Envisioning every step of a project before beginning

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Forum topic by Planeman40 posted 03-08-2019 04:45 PM 879 views 0 times favorited 26 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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1523 posts in 3673 days

03-08-2019 04:45 PM

I was just sitting on the porcelain throne (where I do some of my best thinking) pondering a project I am about to begin. It is something I have never done before so I wanted to look for trouble and the best procedure to do the job. Going through each step in my mind, I thought about the best series of steps. Imagining different ways to accomplish what I wanted and then picking the best solution. I was building the project mentally.

I began to wonder how others might begin a difficult project and thought I would ask. We all may learn something. Speak up guys and gals!

-- Always remember: It is a mathematical certainty that half the people in this country are below average in intelligence!

26 replies so far

View CWWoodworking's profile


1131 posts in 1091 days

#1 posted 03-08-2019 05:11 PM

I work within a system and stick to it. I’m good at it and I reuse/recycle ideas on a lot of new projects.

Admittedly, most of my stuff is pretty amateurish and easy to make. And I’m doing this to make money. But I think if you don’t re-invent the wheel on every single project, things go much more smoothly.

View percent20's profile


18 posts in 654 days

#2 posted 03-08-2019 05:24 PM

I am just getting into wood working, but I really like using sketchup to design what I am thinking. While I am modeling it out I think about how I would do that step.

-- My Attempt at Instagram:

View ralbuck's profile


6607 posts in 3178 days

#3 posted 03-08-2019 05:28 PM

Well, I am as usual-odd man out- many of my things just seem to form themselves as I go along. Starting with a basic idea and let it work itself out.

I do not do super complicated things though; way past my patience levels.

-- Wood rescue is good for the environment and me! just rjR

View diverlloyd's profile


4029 posts in 2769 days

#4 posted 03-08-2019 05:29 PM

I visualize my projects then do a rough sketch. After that it’s to the shop to build it and after to draw an nice blue print if I want to make another one. Visualizing a project worked for Nikola Tesla and it hasn’t let me down yet.

View LesB's profile


2662 posts in 4355 days

#5 posted 03-08-2019 05:31 PM

The “throne” is a good place to relieve the pressure on the brain so maybe that is why it is easier to get mentally organized. However having hemorrhoids makes prolonged evaluations on the throne painful. I know TMI…..LOL

For all but simple projects I do a schematic drawing with a CAD program or Sketchup if I need 3D, to make sure everything works and even then I sometimes make modifications during the building process. I also tend to think out complicated or difficult projects for multiple days. It seems the over time the sub-conscious often find a solution the active mind misses.

-- Les B, Oregon

View bandit571's profile


26941 posts in 3595 days

#6 posted 03-08-2019 05:34 PM

I use the Single Brain Cell Sketch Up…..sometimes I’ll make a paper copy of what it designs…otherwise, it is all in my head…

-- A Planer? I'M the planer, this is what I use

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3014 posts in 1852 days

#7 posted 03-08-2019 05:47 PM

In architecture and construction, logic flow diagrams or flow charts are used to plot a logical order of events. They illustrate how one aspect or process of a project influences another and when a process or component can be deployed or implemented. They can also provide a timeline of events. I only just started employing this in my workshop projects. They’re mostly just notes or blurbs attached to my sketches. Nothing formal, but they seem to be keeping me out of the weeds. I guess the suggestion is to write your throne thoughts down ;)

-- Bill, Yo! Brooklyn & Steel City :)

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1523 posts in 3673 days

#8 posted 03-08-2019 05:53 PM

Interesting replies. I guess I should point out I have been building stuff since I was a child, beginning with model airplanes and moving on to wood and metal working at about seventeen (1957). I worked weekends and summers at a local hobby shop and used the money to begin building my shop. The first big purchase was a 6” Atlas metal lathe sold by Sears. I say this as building things in my mind is as natural to me as breathing as I have been building for 70 years. Occasionally I will make a rough pencil sketch with dimensions, but that is as far as I go.
Anyway, I suggest some of you try the “build it in your mind”. You will find it eliminates many mistakes and re-dos and makes the project go easier.

-- Always remember: It is a mathematical certainty that half the people in this country are below average in intelligence!

View tyvekboy's profile


2075 posts in 3925 days

#9 posted 03-08-2019 06:02 PM

I also mentally go through the steps of procedures of my projects like you do. I also consider the order of the steps so I donʻt do one step that makes another step more difficult.

Sometimes I use screws to temporarily hold pieces together or dry clamp parts before gluing up.

An example was when I was building my rocking chair. I found out that if I didnʻt put the seat loosely in place before I glued up the chair I would never be able to put it where it belonged. I found that out when I dry clamped it before gluing. After the glue up the seat was screwed in place.

