A Guide to Drawing Up Furniture Plans

Everyone knows that there are thousands of ready-to-use furniture plans out there. But sometimes, you may want something more customized for your apartment. Drawing up furniture plans is always a good way to personalize your woodworking and create unique features.

There are several ways to draw up furniture plans, such as using graph paper, SketchUp, or more professional software such as Solidworks and PRO100. You can either decide to draw by hand or use a CAD application.

Whether it’s because of a space problem or simply because you want to add creative bliss to your self-made furniture, here’s a complete guide on why and how to draw up a furniture plan.

Why You Should Draw a Furniture Plan

There are many reasons why you’d want to draw a customized furniture plan. Here are a few examples:

  • Space problem: When ready-made furniture can’t fit your room, you have no choice but to design your own furniture.
  • Saving energy: A furniture plan gives you a roadmap and minimizes your errors. So, you’re less likely to redo the process.
  • Avoiding waste of material: Drawing a woodworking plan provides you with a lumber list. So, you can cut your lumber with minimal waste.
  • Faster results: Everything with an organized roadmap takes place faster, and the woodworking journey is no exception.
  • Visual judgment: Drawing a furniture plan gives you a chance to see the final result, eliminate bad features, and make it look the way you want.

Think of an Idea

Regardless of your drawing method, first, you should come up with an idea. The Internet has always been the richest source of inspiration. So, surf the net and fish for all sorts of stuff that might relate to your specific furniture (e.g., chairs, tables, bookshelves, etc.). 

A Guide to Drawing Up Furniture Plans

Remember that you don’t have to limit yourself to a single category of items. Inspiration can come from anywhere. For example, you might see a tall apartment building and think of a cool design for a chair or a sofa! There are no limits. 

Once you’ve made up your mind, pick a piece of paper and try to draw a quick sketch of what you’re imagining. You don’t need to be an artist to do this. The whole idea is to have a basic impression of the shape and style of what you’re going to make.

Then, you can start refining the first sketch until it’s closest to your dream furniture. For example, you may need to try many different leg shapes, erase or redraw some lines, and add more details step by step.

After that, you should think about your furniture’s size and write the estimated dimensions on a piece of paper. Include a length, height, and width for each piece of furniture, such as table legs, apron, side stretchers, etc.

Once you’ve created a rough sketch of what’s in your head, it’s time to get into the details and draw up a full-fledged plan that takes you one step closer to your finished furniture. 

Using Graph Paper

Graph paper is a type of writing paper that comes with hundreds of vertical and horizontal fine lines crossing to each other, creating a consistent grid. The grid serves as a guide for plotting diagrams. Graph paper is also called grid paper, coordinate paper, or square paper. 

A Guide to Drawing Up Furniture Plans

To draw a furniture plan on grid paper, you need to have the right tools and understand how the paper works. 

Here’s a list of handy tools:

  • Grid pad
  • Architecture scale
  • T-square
  • Eraser
  • Mechanical pencil
  • Circle template (optional)

Each square on a grid paper is a quarter of an inch long. Since a furniture plan is a smaller representation of your actual work, you can assign your own scales. For example, you can assume that each square represents one inch. So, if your piece of furniture is 20 inches wide, you should draw your plan on 20 squares. You can also use a ruler, so you don’t have to count the squares!

There are two ways to use graph paper:

  • To draw a template for your cuts: This helps you develop a lumber list and minimize material loss.
  • To draw a representation of your final work: This helps you visualize and adjust your idea before you implement it. 

How to Make a Lumber List With Grid Paper

Here’s a step-by-step process to identify your pieces and their dimensions:

  1. Consider a scale for each square of the graph paper.
  2. Then, draw a big rectangle to represent the actual wood sheet you want to cut. For example, if you’re considering each square as one inch and your wood sheets are 40×50 inches, you should draw a rectangle with 40 squares long and five squares wide. Then you can draw other pieces inside the rectangle.
  3. Figure out how many pieces you need for the project, write the names down on a draft, and specify a dimension for each (one tabletop: 18×32”, four legs: 2×16”, etc.).
  4. Following the same scale, transfer the dimensions into the graph paper and draw each component right inside the bigger rectangle. Remember that you should start from the corner to avoid wasting the wood. Also, you should include a single-square interval between each part for more accuracy.
  5. Use the circle template to draw complex shapes. This provides you with more space to fit other shapes like a puzzle.
  6. After drawing each part, label it so that you won’t get confused later on.
  7. If there’s no more space on the first sheet, draw another rectangle to represent your second sheet, and start fitting other components. Continue the process until you draw all the components of your draft.
  8. Once completed, you’ll get a good sense of how many sheets you need. So, you can transfer the gridded pattern to the actual wood sheets and start cutting.

