The Making of Anything – One Maker’s Workflow to Get Projects Done

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The making of things is a part us all and certainly a part of what makes us human. From the time of monkeys with sharp rocks we have imagined “what else” could be done with simple things and have incrementally managed to make things more complex and function better in the process. The human imagination is truly endless and awesome, and that imagination has carved perfect human shapes from solid marble and complex beauty in simple form. We’ve come a long way from primitive tools and techniques, and I am very proud to be a part of the tinker clan and to be a maker of things. Remember most things incredible are merely the sum of all of their incredible parts. But what are effective ways of planning projects, and is technology always the right fit?

Planning Projects – Preparation is Key

Projects come together best with a little planning and prep
Projects come together best with a little planning and prep

Everytime I start and finish a project it becomes apparent that the quality of the final product tends to lean heavily on the amount of clarity that I had in my preparation. How much thought and detail I actually write down directly translates to how easy the process goes, how many trips to the store I make, and generally how happy I am with the final product.

I do a lot of built-ins and cabinetry and have developed a method of building and planning projects that keeps my work as consistent as possible as well as be efficient. Time is better spent planning than spinning wheels. This method of which I speak isn’t really all that profound, in fact it is as simple as it gets. I always start with the outermost dimensions of the space I am working in and plot that onto old school (and still awesome) graph paper.

Dust Off Your High School Geometry Supplies – Graph Paper Still Rocks

Graph paper - simple but effective plans to scale
Graph paper – simple but effective plans to scale

Don’t get me wrong, I am a fan of technology and embrace it when I have to; this is just what works for me. We’ve covered tech-centric project planning with tools like SketchUp before on Home Fixated. For me, using simple graph paper helps me efficiently map out to scale the space I mean to fill and picture it in my head. Once I have the outermost extremes marked on my page I make a mark in the center and begin to create symmetry and draw in whatever I aim to build. It is essential that I picture it in my head and at least make an attempt to put it on paper. This is how I reverse engineer the space and come up with parts that are sized to scale.

Dutch door in progress
Dutch door in progress

Figure Out Your Parts List

Once I have my sketch on paper I am able to dissect it and refine the drawing and make my parts list. Knowing your materials’ exact dimensions makes this process far more streamline and will allow you to create an exact supply list. (If you buy 3/4″ plywood I would bet that it is more like 11/16…….keep this in mind when you do math). Make things make sense on paper before you ever go the store and certainly before you start making sawdust. Trust your math and do it forward and backward, it will make sense both ways or it’s wrong;)

This process makes me think about and decide the best way to engineer and assemble my project: What kind of joinery am I going to use? How are the doors going to lay? Are there any exposed ends? What kind of reveal do I want? Will I need to leave room to allow for crooked walls? Will there be any trim pieces? You get the point. After doing this process a few times it is much easier to see problems from around the corner and plan ahead of them. Use your resources, if you are stumped, then jump on the inter webs… enroll in the university of YouTube and see what someone else did in a similar situation. If all else fails there are still some incredible books available, some of which we’ve covered here too.

Dutch door - final stages
Dutch door – final stages

The same principals apply to all. It doesn’t matter if you are making an ashtray or a piece of furniture, woodworking or metalworking. If you put quality materials into a finely tuned plan you will end up with a better product… take that to the bank.

I love it when a plan comes together
I love it when a plan comes together
Photo of author

About Jake

Jake is the man behind Jake Glerup Woodworks, sunnily-placed in San Diego, CA. In his shop Jake meticulously and precisely strives for nothing less than the finest finished products. Some of his recent projects include reclaimed barrel wine glass racks, stunning custom commercial cabinetry, and even the restoration of a vintage car chassis - made from wood! When he's not rockin' out great projects in his shop, he's busy tending to a statistically unusual number of daughters.

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