probably not.
And, finally your budget will have some input into your choices. At the end of the day get some advice if you are relatively new to woodworking. Our team is very adept at guiding not only selection, but also where you can source your selected material.
Now, you have defined the general nature of your project.
Step 3: Plan the tools
This will take some thought, as well as quite a few thumbnail drawings or sketches, to determine what type of machine tools, jigs, and other hand tooling might be necessary to complete your project according to your design.
For instance, draw out how a table leg will intersect with the table rail. Visualize how you will make the cuts that you need with the tools available. Again, we can assist with an array of tools options most DIYers do not have at their fingertips
At this stage, you can still change your design if a specific tool is not available.
Finding the specific tools that you need can take a long time and cost a great deal of money. Fortunately, we have taken most of this on for you, and have a fully equipped shop for you to use.
Step 4: Develop and evolve your plans
As you progress on your project, it is inevitable that you will come across things that your original plans did not foresee.
When this happens, you don’t have to start over, but you will need to modify your drawings/plans somewhat to further clarify in your mind the affected part of the project and any impacts downstream.
These adjustments to your planning shouldn’t require new tooling, but most likely just different depths of cut or slightly changed parameters having to do with fine tuning a fit between one project piece and another.
Step 5: Establish the glues, and the 3Fs (fillers, finishes, fasteners) needed
This step does not need to be drawn out like the others, however, they do need to be researched thoroughly to ensure that what you have is suitable for your material and for your piece.
Finishes can be anything from hand applied oil, brush applied varnishes, or spayed on lacquer and each has its own specific properties for application ease and durability in varying conditions.
Coloration can also be applied using dyes and stains and these variants also have their own properties for durability.
One last thing…
I know we have already covered 5 steps, but there is one more thing to consider. Actually, it is more of a “post-step.”
When a project is completed, always note the difficulties in the process for the next time. Keep a notebook with your thumbnails and notes.
This way, when you begin your next design, all of your prior knowledge will be available to you at the flip of a page. If you are a member of My Own 2 Hands you also benefit in advance from the experience of our Mentors.
After all, each project that you create is a different set of design functions and visual effects, so each project will have its own unique areas to learn from, as well as areas that overlap on other projects, The more projects you create, the broader your knowledge base will become.
Above all, have fun with your projects and the process. Learning from your mistakes and implementing new found knowledge into the next project is what growing as a woodworker is all about!