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Finally, a Project I Really Want to Build

comments (7) January 12th, 2010 in blogs

Tom Tom McKenna, Managing Editor
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Humpty Dumpty sat on a bench. It looks pretty ragtag, but the cardboard mockup helped me dial in dimensions and proportions.
Finding my wooden legs. To get a 3D look at the legs, I made a couple mockups out of poplar. The 2 in. version (left) was overpowering and hefty. I like the 1 1/2 in. version better.
Humpty Dumpty sat on a bench. It looks pretty ragtag, but the cardboard mockup helped me dial in dimensions and proportions. - CLICK TO ENLARGE

Humpty Dumpty sat on a bench. It looks pretty ragtag, but the cardboard mockup helped me dial in dimensions and proportions.

Photo: Tom McKenna

I have a lot of things to build for my home this year. They're more honey-do's than wanna-do's. Any time I get to build something is fun, but the honey-do projects don't present a whole lot of creative challenges--other than better time management. This year, however, I'm taking on a project I've always wanted to tackle: a cabinet on-stand. I'm currently in the design stage, but I was having some trouble.

You see, I don't see things in my mind in 3D, and I'm not a great illustrator; my drawings don't give the full effect of proportion and part dimensions. Many times I've built a piece only to realize that a shelf, a side, or a leg (you get the picture) is too big or fat. After the finish is on is not the point I want to see such design flaws.

This time I'm making an effort to dial in the design as much as possible before I start cutting up the stock. Many of the staff members, and many pros I've visited over the years, develop full-size mockups to gauge proportion and dimensions. I've joined the fray.

Although my sketches looked okay, I went ahead and made a cardboard mockup of the case and a couple legs. It took some cutting and taping, but I'm happy with he proportion of the case. The cardboard didn't allow for a 3D view of the legs, so I made a wooden mockup of those, too. I'm happy I did, because the 2 in. dimension I had sketched ended up looking like a square Louisville Slugger. I trimmed it down to 1 1/2 in. and was satisfied. I also used blue masking tape to gauge the taper on the bottom of the legs.

Now that I'm happy with the overall proportions, I can revise the my original sketches and work up a detailed plan, including joinery. I'll give updates as I progress. Be patient, though, I have other things to make at home, like two bookcases, a bathroom vanity and medicine cabinet, some basement storage shelves, window seats for my porch...


posted in: blogs, cabinet, design, mockup

Comments (7)

Tom Tom writes: But then I wouldn't be able to watch the game or eat my nachos without making a large mess.
Posted: 3:27 pm on January 18th

saschafer saschafer writes:
Hey, with a laptop, you can learn SketchUp _while_ you're in a warm pub!

Multitasking, you know.


Posted: 9:16 am on January 18th

Tom Tom writes: I wish I had more time to learn about SketchUp. Honestly, I'd rather spend the little free time I have in the shop... or at a nice warm pub.
Posted: 9:01 am on January 18th

DaveRichards DaveRichards writes: Tom, I look forward to seeing more of this project. I like the mock up idea. Michael's mock up was good, too.

telkwa has a point although seeing it full size so you can walk around it has a lot of advantages. Of course you know that you can learn SketchUp through the Design. Click. Build. blog right here on

Just for grins, I did a SketchUp mock up of your cabinet. I think it looks just fine.
Posted: 1:10 pm on January 15th

telkwa telkwa writes: you should try sketchup, its easy to use and to learn. there are also thousands of free tutorials on youtube.
Posted: 11:54 am on January 15th

Tom Tom writes: Thanks, Gina. Just ignore some of my harsh language in the FWW shop as I build this thing. By the way, folks should also check out Mike Pekovich's blog on how he used a mockup in building his Arts and Crafts display case:

His project will be published in FWW #211.
Posted: 9:13 am on January 14th

GEide GEide writes: Sounds fun. Good luck with the project! -Gina
Posted: 4:42 pm on January 13th

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