Furniture Project Planning

Remmert Studios Apprenticeship

Section 18

Project Planning


|      Purpose or Function of Piece


What function will the piece serve

Decide what design features are necessities

If building a chair will it need arms and a back?

A chair will likely need a seat of some sort

A desk might require a drawer or perhaps not

A bookcase must be larger than a snuff box ? factor size into design


Where will it go

A piece should be harmonious with its surroundings

A shaker table would likely not work in a room filled with gold gilt furniture and red velvet


Who is it going to

Keep in mind who the piece is destined for

A piece of furniture unappreciated by those who live with it will probably have a short lifespan


Why was the project commissioned



In Memorium

Details such as these may impact the overall design


|      Generating the Form or Idea


Doodle Many Ideas

Create doodles of any and every idea that might be usable

Don?t erase or refine at this stage

Make more doodles

Draw some different looking doodles

Tired of doodling? Keep drawing more

Sometimes it helps to ?sketch? in styrofoam , carboard, etc.


Create Variations

Identify some potential ideas from the doodles and develop them

Push the idea in several directions

These sketches will be more refined than doodles but not overly so


Refine One Idea

Take the most promising idea and start adding details

Be sure to sketch in important elements such as drawers in this stage





Before continuing make an assessment of the idea?s feasibility

Sometimes a great looking design is impossible to make function

Sometimes the idea is completely beyond any reasonable budget

A quick assessment here may save time from being wasted in the next step


|      Choosing Materials


Does the design dictate certain materials have to be used?

If not, then attempt to choose the best materials for the purpose and budget

Furniture needs to be built well enough to survive generations of use

Budget is important but remember that materials are often the lowest cost of a project

Pinching pennies on materials may result in substandard quality for minimal price reduction


How does dimensional instability affect the design?

Durability vs. decorative?


|       Choosing Joinery


Choose joints that resist the forces that may be applied to them in use

Don?t overbuild

Using secret mitered dovetails where a floating tenon would work is an unwise expenditure of time

Don?t underbuild

A dowel joint resists shearing force well but not pulling force

Use joints according to their merits


|       Develop the Model


Overall appearance is already decided upon


Sketchup is a good tool for this part of the design phase


Mistakes are easy to correct with the undo button

Models can be copied and variations made until all issues are resolved

No need for scale and full size drawings, one drawing does it all

Mockups are typically not needed

Exceptions to the above involve furniture designed for ergonomics

Something designed on the computer will likely be uncomfortable unless tested by mockup

It is never necessary to throw away work saved in a computer file to save space


Alternative methods to do this include full-size drawings, mockups and prototypes


Effective but very time-consuming

Depending upon budget there may be less time to explore variations before committing

Storage becomes an issue when many drawings, and mockups are being made

It is tempting to throw out these things that cause clutter but they are important documentation

Keep as much design documentation as can be organized and filed for future reference


|       Troubleshoot Potential Issues


When designing avoid taking on too many new challenges in a single project

Make sure that each part is possible to fabricate or that suitable expertise is available


What are the stumbling points preventing design resolution?

Resolve these details before moving onto the rest of the project if possible

Occasionally an issue is impossible to resolve without some sort of design alteration

Be prepared to think outside of the parameters of the original design if need be

Changing size of parts, using different materials or learning a new skill can provide solutions


If no resolutions are forthcoming talk to someone else

It is easy to think oneself into an inescapable box so outside perspective can help

If all else fails set the problem aside and switch projects

Be sure to switch to a different project as it would be a shame to spend too much time on a dead end

Be observant and take ideas in even when not working on the project

The best solutions are often obtained when not on the job


Do not ignore the possibility of restarting the design process at an earlier phase

The best designs are not always the first one


Avoid the trap of refusing to commit to any design

At some point a positive decision has to be made

No design is perfect but it should be better than none at all



|      Identify Fabrication Processes


At this stage it should already be roughly known how each part is to be fabricated

Now is the time to decide exactly how to fabricate them


Can everything be done by machines without special jigs?

Machines do most 90 degree cuts and simple angles well

If not by machine, can the rest be done efficiently with hand tool skills?

If not, then jigs will need to be designed

Spend some time designing appropriate jig concepts


|      Create Working Drawings


This is where the critical dimensions are calculated and drawn

Be sure to flesh out exactly how all functional parts are incorporated

Choose exact dimensions for all details

Select a method of joinery for each joint in the project

Layout every joint to make sure all parts work together


Design jigs to make the necessary cuts

If possible try to design the jig so it can be used in other applications too


|     Generate Bill of Materials


Create a full cutlist

Create a material order list



Link the the last page of the Artisan ArchivesLink to the next page of the Artisan Archives

Link to the Index of the Artisan Archives