The Key to Consistent and Beautiful Woodworking Design

The Key to Consistent and Beautiful Woodworking Design


How do you go about designing a woodwork piece? Whether it’s furniture, or cabinets, or a more craft based type of woodwork— how do you design it? You can have a different technique for different types of projects. But I believe that if you want to be a successful woodwork designer/maker you must have a process. I’ve had this conversation with other woodworkers and not all agree with my viewpoint. Some arguments are; that having a design process isn’t very creative; or that some of the best work is done on-the-fly; or that it wastes time if you already know in your head what you want to make. I still stand by my argument. Here’s why.

A process is especially important if designing and making woodwork is your livelihood. But even if you’re a hobbyist it’s just as important for getting the most out of your time. A process is like a formula for success that you follow every time that gives you consistent results. It actually saves you time. If you have a process you never get stuck or have a woodworking equivalent of creative block or writer’s block. Instead you follow your process, and ideas flow. Following a process also removes a lot of opportunities for error. Especially if part of your process involves 3D modelling and producing a cutlist.

A hugely important part of woodwork or joinery design is setting out. I’ve done my fair share of setting out as part of a larger joinery design team that produced designs for up to 70 woodworkers out on a production floor. Setting out is producing accurate working drawings plus a cutlist to be followed for construction of a piece. Your drawing accuracy must be absolutely spot on when others are going to build a piece from your drawings and cutlist. In order to remove any opportunities for error it is vital to follow a process.

Everyone’s process will be a little different. Mine is very simple. I scribble and sketch any and every idea that comes into my head into a sketchbook. I even roughly draw the terrible ideas too. This helps me develop the general form and shape of the piece. I then take my outline into SketchUp and apply any measurement constraints that need to be taken into account. I work out what joinery methods are to be used. Then it’s refine, refine, refine. The small details make all the difference. Bevels, chamfers, tapers all can elevate a piece to a higher level.

Every time I go to make a piece, I know exactly what I’m going to do. I follow the steps of my process one after the other. I can design most projects in under an hour and am ready to start cutting then. I don’t spend ages staring into a blank screen, or out in the workshop holding pieces of timber up to each other to see what might work. I get consistent results all the time— quickly. This is ultra important if woodworking is your livelihood. Slightly less so if you’re a hobbyist.

But everyone has their own way. You just need to find what works for you.

Think about your design process. Do you have one? I love that my process helps me reduce errors, save time, produce designs consistently, and become more efficient. I honestly can’t think of a downside.

I’d love to know what you think in the comments below.

P.S. If you liked this article, you may also like to get free and practical tips on woodworking techniques, business growth, productivity, and more in your inbox each week (you’ll also get the “How to Make a Living From Woodworking” PDF guide). Simply SIGN UP HERE to get exclusive access to a wealth of knowledge.

This post appeared first on

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This website nor its owners are an actual service provider, this website is a referral service. When you place a phone call from this website, it will route you to a licensed, professional service provider that serves your area. For more information refer to our terms of service.


(877) 959-3534