Helping You Make Wood Work : Episode 1 – Basic Furniture Design

Helping You Make Wood Work : Episode 1 – Basic Furniture Design


Folks, if you’re like me then you love
woodworking. There’s only one problem.
Not enough time. I mean between our jobs, our family,
our personal schedule, We have very limited time in the shop. So this video series is going
to help you maximize your time and give you excellent results on your project. Hello I’m Chad Stanton and in 21 years
as a professional furniture maker and in the building trades, I can tell you I’ve
made a lot of mistakes, which cost me time. So I’m gonna give you my experience to help you
avoid those mistakes and get great results. Now I know you’re anxious
to get in the shop and build something but before you do there’s
three good rules to go by. Now these are rules that
Franklin Gottshall came up with. and he’s not only a woodworker but an educator
and an author on fine furniture. So, the rules are. Number one,
It must serve a purpose. I mean what’s the point of
building something if it doesn’t actually have a function. Number two,
It must be well-constructed. Again, why build a chair if someone’s afraid to sit in it? And number three,
It should look good. Now you’ll notice that number three, looking
good, came beneath the other two and there’s a
reason for that. So let me show you a couple of examples
of some good and bad designs So this is a piece where I actually put rule number three, looking good, in front of the other two. So let me explain, this piece looks
beautiful; Reason one is, it’s made out of cherry so as it gets older it’s just gonna get that darker patina to it. Two, I really like the soft little curve on it
it makes it more graceful. And then three, I put a drawer at the bottom to kind of help balance it out, just makes it look more cute. Now here’s why it’s limiting; Although it is made with good construction,
I have mortise and tenon and rabbet joints in it, but rule number one serving a function and a purpose, well I set out to actually make a bookcase
and you can see with this, I’m really not getting a whole lot of room
for books in it. So it’s kind of turned
into a knick-knack shelf. Number two, as you can tell it’s made for the corner. So again in your room I just limited where you can put this And number three, well this drawer. You’re really not gonna store much in that.
In my opinion, it’s not very good for anything. So here’s a piece that I feel fits the
rules in the proper order. One, it serves a purpose and a function. It’s a bench
and you can place this just about anywhere. The dining room, your foyer, the
front porch. Number two, it’s constructed really well.
There’s mortise and tenons through this and wedged tenon’s to keep the legs
really tight. And three, well it looks nice. It has an English rustic style, exactly what the customer wanted. Now that we have our three rules
this does a couple of things for us. One, it sets us up for guidelines for better building. And two, it’s causing us to look at the pieces in a more objective way. Alright, so now you’re ready to start building. Do you work off of plans,
pictures, or design your own sketch? I’m going to show you all three, next. The best place to start building is to get a set of plans. And there’s a lot of sources that you can do this. The first is in magazines, I think this is great because every other month you get plans plus the step-by-step articles and
photos that help you with the build. If you want more projects ideas,
well you can get books. Same thing, the books provide the step-by-step procedures, article, and then the plans. Now, if you’re a little bit more advanced and don’t need that. Well, you can just purchase the plans. The plans have all the dimensions
and the joinery on it that you need. Now there are some disadvantages to it. The disadvantage is,
perhaps the project you were hoping to build isn’t in this issue
of the magazine that month. So a lot of people will go online they’ll find
photos on Pinterest, or Instagram, Facebook. They have the photo, but now
they don’t have the plans. Well let me help you figure out how you can
make your own plans from that photo. So recently a customer of mine was online
looking at photos of kitchens and they fell in love with this bench. They asked me if I could make it. Working with only this photo I had no plans, but there are ways that I can figure out the size
and make plans of my own. Now if you click on the link in the description you can get the sizes of certain standard
heights of furniture. From that list I was able to look at the dining room table and that’s approximately 30 inches tall. A seat, standard height, is about 18
inches. Working with that I can now use my ruler, divide this into 18 segments, and that will give me a unit
of measurement to work with. Now to make things a little bit easier
I took the photo and I blew it up in size. And let’s just say for ease that 1/8″ equals one inch. From that I could easily measure,
the thickness of the leg, the depth of the seat, I could even figure out the
components for the back. Now keep in mind that this photo is on a
perspective angle. So the stuff in the back is gonna appear smaller. That’s why I worked with all my
references up towards the front. Now, to build this
piece I had to modify it a little bit. From the photo it’s much longer
and here it’s shorter because I was making it exactly for
my customers dining room table. The other thing too, was
their children were gonna sit on this, so instead of the standard 18 inches tall I made it 19 so they sit a little bit
closer to the table. The last thing I did was, from the photo, it looked
like the legs sat in a little too far for me. I was worried about a kid standing on this
and not sitting and it tipping over. All in all, it looks really close to the
photo and the customer loved it. Now perhaps you don’t even want to work from photos. You’re a designer yourself,
you want to make your own unique pieces. Well that’s what I like to do and from a pencil sketch, Now I’m going to show you how you can
make, build, and design your own piece of furniture. So recently I’ve been wanting to build an occasional table or a nightstand for my own home and I want to do it in the Arts and Crafts style. Here’s some pencil sketches that I did. You see I have several on here but
I finally settled on this look here. So just like what I did with the photo,
I’m gonna blow this up because now I have to make my detailed plans and measurements Now if I wanted my table to be about 28 inches high and I scaled it out, well by the time I measured it, it was gonna be 40 inches long, more like a small desk. So I went the other way,
I thought well I’ll make it about 28 inches long and when I did the scale
again now it’s way too short. So at this point I had to come up with a different plan and what I did was, I went with some graph paper. Using the graph paper I could come up with the scale and I changed the measurements a little bit on the length but I have the height that I want. and again using the graph paper with that scale, I was able to figure out the other sizes for the components. Now, there are things out there such as
Sketchup which you can get online and you can do a digital version
of your drawing, on the computer. So even though I’m really liking
the look of what I have here on Sketchup I really want to work out the little fine details to it, so I’ve decided to make a full-size
mock version of this table Even though it looks nice here,
there’s a few more things you have to consider and that is your hardware. Now this has a drawer on it, so at some
