To date, for me at least. I know it’s an ambitious title for a blog post, just bear with me.
There are innumerable plans, books, blog posts and videos on building stuff from wood. Some bad, some good and some are excellent. They show us what lengths to cut, what joints to cut and how to assemble it all together. Where the vast majority fall short is at the very beginning. We are rarely shown the planning and initial full-scale layout. It’s this full-scale layout that I wish to talk about.
There are articles that talk about story sticks and how they can be used to layout future projects, but very few, if any, that talk about how to create the story stick before the first project is ever built. That is where the full-scale layout comes into play. This is a method that I had never used before until recently. Thanks to “By Hand & Eye” and Paul Sellers‘ Woodworking Masterclasses, I’ll never again build a project without first doing a full-scale layout.
Essentially, you draw out full-scale the project that you intend to build. Usually you just concentrate on the most pertinent view of the project. That could be a front elevation like say for a bookcase or the end elevation for a table where only the length will vary. Molding elements are addressed full-scale as well regardless of their locations. This drawing can be done on a large piece of paper, cardboard or preferably on a sheet of plywood. From this full-scale layout you can than take all your distances and angles. Sort of a cheat sheet for woodworking. This layout will also let you see how your intended project really looks and what space it will truly occupy. This is handy because you can make any adjustments to size or addition/subtraction of molding elements long before you cut your first piece of wood. Once you do start cutting wood, you can lay each piece back onto the layout to ensure that you have not made any errors. Although I’m sure, that like me, you never make errors. Yeah right! Once the project is complete you can save the layout for later use or create a story stick. Even with a story stick I would still create a new full-scale layout before building the project again.
Using a full-scale layout has exponentially changed my woodworking for the better. What I’m ashamed to admit is that I make my living as a draftsman/designer and it still never occurred to me to make full-scale layouts of my woodworking projects. Small, scaled down drawings for sure but never full-scale. Now, I’ll never build another project without doing a full-scale layout first.
Give this method a try on your next project and then decide if my post title is correct.
In my next few posts I’ll discuss some tools that will make these layouts easier. Some you probably own, some you may have to purchase and some will be part of my “Build Yourself Series”.