Geoff's Woodwork

for Students of Woodwork                                          

Basic Setting Out -1

1.   Scrutinise the Scaled Drawing.   Note that there are usually three views:

·      Plan,

·      Horizontal Elevation and

·      Vertical Elevation.

The elevations give the dimensions of the finished object.   A Cutting List is provided and this gives the measurements of each member and the cross section sizes to construct the job.   The measurements given on the drawing and in the list  are the actual lengths, widths and quantities each.  The length you actually cut is shown in the Cutting List and includes an amount for waste for each end.  The waste is to help when working the joints and is cut off after assembly.


2.  It is helpful to see a well made example of the object to be made.  Examine the frame and compare the scaled drawing to the actual full size.  

Particularly observe the type of joints and try to work out how they have been formed.

Check the mortise and tenons at the external corners and note how they have been reduced in width at the corners to prevent the joint ‘breaking out’.    This is called a ‘haunch’ and needs slightly different attention than a ‘through’ mortise shown to the right of the frame.

In some scaled drawings, certainly in the ones produced by the author, a dotted line is added to show the shape of the hidden detail of the joint.  This helps to identify the type of joint and where it is ‘haunched’.  ‘Grooves’ and ‘rebates’ are also indicated in this way

You will also note that any ‘waste’ has been neatly removed from the finished job and  cleaned up with a smoothing plane.    Don't use an orbital sander, etc. for this job, although it will make a lot of noise and dust it is not the best tool for the job.

3.   Do not mark out all individual lengths on the length of timber and then cut off like sausages.   Measure, mark and cut off individually otherwise you will get a cumulative error.   When you have cut out the members from the dimensions given in the Cutting List, lay out the members in the same arrangements as their positions shown in the scaled drawing. Always position the members in this way whenever you need to consider the next move.  It helps to ‘see’ what you need to do next. 

A ‘Face mark’ is drawn on the width of the wood in the direction of the ‘Face edge’ which is drawn on the corresponding edge of the member, and is a drawn as a large ‘X’.   Use a HB pencil to draw details such as this.    The Face and Edge Mark is very important and is always used to measure, mark and work from.


4.   The Horizontal and Vertical members are now brought together and clamped or held in the vice so that the dimensions and joint positions may be marked as one.   Note that the face marks are on the outside and the face edges are on top for marking.

The finished dimensions are obtained from the Scaled Drawing or transferred from a ‘Rod’ or quoted in the Cutting List.   When you are marking out the lengths, ensure that you measure from one end only, say the top or left.  Students and novices often measure  ‘in’ from both ends to provide the ‘waste on both ends’.  This always proves inaccurate.  The important thing to remember is to have the finished dimension  between the waste marks.  Any shortfall will then be in the waste areas.


5.   From the Scaled drawing or Rod, determine the joint positions and mark these on the face edge while the members are still held together in the vice or clamps.

 The actual line of the joint, where it is cut or joins is called the shoulder line.    Always measure from the same point, say top or left of the frame.     Use a marking knife or at least a sharp H2 Pencil to draw shoulder lines.  It is good practice to use the jointing member itself to determine the width and not a rule.   First of all make a small mark to transfer the measurement and then with a carpenters square, complete the shoulder line across all the members so they are marked the same.

When all members have been treated in this way, remove from clamp, and taking each member in turn, with the carpenters square, complete the ‘squaring’ all round.    Take care to ensure that the stock of the square is always against either a face mark or face edge mark or the ‘square’ may not meet.


6.   Now that all members are marked or ‘set-out’,  arrange the timber in the manner of the complete frame and identify each joint with a ‘figure or ‘letter’  so you may re-construct the frame in the same position from time to time for checking.   Note that the ‘waste’ area has been neatly ‘hatched’ with a HB pencil.

7.  Check that the lay-out and dimensions are the same as the drawing.   You are then ready for the next stage......Basic setting out 2 >

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Last uploaded  21st September 2003