Once things are on paper, they become static. You just have to do what is on paper and you are done. It is very easy to imagine how a finished project is going to look, but imagination isn’t static. If you built it from imagination, the project would be constantly changing while being built. By putting it on paper, you can start measuring it, calculating the parts needed and building it.
While some of the pictures are better than others, you don’t need CAD software, drafting skills, or even need to draw straight lines. Most of my initial drawings are not to any scale. I just needed to be able to determine the basic shape and look of the project.
Here are the original plans for the play stools. The design goals were simple. A 12 inch by 12 inch by 12 stool, with a hole in the top, so it could be picked up and carried around. I was making 8 stools total, so they had to be easy to build. This drawing shows my initial concept, 1 x 6 boards for the top and 2 x 12 boards for the sides. I also put a 2 x 6 board in the middle, to keep it from collapsing (I’ll talk about this in design basics, another post).
I drew the actual boards, not just a single line. I did this so I could see how they would stack. This is very important! 1 x 6 boards are actually 3/4 inch x 5 1/4 inches and 2 x 12 boards are actually 1 1/2 inches by 11 1/4 inches. So a 3/4 board on top of a 11 1/4 inch board gives a 12 inch height. With the picture, I can clearly see it.
This Sand and Water table drawing shows that the shorter side is 24 inches. The actual boards are 22 1/2 inches. That is because it is using 3/4 inch lumber. Together, the front and back take up 1 1/2 inches. 24 minus 1 1/2 is 22 1/2 inches. Without the drawing, I might have forgotten that.
All of the drawings I’ve shown so far are “orthogonal views”, in drafting terms. Orthogonal views do NOT have vanishing points and do not take into account the fact that the farther away something is, the smaller it is. This makes orthogonal views easier to draw. Anyone who has doodled a picture of a box has drawn this view. An orthogonal view shows 3 sides, usually the front, side and top. They are easiest to draw if you start with the side of the object that is closest to you. Then add the lines to give it depth. Then add in other lines to create boards.
Some projects, like the playstands, would be too difficult for an orthogonal view, so I just drew the front and a side. If you draw the views near each other, at the same scale, you can almost see the whole thing at once.
It’s not always important to draw the entire project. For this doll house, the drawing shows the floors of the house and one side of the roof. This drawing shows three different configurations I tried. First, with three floors, then only two, and finally I realized that it needed to be taller.
Also, I was having trouble visualizing how the roof was going to work, so the last side view shows one of the roof boards.
This doll house is not much more than a shelf with a roof, so this drawing was enough.
More recently, I found a barn in a catalog that I wanted to build, but I wanted a different roof. It was the same basic design as the doll house, so I just did a quick diagram, so I see how the roof would go together.
I wrote a few dimensions on the drawing and began building. The barn and doll house were very close in design, so this drawing was all I needed.
There are times when scale is important. The hook piece on the playstands had to to be large enough so that I could attach it with screws, even though other boards were going to be in the way. I drew it a full size, 1 inch on the drawing = 1 inch in real life. That way I could measure boards, where screws were going to go, and get a chance to think it through before cutting wood. When the drawing was just right, so I cut out and and traced it onto the wood.
You may have noticed that some of my drawings are on plain paper and some are on graph paper. I prefer graph paper. The lines help me draw straight and keep things in proportion. For this playstand hook drawing, 1 square = 1/4 inch. For the doll house drawing above, 1 square = two inches. Try to pick a scale that is easy to work and lets your drawing be as large as possible.
- Mechanical pencil – so you don’t have to keep sharpening it.
- Eraser – so you can change your mind
- Graph paper – makes it so much easier to draw
- Ruler – to draw straight lines and keep things in proportion
- Drafting triangles, 30 / 60 degree and a 45 degree. Makes angled lines easier.
Most of these supplies can be picked up where ever your purchase school supplies.
Amazon.com has quite a few books on design and drafting, but most of these books are way beyond what is needed to complete a project. The playstand drawing and sand and water table drawing are third generation drawings I did as part of this website and not what I used to build my playstands and sand and water table. The originals were misplaced, but looked much more like the drawing for the stools.
Here are a few other drawings and projects. The first is a rabbit hutch. I had trouble scanning in the drawing, so you will have to click on the picture to view it. I wanted the sides and doors constructed with lapjoints. The front door closes similar to the Henitentiary, and the dimensions were determined by the litter pan I had already purchased. The drawing is messy and crooked, but it enabled me to visualize how all the parts went together.
The second project is a saddle stand / play horse. You may notice that the saddle horse is very similar to the playstands, so I didn’t have to put a lot of work in the drawing, just enough so I had the dimensions of the parts.
Drawing take practice, but after just a few pictures, you will notice improvement in your drawings and your projects.
In the next article in this series, we’ll look at how the parts of a project go together.