Below is a working sketch of a "mission style" night stand I'll be
The bed will have slatted foot and headboards, hence the slats on the
night stand. What bothers me is the side view: the panel covering the
ends of the top drawer is larger than the bottom section, making it
appear top-heavy, I think. Any opinions on this? The Stickley
catalog shows a few stands, but with solid sides (Stickley pieces are
a bit taller, and a bit wider, but same depth as mine). Not sure if I
will leave the back open, or make it solid.
Looks like a damn good start to me. You might want to consider making the
bottom rail on either side of the shelf just a little narrower in width.
That will give you more taper on the legs and may offset some of your
concerns when seen from a perspective other than a head on drawing.
On my website below (Projects Journal - Page 3 scroll to A&C End Table), is
a (very) rough CAD drawing, along with the actual finished product (without
the finish on it) that is almost identical to your design.
Might give you some ideas, as well as make you feel better about your
The table in question sits in the living room and does not look top heavy in
the least. One of the things I've found with furniture is that your sense of
proportion changes significantly when actually viewing a piece in a real
life situation (i.e. from a standing or sitting position). When you view a
drawing, you lose that real life perspective, which can really fool your
A good example of this is an architectural drawing of the front elevation of
a house. The actual roof line of the house, when seen from street level, can
be vastly different from what you see on the drawing.
That's why prototyping in furniture design is so important ... I've been
bitten by lack of that too many times to count.
Just some thoughts ...
One of the little, and most important "tricks" (design elements, or "things
I've learned the hard way") I forgot to mention to address your particular
Since you're worried about a "top heavy" look, try this: Increase the amount
of overhang of the top on all four sides.
IOW, make your top a little wider/longer than you may have planned (however,
not so as to get in the way of the drawer).
It's that simple ... just 1/2" more overhang of the top will make a big
difference in proportion when viewing the table from a more human
Net result is that the top aprons now "look" smaller because the overhang
masks some of their view, particularly on a low table like and end table.
A prototype will show this "effect" ... a drawing will not.
On 28 Feb 2004 07:48:29 -0800, email@example.com (Scott) wrote:
|Below is a working sketch of a "mission style" night stand I'll be
|The bed will have slatted foot and headboards, hence the slats on the
|night stand. What bothers me is the side view: the panel covering the
|ends of the top drawer is larger than the bottom section, making it
|appear top-heavy, I think. Any opinions on this? The Stickley
|catalog shows a few stands, but with solid sides (Stickley pieces are
|a bit taller, and a bit wider, but same depth as mine). Not sure if I
|will leave the back open, or make it solid.
I'm far from an artiste but you're doing something pretty close to my
design for a living room end table. The difference being that mine is
deeper that it is wide. Also, my drawer is sized to hold the remote
controls for the TV, DVD, etc, so it's only 3 1/2" deep thus my side
aprons are proportionally narrower too.
Breaking some from tradition, I also have 3" wide rails (or are they
stretchers?) all the way around that will house the lower shelf and as
yet I haven't decided whether to cut fair curves on the bottoms or
not. I'm inclined not to for two reasons, 1) it's another chance to
screw up, and I'm done otherwise and 2) I think that there is better
balance between the apron width and the bottom rails without the
curves. I'm probably wrong about this.
You might consider raising the shelf a bit which would allow for a
longer taper on the legs and if you can, increase the overhang on the
top. You could gain a little here by skinnying the legs down. I went
to 1 1/2" overhang with the 3/4" thick top tapering to 5/8" over that
I'd leave the back open if possible although in my bedroom there are
enough telephone, clock and electric blanket wires hanging down so a
back might be a good idea [g].
You might consider reducing the number of slats. This might give the
illusion of greater depth. I used four 1 1/4" wide, spaced 1"
edge-to-edge, centered in a 14" space and it looks pleasing to my eye.
I dry fit the legs, rails and aprons and played with this for quite
awhile before committing to cutting the mortises.
I didn't do the whole golden rectangle thing but the design worked great for
Sticley and the Green Brothers so it should work ok for you.
It's tough to tell about the side panel though. On the sketch it does seem a
bit wide but then it also appears to be wider then is necessary to cover the
drawer essentials and the drawer doesn't appear to be out of proportion.
If it really bothers you play around with it and the golden rectangle and
see how close or far out you are.
As someone else suggested, build a prototype. It doesn't have to be
fancy or use great joinery methods, just some hardboard, or use some
poplar or other inexpensive hardwood. I did this for my last major
project -- it showed me where the design would not fit in its intended
environment as well as the paper drawings showed it would. After
narrowing the design slightly on the prototype, the final design was
I may have been the prototype advocate.
I make a good part of my income from music ... both live performance and
recording. I see a strong analogy between furniture design/building and
music performance, which may explain that, while I like and enjoy both
woodworkers, I have a bit more respect for David J. Marks than for Norm as a
woodworker, in the finest sense of the term.
_What_ the truly gifted musician hears in his head while playing coincides
precisely with what the audience hears. What a lesser musician hears in his
head while playing does not necessarily translate the same way to the
I've walked out of many a live concert perfectly thrilled with what I
played, but rarely have I ever walked out of the studio thrilled with what I
heard on playback (what the audience hears) ... to me, the playback never
has quite the same "feel", or proportion, that I intended.
Recording (fixing what you play into a form that can be played back and thus
heard from the audience's perspective) is one of the best ways for a
musician to become a better musician, and to ultimately make these two
This same phenomon is analagous, IME, to furniture design.
It is very difficult for the un-gifted/un-trained to effect a furniture
design that is well proportioned from all angles and in all situations.