point I’m gonna have to put a glide on it. If this was a cabinet and had a door,
I’m gonna need a hinge. and this is really important to have
because after you start doing your build you don’t want to have to figure out
then that the drawer is not gonna fit because you didn’t measure for the glide. The other advantage of having a full-size
mock-up version is I can place it in the room where it’s going to go. Is it too tall for that room? Is the lamp
too big that’s going to sit on it? And I can adjust it from there
but what I really like about having this is now my eye has a better chance to look at the
finer details and what I’ve decided on here is these steps,
I’m gonna cut them back a little bit and then I’m gonna move the edge of the drawer
so it’s gonna be in line with that step. Also, I have these squares on it and I haven’t quite decided yet
what I want to do with the squares. Are they gonna go all the way through? Am I gonna put a button on them? I’m still not sure yet
but I definitely like the three squares. Now on the shelf I have the
Shelf being held in with these tusk tenon’s and again I have these tusk tenon’s close
and here they’re a little bit wider. I decided I liked the wider
look and I’m even going to refine it more and I’m gonna have the tenon line
up with the edge of the splat. Also, you notice I don’t have the splat on this side. Again, letting me decide, do I like it
more open or with the splat in it? Having a full-size model definitely has its advantages but I understand, making
one takes time and material. And if you don’t have the time for that I highly suggest that you make a small-scale version of your project. Now this was real simple,
again this is made out of scrap wood. I just hot glued it together but
it really helped define the details of the project. So I made this from my Sketchup drawings,
which looked great. Once I made this there was something that didn’t seem right about it and I couldn’t figure it out. So I put it on my dining room table and every morning was the first thing I saw when I walked past it. Now I remember an interior decorator
once telling me that when he does a room he wants your eye to flow through the
whole room. It shouldn’t zero in on anything. and that’s the problem that I
had with my coffee table. my eye kept zeroing in on the stretcher,
it wasn’t right. I changed the stretcher five times,
until finally that one morning I go past it and I thought, “Oh that looks good” and
then I realized I didn’t look at the stretcher at all! That’s when I knew I had it right and from there it was time to do the actual build. So now that I’ve decided on my design I have to
consider the material I’m gonna build it out of Now if this was a really big piece doing it out of
solid wood could get expensive. So an alternative for large pieces is plywood. Plywood will have a thin veneerof the
actual wood you want on it but the cores, well there’s different types of plywoods out there. The plywood that I like to use is this
veneer cored plywood. It’s actually thin layers of real wood glued together going in opposite grain directions. This makes it very stable and gives it a lot of
strength when you put a fastener into it. If you want a lower grade or more affordable plywood there’s what they call chip core, and this essentially is large pieces of sawdust and chips of
wood that they’ve put together with glue. The third type of plywood that’s out there is MDF. Which is medium density
fiberboard. Essentially what this is it’s fine sawdust mixed with resin and glue and other chemicals and I highly suggest that if you’re gonna work with this you wear a good mask with it. Now MDF can weigh about twice as much
as your veneer cored plywood and the holding properties for any
kind of fasteners is quite poor. So I’ve decided I’m gonna build my project out of solid wood and in this case white quarter sawn oak. Now when you’re dealing with solid wood
there are some challenges, in this case, wood movement and that wood movement
is going to come into play into my joinery. So let me show you some examples of
the issues that were up against and how we’re going to deal with that
wood movement problem. So on this project the
biggest piece is the top and this is where I’m gonna have the
most amount of wood movement. Now, wood expands and contracts
through the width of it because it’s grabbing and taking in
moisture on the end grain. It’s not gonna be affected so much in
length but it will in width and for that I have to makesure that this can move, otherwise it can cup and even split. So here’s how I’m gonna do that. On the aprons, I’m gonna run a
groove on the inside of it. That groove then is gonna get what we’ll call a button. and you can see it has a tongue
that will go into that groove. and I’ll make a series of these with holes in
them so I can then put a screw in it and the screw will get fastened to the bottom side of our top piece allowing that wood movement. Now the next point of concern I have
is where the aprons come in to the leg. And the joinery that I’m going to do for
that is a mortise and tenon. So here we have the mortise that will be
on the leg and the tenon will be on the apron. Now when I do my mortise and tenons,
I like this part, which we’ll call the cheek I like that to fit more snug than the shoulder cut. Reason being is that traditionally when this goes
together that wood again is gonna expand and contract and you’ll want a
little bit of movement in there. However with today’s modern glue it’s gonna hold
this so tight it’s not going to have that option to move back and forth and
I’m not really too concerned about it on a piece this small because it’s not
going to get as much movement as a large piece. However, traditionally the way it
was done to prevent that, and you have to consider
they didn’t have glue hundreds of years ago, Whoa, timeout. They actually did have
glue hundreds of years ago or forms of it. They would use tar or pine resin they even then would make hide glue but it was timely and expensive but today’s modern glue is incredibly affordable and it’s stronger than ever. is you have a mortise and tenon –
and you notice I have the hole in it. This will go in and the holes are drilled offset.
They’re not in perfect alignment. Those holes now, I’m gonna use a dowel pin and
when I drive it in its gonna pull over This is gonna hold it tight from pulling out but
I still have the room for that to expand and contract. the other thing I need to focus on is
what I’m gonna do for the drawer. Now I actually love to make dovetail drawers. Not only are they beautiful but
they’re incredibly strong. When you pull it one direction
it actually wedges itself in they’re getting tighter but when you pull it the
other direction, well it can come apart. Now making a dovetail, it can take
some time and practice to master it. So another option you can do is a rabbet joint. The rabbet joint when it goes together it still has decent strength because of the shoulder it creates and then with some glue and nails
it’s gonna hold just fine So just in summary, when you are building a piece
not only should it look good but you want to make sure that you
pick the right joinery so it lasts a long time. On today’s episode we covered
the basics of furniture design. We made sure that itserves a purpose, that it has good construction, and that it looks nice. On the next episode we’re going to cover
lumber selection in more detail. As well as proper ways to mill
and prep for your next build. so make sure you click on
subscribe and catch every episode of Helping You Make Wood Work®


