Woodworking Drawing — How to Draw Woodworking Plans by Hand

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More than 50% of the brain’s cortex is dedicated to visual processing, so learning how to draw woodworking plans will undoubtedly result in better output. The only problem is not everyone is skilled enough to illustrate the designs they intend to build. 

If you’re in that boat, don’t sweat it. I’ve got a step-by-step guide lined up to help you get more comfortable with putting pen to paper for your carpentry projects.

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Discover the art of creating custom, unique woodworking plans that perfectly match your vision with this set of expert-crafted templates and designs. 

This comprehensive guide includes tips and techniques for seasoned woodworkers and DIY newbies alike.

Why Should You Draw Your Woodworking Plans?

We navigate everyday life using our vision, making it a crucial sensory tool that allows us to make accurate visual judgments in different activities. 

You don’t have to be as skilled as Pablo Picasso. All you need is to accurately put down your design ideas and use them as a basis for your project’s physical form. 


Your first attempt at drafting woodworking plans rarely ends up as the final design you’ll use for your project. My go-to strategy? Brainstorming. Set aside some time to just sketch out as many ideas as you can.

woodworker in his shop

Through this, newbies can draw simple designs first to practice and continue to work on their skills before tackling more complex outputs. These projects are called free plans, and it’s a good method to start when you have zero experience in making these designs.

Since we’re living in the modern era of the internet, scanning through free woodworking patterns online should give you good ideas on how to make woodworking plans.

You can find free scroll saw patterns online suitable for beginners and pros. Also, you can search through Google or Pinterest and input keywords like DIY coffee table ideas or other projects you’re interested in.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying rip off these designs. What you can do is take what inspires you and put your own unique spin on it.

Sketching by Hand

Step #1: Grab Your Materials and Measuring Tools

You might think all you need is a pencil and paper to get started, but let me tell you, a ruler or other measuring tools can really come in handy. Especially when you start diving into the nitty-gritty details of your sketch.

measuring a wooden board

Step #2: Start With a Rough Sketch

You don’t need to be wary about the exact measurements in this step. After all, it’s the reason why it’s called a rough sketch. 

The important thing is the right spaces are properly outlined like a framework so that the pieces can fit together when you’re working on the actual design. Plus, you’ll get a feel of how to draw woodworking plans by hand.

Step #3: Build Your Way Up to a Detailed Sketch

Now that you have the rough layout of your woodworking plan, the next step should be working on a detailed sketch. Here are the individual parts you’ll need to highlight during this process. 

(You may also check my recommendations of great woodworking plans that you should try out.)


Before you begin adding details to the rough framework, first determine the wood[1] type you’ll use for the project. Besides having a visual impact on the actual design, this information will decide how complex the lines you’ll need to draw for the piece are. 

drawing cabinet plan

Materials with thicker grains may be easier to connect because of their lesser knots, but these characteristics signify how complex the design will be. These elements can start with a single line or a square.


Ellipses and ovals are common shapes you’ll encounter when putting the workpieces together to complete your project. You can create it via freehand, but it’ll be less accurate and include some guesswork.

Meanwhile, you can also use one or two-point perspectives. You can create accurate eclipses that will enhance your detailed framework’s precision through these methods.

Title and Date

Don’t forget to add titles and dates on the final draft to avoid confusion during the creation process. You wouldn’t want your design to get lost in all the woodwork drawing plans you crafted during the brainstorming process.

How to Make a Sketch

Step 1: Choose the design you want to create. You can find different pattern inspirations from popular woodworking social channels or Pinterest. As early as now, you can choose the elements you want to change to make the design your original style. 

DIY Custom Designed Pencils

Step 2: Don’t forget to get the actual measurements of your materials and the tools you’ll be using. If you don’t do this, there’s a high chance you’ll get the measurements wrong during sketching. 

Step 3: List the tools and materials you’ll need for putting your workpieces together. I’m a fan of jotting these down in an Excel sheet; it just makes keeping track of everything a whole lot easier.

Step 4: You can now do the rough sketch for your woodworking design. The final draft should cover all the details of the workpiece, from precise measurements to the proper assembly instruction. 

planning pad and papers on wooden table

Step 5:  Start your woodworking project using the finished draft. It will give you a better visual of the output you need to achieve. 

Trying Designed Plans First

For woodworkers who don’t have enough time to learn how to draw, you can always dabble in reliable plans and templates first. There are plenty of online designs and illustrations you can try and familiarize yourself with. 

Once you’ve grasped the basics and rudiments of these designs, you can work your way up to creating one of your own!

Using a Computer Software

If you prefer to work on your designs digitally, you can rely on woodworking software options to bring your ideas to life.

These software tools offer a range of features, such as precise measurements, 3D modeling, and customizable templates, enabling you to visualize their projects before any wood is cut. 

Some programs are free to download but with limited features. Although some options are pricey, their configurations give users maximum control and customization. 

Additionally, you may consider using a CutList optimization software to generate advanced cutting patterns. 


Learning how to draw woodworking plans isn’t the easiest skill to master, but it’ll be worth your while as this could enhance your craftsmanship. 

While you can always use a 3D modeling program, I’ve got to say, there’s value in honing your freehand skills first. It’s a sort of training that actually helps you get even more out of those digital tools when you do decide to use them.

Robert Johnson is a passionate furniture maker & carpenter, sought after for his knowledge on the craft.
You've probably seen his down-to-earth wisdom in USA Today, Bobvila, Family Handyman, and The Spruce, where he has shared commentary and guidance on various woodworking topics.

Robert is the brain behind Sawinery, where he aims to share tips, tricks, and a passion for all things carpentry.
Robert Johnson

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