Some folks do it naturally, the rest of us have to work at it, mostly by
playing back (building) what we hear/see, and then making adjustments "for
the next time" in order for it to be closer to what we are playing/seeing in
What continually amazes me is the impact 'perspective' has on good design
... obviously, if I knew more about classical design, it wouldn't be so
amazing (witness the reason for the slight curve on the sides of the Greek
column). I also remember seeing statues of horses in Rome that were designed
specifically to be seen from a great height .. viewed from the ground, where
they now rest, they looked "out of proportion". IME, all the "goden
rectangle design" advice is worthless without also taking perspective into
Thus the importance of the prototype for someone who wants to be the serious
about their design chops ... something that you can walk around and view
from as many different perspectives as possible, in order to tweak your
It's a bit hard to tell from your hand drawing, but are your hand
drawn measurements in proportion to each other? Is your table top 1/4
as thick as your drawer? I'm sure they are, but just checking. Not to
brag, but I have a pretty good sense of visual balance and such (I'm
very good at leveling a painting without a level) and the side panel
looks lower than the front of the drawer in your drawing. In fact,
when I just put a straight edge up to my computer screen to comfirm my
thoughts it's true. It's about an "inch" lower, while the top and legs
are about even in both views. In fact, the bottom of the two tops are
a little off too which will add to the height of the side panel.
Even though your drawing is very good, it's a rough from a drafting
standpoint. If you have access to a good CAD program (like TurboCAD,
AutoCAD, etc.) technical drawing program like Micrografx Designer
(what I use)...now called Corel Designer, Illustration program
(CorelDraw, Adobe Illustrator or Freehand), or maybe even a page
layout program like Pagemaker...something that has rulers and grids
and can snap to the grid points when you want to will help a lot in
keeping your drawings proportional. If you don't have any of these
programs you can use gridded drafting paper and a pencil....and an
If you correct these "mistakes" and the table still looks too top
heavy you could shorten the height of the drawer by another 1/2" to an
Also, I think the table is a little too wide. As is it looks a little
squat. I think narrowing the width of the table from 22" to maybe 21"
- 20" or even 19" might give it better overall balance. Or, you could
deepen the table from 17" to maybe 19" and increase the height a bit
from 24" to maybe 26". The legs *might* be a bit thick at 2". Try
another drawing with legs 1 3/4" or 1 1/2" thick.
I agree with the others in that building a prototype might
help...especially when building large pieces or pieces that must fit
in a particular space. You could build a very simple and easy 1:1 or
1:2 model out of cheap corrugated cardboard.
Of course these are all just thoughts...take them or leave them. :-)
Hope this helps in some way,
On 28 Feb 2004 07:48:29 -0800, firstname.lastname@example.org (Scott) wrote:
It is. I wanted to be sure the bottom hardware slider will not be
visible from the side, so the upper side panel extends 1/2" below the
drawer bottom. Having said that, I am thinking the hardware will
actually sit higher than originally though, so I may scooch the side
panel up 1/2", which will help alot. Also, there is no reason I
cannot add 1/2" to the bottom panel. As it is, the shelf will sit
1/2" below the top of the lower panel; changing it to a 1" offset
probably won't hurt a thing.
This is a "working sketch", something I use to remind me that the top
goes on top, and the legs go up and down. Gives me an initial sense
of what the balance will be too. The rest of the details bounce
around in my head . . .
For reference, mine is 4" narrower than most Stickley night stands.
However, I am thinking of making mine 25" high, not 24." This is
because the bed I will make will be slightly taller than the present
bed. Also, in doing so, the width-to-height ratio of my stand will be
the same as the Stickley's (not that Stickley knows anything about
furniture, but they make good starting points. ;>)
I went though this with my recent coffee table. I made a set of legs
that were 1 3/4, and they looked too spindly with a 1" top, so I went
to 2" (see below links):
I tend to sit and stare at the woodpile, then I make a rough sketch,
then I sit and stare some more. Sometimes I'll ask for opinions, or
look at the works of others. Eventually I come to terms and begin
chopping. Probably be faster to make a prototype, but I have never
been motivated to do so . . .
I like the general design of your night stand. Along the same lines,
I built an end table that closely resembles your design. You might
want to take a look as it may help with the proportions. Woodsmith
design from issue 127 <http://store.yahoo.com/plansnow/misend.html
There's several design elements I like about this end table you might
want to consider incorporating into your night stand (BTW, except for
the drawer all wood is QSWO).
-- the top, 3/4" think with a 1/16" chamfer on the top edge, with a
bevel on the bottom. It gives the top a lighter appearance.
-- I deviated from the plans by making splats (not spindles, not
slats) rather than spindles for the sides, the finished product can be
seen at: <http://www.public.iastate.edu/~darwin/end_table/
-- The legs are 11/2" nearly everything is MT, top has those figure
eight fasteners, drawer is DT 1/2 hard maple sides with QSWO front.
-- the drawer if I remember is right at 3 inches tall, with 3/4"
strip at the top and bottom.
I agree with your assessment of the tall sides looking top heavy. I
would make the top shorter keep the bottom as they are and consider
adding the same (bottom) design to the front and back. The end table
has a cleat screwed in the bottom of the lower shelf, and into the
front stringer to center the shelf.
You asked about keeping the back open or not -- I personally think
with this style, it looks better to have it open. I think it may look
odd to have slats on the 3 sides....but then again it's your call.
I dry fitt everything to the point where it every joint would seat
with out being clamped. I stained, and finished prior to assembly,
and would do it again in a heart beat. Drop me a line if you need any
I just got an email that the Woodsmith store will be having a free
design seminar with the Creative Director Ted Kralicek @ 630 on
Thursday (3/4/04) @ the store if you're in the Des Moines Iowa area...
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