5 Simple Ratios for Design

Here’s a list of 5 simple ratios to keep in mind at any stage in your design process, or frankly any time you are building something!

1:1 – The ratio of reader to editor that we like to maintain here at Popular Woodworking. You can write to any of our editors, anytime, and we will answer your questions. Our email addresses are simply firstname.lastname@fwmedia.com. So if you’re stuck, use this ratio!

2:1 – The typical ratio of measurements to cuts in woodworking, as in “measure twice, cut once.” In reality, you’re not always going to follow this rule, especially when you are distracted or in a hurry. Sometimes, in fact, it’s good to keep a project moving and not get bogged down in overthinking your measurements. This means there will be times when you waste some material. Don’t worry! Just read the next simple ratio in this list.

3:2 – The amount of rough lumber (measured in board feet) that you should buy, compared to the amount of dimensioned lumber in your final project plan. You’ll be discarding the first and last inches of every board to remove drying checks, and you’ll also be cutting around knots, wane and other defects. While it’s a good idea to calculate your lumber needs as closely as possible, it’s also a good idea not to be forced to make a second trip to the sawmill for more material.

This is an image of simple ratios from our free PDF on furniture design, with articles by George Walker. You’ll love how George simplifies this stuff!

This is an image of simple ratios from our free PDF on furniture design, with articles by George Walker. You’ll love how George simplifies this stuff!

All the ratios pictured above – OK, so I lumped a few simple ratios into one entry here. These are the basic proportions you should play with as you design furniture or tweak existing designs for your own needs. Use these ratios for both overall dimensions of a project as well as sub-assemblies, such as drawers.

5:5 – The ratio of woodworking downloads you can get in our current sale to dollars you have to spend. We have over 400 downloads to choose from, ranging from furniture design to project plans and techniques. Take advantage now! (The discount will be applied at checkout.)

What are your go-to ratios for woodworking and design?

Dan Farnbach

Woodworking Daily Blog
Dan Farnbach

About Dan Farnbach

Dan apprenticed and worked in two professional shops during the years after college. But sweeping shop floors only goes so far toward learning woodworking. These days Dan is a former online editor for Popular Woodworking, and is learning new skills every day. He divides his time between Boston and Maine.

2 thoughts on “5 Simple Ratios for Design

  1. gilmer

    I’ll add one more ratio – just for you Dan:
    The ratio between items posted on the PW web site Vs those saved in my Woodworking file.
    (Hint – those with only ads Vs those with useful info.)

  2. Paul

    Interesting you don’t mention the golden ratio: 1.168:1 (except in your message subject line) as one that you should look at when designing. I find it provides a very nice esthetic.

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