Making Mistakes With Mockups

Reader Contribution by Tim Snyder
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As a longtime woodworker, I’ve made plenty of mistakes in the process of building different projects. Measurement errors, inaccurate layout marks, incorrect angle settings on my miter saw -I could go on, but suffice it to say that I’ve done my part in making kindling out of some pretty nice boards.

These days I still make mistakes when building cabinets, bookshelves, and other projects. But most of them happen when I’m building the mockup. A mockup is a full-scale version of the final project, or to be more accurate, a critical section of the final project. It’s made from odd pieces of leftover materials, but the stock you use has to match the thickness or profile of the material you’ll use in the actual project.

The mockup in the photo is right next to the kitchen island that I built a couple of years ago, when we put a new kitchen in our house. The island was to be the biggest and best feature in the kitchen, and I was nervous about getting the details right. Most challenging were the bottom corners, where fluted corner pilasters join the face frame and kick space at the front of the cabinet, then transition into frame-and-panel end pieces. So that’s the part of the island that needed a dress rehearsal. I tried a couple of different sizes and fluting layouts for the corner before landing on the final design. I used stock cap moldings for the top of the baseboard and the inset panels. It wasn’t too difficult to figure out what parts could be made from plywood and what parts needed to be clear pine or poplar. In a couple of tries, I had a prototype that pleased one of my most discriminating clients, who happens to be my wife.

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