How to Use Grid Paper on Your Computer

You can do the same process with a PDF graph paper. It’s easier to draw your computer plans instead of graph paper because you don’t have to worry about making mistakes. Besides, you don’t need to buy and store piles of graph paper in your workshop, both economical and environment-friendly.

You can easily download a blank grid paper PDF file and keep it on your system. This way, you won’t need to print the copies unless you have drawn a plan and want to use it in your project. PDF files are much more convenient to print, scale-up, and transfer to your actual project.

There are plenty of applications that let you draw on digital grid paper. Using Bamboo Paper, you can make sketches right on your phone and even co-draw the plan with a friend. DigiGraph is also a free application that lets you create drawings on a digital graph paper, save it, and share it with others.

Using Google Sketchup

Google SketchUp is a perfect tool for first-time designers. It’s a 3D drawing software that allows you to pre-build your custom furniture and provides you with a blueprint to start your woodworking.

To use it, open the Google Sketchup website, download the software, and install it on your computer. You can also opt for the web version, which is free and easy to use. Then, follow these steps to start drawing up your furniture plans.

Note that our guidelines are focused on designing a simple table. Once you master the steps, you can use the same approach to create other furniture as well.

  1. Launch the application, and you’ll see different layouts to choose from on the screen. Click on the “Woodworking” option and select your preferred unit of measurement—inches or millimeters. Then press the “Start Using SketchUp” button. 
  2. Drag the mouse to the left-side toolbar and click on the rectangle tool. Move the mouse to the center, where all axes join. Click and draw a small rectangle. Then left-click on the rectangle and type your custom dimensions in this order: width, comma, space, length (e.g., 18, 32). The rectangle’s dimensions will adjust accordingly.
  3. Use the “Push-Pull” tool and extrude the rectangle to the top so that you can make it thicker. Like the previous step, it doesn’t matter how far you drag the mouse because you can change the dimensions by typing your desired height.
  4. Triple-click your final shape to select the whole pattern, right-click and select “Make Component” to add a name for the part you just made.
  5. Hit the “Move Tool” and press the purple dot you can see at the bottom corner of the cuboid. Pull it up to create a distance where you can insert table legs. (again, right-click to set a specific dimension.
  6. Repeat steps 2 and 3 to create a leg. Then copy and paste the leg to create identical shapes for each corner of the table and place them in the right place.
  7. Again, create the stretchers, select the rectangle tool, find the purple dot on one of the legs, and draw a square on it. Then pull it aside to reach the other leg. Make it a component and do the same with all four sides.

Remember that we took the easiest approach. Angles were all 90 degrees, and we didn’t include any circular shapes. But you can use the same principles to improve your design and add more complex features. 

You can also use more professional versions of Google SketchUp if you’re comfortable with design software suites:

  • SketchUp Shop: Use this program to create your model like a pro. This Sketchup version is available for smartphones as well as PCs. It also allows you to work with various files such as STL, DWG, and DXF. However, since it requires a subscription fee, it’s not recommended for first-timers or those who do woodworking as a hobby. But it’s a handy tool for furniture makers.
  • SketchUp Pro: An advanced version of SketchUp for Web, this software is best for architects and engineering designers. It allows you to design the most specific details and, therefore, sell market-winning products.

Using Furniture Planning Applications for Professionals

So far, we’ve focused on design tools for beginners. Still, if you want to take things to the next level and design your furniture more professionally, these are your options:

Computer Assisted Design (CAD)

Computer Assisted Design (CAD) applications give you a host of features to visualize and edit your woodworking plans. However, they’re usually not free and may cost you anywhere from a few dozen to hundreds of dollars. 

You can use CAD in two ways. The first one is to pick an existing furniture plan and alter its dimensions to get a more customized furniture piece. In this method, you can also add and omit some aesthetic elements and modify them based on your own needs.