20 thoughts on “Helping You Make Wood Work : Episode 1 – Basic Furniture Design

  1. OUTSTANDING! This is an excellent start to your new series. Chad did a fantastic job explaining the basics on designing furniture. I’m anxiously waiting for the future episodes. Thanks.

  2. Woodcraft folks, thanks for sponsoring this series. Chad is a wonderful teacher and his experience and practical knowledge is a wealth of good information. I'm looking forward to this series as I've been wanting to move more into the design of my own pieces instead of just reproducing other people's plans for my projects.

  3. Thank you Chad and Woodcraft! You guys all did an amazing job on this video and it was packed full of information. Looking forward to the next one!

  4. Very nice video on furniture design . I still have one of my first and still favorite books written by Norm, measure twice cut once.

  5. AWESOME! Excellent introduction to the new series, Chad! Great information for the novice and even better reminders for those who need "refreshers." Looking forward to the entire series!

  6. Very enjoyable Chad. Great info. It would be great if Woodcraft extended this series beyond 4 episodes. Keep up the good work. BTW, although I do miss Safety Dan, I'm glad they don't have you dancing at the end. (I couldn't resist).

  7. Very nice video. Clear, concise, professional and a joy to watch. I hope Woodcraft continues to sponsor Chad's videos.

  8. Fantastic first video Chad BUT where is the dancing at the end???? Seriously though, even after 50+ years of woodworking, I picked up pointer or two from this. Can't wait for the next episode. Really can't wait for your book! ! ! !

  9. Thank you Woodcraft for starring Chad Stanton, I love his fresh and humurous way of teaching!

  10. Throughly enjoyed this video. Just the right length of time and extremely, for me, informative. Keep 'em coming.

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