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Armoire Student 1

Design Lesson -- Freebie

This is a lesson in using a computer to design your own woodworking projects. It is how we design all our computer desks but you can use the same approach to design anything you need. For an example, we will be using The Student Armoire Desk.

Design Lesson Graphic 1

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  1. Choosing CAD Software

    Your best bet is to get an inexpensive CAD system and draw up an arrangement of computer pieces and then design the desk to fit them. This same approach will work well for an entertainment center or even a sewing center. You first draw up what you want and then design a wood working project to meet your need.

    I use AutoSketch 6.0 for all our design work. I consider it a good buy at about $100.

    Some of our customers report that Delta Cad (about $40) produces good results and can read the .DXF file format we produce.

    Layers -- Design Lesson Graphic 2
  2. Starting the drawing

    The first thing to do is start a new drawing. For furniture, I usually use a 1:10 scale (printout to real world) and place the origin at the lower left hand corner. I then lay out the drawing in terms of 8.5 by 11 pages because that is the size my printer handles. I set the margins to be just slightly wider than the printer minimally requires.

    Layers are a very powerful tool for doing this kind of drawing. I usually define the following six layers:

    1. -- Desk (black, wide solid lines)
    2. -- Guide Lines (purple, narrow solid lines)
    3. -- Computer (red, narrow solid lines)
    4. -- Text (blue)
    5. -- Dimensions (dark green, narrow solid lines)
    6. -- Hidden Lines (dark green, narrow dashed lines)

    Each layer has a default color, line width, and line type associated with it.

    I use the lower left page as the front view, the side view to its right, and the top view above it. The front and side view may fit in on one page for small projects. I also drawing in a green line to represent the floor in the front and side views.

    Equipment -- Design Lesson Graphic 3
  3. Measuring Your Equipment

    Measure each piece of equipment (computer, monitor, etc.) that you wish to include in the piece. Draw them up as simple boxy front, side, and top views on the Computer Layer. If you are not working on a computer desk, you may need to draw up your TV or sewing machine. Save each view as a separate library image.

    If you think you might someday buy a new type or larger piece of equipment, go to the store and measure the size of the larger device.

    Also if you are using a near finished part such as a turned leg or a drawer, draw these up on the Desk Layer and put them in a library.

    Placement -- Design Lesson Graphic 4
  4. Placing the Equipment

    Arrange them in mid air to suit your needs and specific space. We have an exercise on our Web Site to help you work out the best arrangement of the key components. It is called Air Typing

    Also draw the floor (I show a green carpet) and draw limit lines on the Guide Line Layer to show the available floor space.

  5. Library Work

    If you want your furniture to be of a specific style like Early American or Mission, go to the local library and look up books on furniture styles. Make photocopies of the drawings you like best. For computer furniture look at writing desks, all tables, and wardrobes.

  6. Drawing the Piece

    Draw up the piece in three views: front, side, and top. Start with the table tops and shelves that will hold the equipment you have already placed. Fill in legs and drawers and such in the style you have chosen. Finish with details and trim.

    Use long lines on the Guide Lines Layer to transfer dimensions. Also frequently copy pieces of one view to the margins of another view perhaps rotating the copy. This easier than using a old procedure of drawing a 45 degree line to project side view dimensions to the top view and visa-versa.

    Add some text, the most important hidden lines, and the overall dimensions. Do not include so many hidden lines that you cannot tell the true appearance. Printout your three views and check them on paper.

  7. Detailing the Piece

    When you are completely happy with your three views it is time to detail all the parts. Copy pieces of the views to new pages and erase all the lines except those for one part. Take the project apart one piece at a time. Show only as many views as you need to define a part (usually one or two) and add all hidden lines. Add lots of text and dimensions.

    Don't forget to do a plywood lay out showing any cut you will need to have done at the store. This will also tell you how many pieces of plywood you need.

  8. Writing the Construction Notes

    Use a separate word processor file and write a description of what you are doing. Be sure to include a detailed materials list with prices from your local supplier. Choose the wood you want to use and find a source for all hard to find hardware. Even if the construction notes are only to yourself they are a tremendous aid in understanding how you will complete your project and how much it will cost.

  9. Building the Piece

    Now you can build you piece with confidence. Remember:

    We do not finish all projects we start,
    But we start all the projects we finish.

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