The second approach is to design your furniture from scratch. This method needs more work than the previous one. So, if you’re a beginner to CAD, we recommend you start with the first technique. 

AutoDesk’s AutoCAD is probably the most popular advanced CAD tool available. It lets you create both 2D and 3D drawings. The 2D version comes with the XY axis, while in the 3D version, you can add the Z-axis to represent the height/depth of an object rather than mere width and length.

This program has various versions, each of which offers different capabilities and comes with different price tags. 

SolidWorks

This software uses CAD technology but works with a few differences. While AutoCAD has limited 3D functionality, SolidWorks is a better standard for designing isometric shapes. 

Solidwork can integrate with many other CAD/CAM solutions such as hyperMILL, CAMWorks, VisualMILL, and SolidCAM.

The application is very flexible and powerful—you can use it to draw anything imaginable! It also has built-in simulation options, advanced surfacing, and touch-panel capabilities. It lets you add dimension and weight properties, obtain a lumber list, and do advanced mathematical calculations. 

If you want to learn more about plotting furniture plans in SolidWorks, watch the video tutorial below:

PRO100 

PRO100 is a free, easy-to-use application that doesn’t require much expertise. It comes with some automated features that eliminate the complexities of designing 3D objects.

It has a straightforward interface that lets you drag and drop objects from a comprehensive library without much effort. 

All you need is to launch the application, select “New project/New from a template,” and switch to Elevation or 3D Perspective on the left corner. Then, open the pop-up menu and select any tool to alter your object.

What’s most appealing about this software is that it automatically generates your lumber list. 

Here’s how you can do that:

  1. Click on the object, and go to the “Structures” on the right toolbar. You can see a list of names you have made for the parts.
  2. Make sure you’ve labeled all the parts correctly and, if necessary, make some amendments.
  3. Then, double click on the object to open the “Properties” window. Copy the name you can see in the “General Section, and go to the “Advanced” option on the right end. 
  4. Delete whatever text you can see here and paste the object’s name in a square bracket. Click OK.
  5. Go to “Reports” at the top toolbar, and click on “Generate Cut List.” You can see an organized, informative list of cuts at the moment.
  6. You can also go to “File Export” to view the lumber list.

SketchList 3D

This CAD software version has the most extra features. It’s an automated application that gives you the final design in minutes. All you need is to enter the materials and dimensions to receive the plots and production steps. This also allows you to draw joints and outlines with a single click.

Of course, these applications aren’t your only options. Here are a few other recommendations:

  • QuickCad: Another product of AutoDesk, QuickCad, is a designing application for windows. It operates with a .cad file type and can adopt only one user.
  • DeltaCad: With this application, you can work with various file formats such as DXB, DWG, DXF, etc. What makes it wonderful for beginners to designing furniture is the step-by-step instructions.
  • TurboCad V8: Developed by IMSIDesign, this application works pretty similarly to AutoCad. It can support all external reference files (Xrefs) and is available for both 7 and 10 windows.
  • IntelliCad Standard” It’s a 2D & 3D CAD-software that supports all versions of .dwg and .dxf file types. Ideal users of this application are architects, interior designers, civil and mechanical engineers.

Wrapping Up

When it comes to creating your furniture, sketching a woodworking plan is a must. You can either do it by hand or computer-aid design programs. However, depending on your level of expertise, needs, and preferences, there are various options to choose from:

  • Grid Paper: An easy way to draw furniture plans by hand.
    • Ready-made graph papers.
    • Downloadable/printable Grid papers.
  • CAD technology: A more professional approach to draw furniture plans by computer, web, or smartphone.
    • Sketchup: The easiest CAD software with different versions, including Sketchup for web, Sketchup Pro, and Sketchup Shop.
    • AutoCAD: A high-end drawing package, including QuickCad, DeltaCad, TurboCad V8, and IntelliCa Standard versions.
    • SolidWorks: A cooperative system to design furniture.
    • PRO100: A drag-and-drop woodworking design software.
    • SketchList 3D: An automated furniture planning tool.

Whether you choose to draw a plan on grid papers, PDF, Sketchup, or AutoCAD, this article may be a helpful guide.

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