Set Your Bevel to 59.333 Degrees

I was a music major so geometry was never my friend. So when I started tweaking the thickness of various parts on this dining table I’m building, my nice and neat 50 degree angles for the legs started to come apart. This is where I find I have trouble rendering my SketchUp model into real life. I can poke and prod the design all day long in virtual space to make it look pretty but when I shift to thinking about how I will actually make the piece this happens:
SketchUp Angle in Model

How the heck do I set my bevel gauge to 49.3?

More important, why would I want to do that. This angle is pretty tame, a lot of the time SketchUp spits out approximate numbers as in “~53.333″. Maybe you could make a case for an even .3 on some hyper accurate angle gauge or with one of those digital angle doohickey things, but I have a hand saw and a bevel gauge.

full sized drawingsSo out comes the pencil and straight edge and some cardboard so I can make a full sized drawing. This not only makes it super easy to capture these unknown angles with a bevel gauge, but it also makes the design more real. It may look great on the computer screen, but until I get it full size I can never quite tell how it will look and feel. Moreover, for something functional like a dining table it is hard to see how the piece will interact with the human body until you have something full size.

In this instance I was able to verify that the angle of this cross leg pattern was just right to allow someone with big feet like me to stretch out while sitting off the end of the table and be able to fit my feet through the space below the trestle where the legs cross. That is a nice bonus and one more variable that I can be certain about as I begin to actually start cutting joinery.

So how do you set your bevel gauge to 59.333 degrees? You don’t. Or at least you skip the numbers and just line up the gauge on your drawing.

Your Turn

When and why do you make full sized drawings of your furniture designs? Do you feel that too much virtual design work can lead to problems in the actual construction or is this just a sign that my virtual skills aren’t up to snuff?

5 Responses to “Set Your Bevel to 59.333 Degrees”

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  1. Part of my carpentry course here is to make technical drawings to 1:1 scale with overviews at 1:10. I’ve learned that I just have to draw the joins or hinges, otherwise I’d get through even more paper than I already do. Apart from that we are expected to be able to work out what we are making from the overview and parts list. If you’re thinking this is a way to make a fun job into a stressful one you’d be right.

    Creativity isn’t really encouraged and it is hard to be creative when you are trying to keep to the rather complex rules of DIN199/ISO 5455.

    For my own projects I start with a sketch which helps me get an idea of what I’m doing, and work things out from that, then make scaled or full-sized drawings of more complex joins. I find that works for me and I can do the creative part that I love without being bogged down in details…

  2. Nick Green says:

    Now that I think about it, the only time I ever make full-size drawings is when I’m doing something with large curves and I need to lay out smaller sections of wood before I lap them together.

  3. Trevor Angell says:

    You must make a template when it is the best method you have to execute the design.

    I asume the table height is set by convention. This is a design decision. I also note that your template (the trestle) is a perfect rectangle – the width of the top and bottom of the trestle is exactly the same. Pause and ask yourself why this is so. This is another design decision, and it is this decision that dictates the wonky angle and therefore the production method – i.e. a template.

    Another option is altering the design in consideration of production method. What would happen if you burned the template and let the angle be a convenient 50 degrees? It would move the foot slightly. Will you even see it? Ah, but you will know it. So what?

    So, it’s up to you. You are both designer and craftsman. Who wins the argument? You do – so what matters more to you? Perfect angle or perfect rectangle? It is a value judgment.

    No template wins out for me. Experience will help you anticipate and decide this during design.

    “Good design is consequent down to the last detail.” – Dieter Rams

  4. Stan P. says:

    Trevor’s comment was a very interesting one. When I first read this posting I kind of thought it was a little tongue-in-cheek. Maybe I was wrong. Mine is an engineering background, so 49.3333333 degrees is no problem with a Bridgeport or a CNC machine. I do use digital calipers and a digital angle gauge on the table saw blade for some measurements just because I can’t see as well as I use to. I use a combination of both hand tools and power tools and these digital tools are primarily used as reference for me. I figure I’m doing pretty good if I can get my part to within +/- 1/32″. I usually make full scale sketches of joints so I can make sure everything will actually fit together. The only full scale project drawing I’ve ever made was for the only commissioned piece I made and that was to show how two different edge treatments of the top would affect the overall look of the table. I think I would have said thank you SketchUp, but I’m going to set my bevel gauge to 50 degrees and just throw caution to the wind.

  5. Cyrus says:

    I always do the math first but just go with overview drawings, never tried a scale drawing. I would rather make a mock up or just wing it. Anyway 59.3 is very close to 60 which is a equilateral triangle. Maybe that is what you were going for. Walnut is beautiful and I am sure the planer will be a valuable addition. Keep up the great work. Thanks!

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