The best tool in my shop is SketchUp. I can virtually build things before cutting my first piece of wood. It also helps me see where problems in assembly may arise.

Even projects as big as an addition to my house can benefit from this tool.

This was the concept in SketchUp.

This is pre-construction.

This is post-construction. Itʻs not finished yet. So far things are going as planned. The only changes made to the original design was the addition of the balcony support posts due to inspectorʻs guidance. That required a change in eliminating the complex stairs I originally designed to a simpler straight stairs.

I spent a year in designing the addition. I started construction in July 2018. Hopefully Iʻll be done in April 2019.

The hardest thing in building things is being patient. We all want to get projects to the completed state and just canʻt wait to get there.

After my final building inspection Iʻll be working on setting up the additional basement space which will be my new shop addition which prompted the building of the addition.

And now you know why I havenʻt been posting projects in the last 2 years.

-- Tyvekboy -- Marietta, GA ………….. one can never be too organized

View pottz's profile


12223 posts in 1896 days

#10 posted 03-08-2019 06:05 PM

thats how i do all my projects,i run a project through my mind step by step even envisioning the smallest details then i will do a crude drawing basically just for keeping dimensions straight.look at my last project and you will see what i mean,i show my “sketchup” drawing.the only project ive ever done from plans was the maloof i will often redesign as i go altering my original works for me.

-- working with my hands is a joy,it gives me a sense of fulfillment,somthing so many seek and so few find.-SAM MALOOF.

View Planeman40's profile


1523 posts in 3673 days

#11 posted 03-08-2019 06:08 PM

Tyvekboy, having been in your shop, you can sure use a little more room! I hope to see the new addition one day.

-- Always remember: It is a mathematical certainty that half the people in this country are below average in intelligence!

View jdmaher's profile


470 posts in 3491 days

#12 posted 03-08-2019 06:43 PM

I’m a very part-time hobbyist, but over the years I’ve tried two basic approaches –
1. Think it thru VERY carefully.
2. Make it up as I go.

I do not recommend the latter. It took 5 years to finish that project. However, the result is my absolute favorite piece – by far.

Usually, I build a piece of casework, almost always inspired by someone else’s build. So, I know at least a general approach to what I’m going to make. But I always want to do something at least a bit different than my inspiration piece. So I proceed like this.

I do a rough sketch of the inspiration piece, using Sketchup. Then I sketch out my modifications, trial and error, on a copy of the inspiration drawing. That always seems to generate several different versions, but I keep all of these “rough”. Until I get something I like.

Then I re-draw the final concept. This time, I use fairly precise measurements and include all the details (e.g., joints, hardware, etc.). Importantly, I re-draw the finished components in the build sequence. If I intend to build the top first, I draw the top first. If the legs will be tapered and have apron mortises, I draw the mortises BEFORE I “trim away” the tapers. As I do this re-draw, I actually think through exactly how I’m going to perform each operation in the real world – and make a note of it (usually on a text file of “steps”).

I even think through milling steps. If I’m trying to build a 1” thick top and I know I have two pieces of 6/4 material I’m gonna use, I draw the rough boards, place a copy of the drawing of the finished top in front of the drawing of the rough boards, and “place” the finished top approximately where I’m gonna cut it out of the rough boards, and draw some lines on the rough boards drawing to show the rough cut size. This way, I know exactly how much of the rough boards I have left for other components. And, of course, I take notes (e.g., plane to 1”, and rough cut dimensions).

This process also helps me minimize operations, since diligent placement of components on the rough board drawing means I can often use a long rip down one side for Part A to serve as the side cuts for Parts B & C. Just as you’d do if you were laying out components on a sheet of plywood for maximal yield.

The point is that the final drawing exercise is used as a framework within which to plan each of the build operations. It also serves as a final check for “forgotten” component and operation requirements (e.g., table top button fasteners and the slots to seat them in).

And, for me, the drawing steps are almost as much fun as the real world build.

-- Jim Maher, Illinois

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6141 posts in 1501 days

#13 posted 03-08-2019 06:45 PM

+1 SketchUp.

-- Half of what we read or hear about finishing is right. We just don’t know which half! — Bob Flexner

View CWWoodworking's profile


1131 posts in 1091 days

#14 posted 03-08-2019 06:57 PM

One aspect I used to struggle with and believe most beginners do-finishing.

Personally, I apply the KISS method as much as possible when it comes to finishing. And please, samples, samples, samples.

View kevskoolstuff's profile


1 post in 626 days

#15 posted 03-08-2019 07:30 PM

I like to read plans, tips, and tricks from magazines and buy books online to research the hec out of things. Mostly procrastinating I think. Here is the latest book I ordered online to help me set up a brand new shop in a single car garage that I just got.

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