…Because you never grow out of making models

Models: Maquette made by Rowden student, Noel Gatehouse

Making Models: When a cabinetmaker decides to make a new piece of furniture, it is clear that there is a lot of pressure to make sure it is a thing of beauty. It is not unusual to invest a couple of months in the making of a cabinet – and hundreds if not thousands of pounds in materials. It would be a travesty to spend all that time, energy and money on something that, in the end, didn’t sing!

So, before the piece is made there are a number of steps a cabinetmaker will go through before committing to the final design. Initial sketches will help to build proportions and refine key details. A fully finished artwork rendering goes a long way to helping define the final look. And, of course, technology plays its part with CAD rendering software to bring the design to life.

Enter the Maquette

But let me tell you, nothing beats accurate scale models (or maquettes) made of the materials that will be used in the final piece. This does a few critical things that a painting or CAD can never do.

It is very difficult to guarantee that a drawing is perfect in dimension and proportion if the piece doesn’t exist. What you think you’ve drawn may not be an accurate representation of the actual piece. And you can’t take a drawing and look at it from a different perspective.

As for CAD, even in full rendering mode, it completely ignores the fact that most of the people, most of the time, look through two eyes. When you focus your eyes on the nearest surface of something, the surfaces further away are blurred, and vice versa. This natural, instinctive process helps your brain to calibrate the object in a true, three-dimensional world. Except CAD doesn’t know where you’re looking so (dumbly) puts everything in focus… Hah, in your face, CAD!

Many students and experienced cabinetmakers will make an accurate scale model before committing to the build. This not only saves time, but is also relatively easy to change or try alternatives. It is also the best way to show a piece to a client. And, when photographed, is utterly plausible as the real thing…

Until next time,



David established Rowden Atelier in 1995, a now world renowned fine woodworking school. Discover Rowden, the woodworking courses, and the work that students go on to do.

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