Outdoor Furniture


Its been a while since we’ve posted, but here’s something new.  The other day I was looking for some simple outdoor furniture, specifically some stands, like an end table to put plants and things on.  I couldn’t find what I wanted anywhere I looked.  But then I realized, I could build something in Cedar and it would look much nicer than the alternatives I was considering.  The next morning over a coffee, I planned out my idea in 3D Build Planner.

plant stand

My Plant Stand

As you can see, its a pretty straight forward little table.  Dimensions are 2ft x 2ft x 2ft.  You can make changes in the plan if you like.

How I made it

To start, I made use of the Layout Wizard to position my 4 2×2 uprights 2 ft apart.  From there, I jumped over to the Joint Wizard where I filled in the 2×4 runners along with the 2×2 top rails.  At first, I was using 10 foot lumber, but then caught myself and switched over to 8 foot lumber.  You can do this by selecting all the pieces from a single type and altering the type and pressing ‘Update’.  By doing this, I saved myself a few bucks as 8 foot lumber is generally cheaper than 10 foot lumber.  I’ve used 3 inch nails, but you can change this as well by updating the fasteners in my plan. (again, use the select by type to select the pieces you need and then update fasteners)

I started by nailing the a 2×4 runner to 2 uprights, positioning the upright on its side and nailing from the top.  I continued this way until I had attached the two sides and finally attached the sides with 2 more 2×4 runners.  From there, I placed the table on its side and nailed in the rails, using a one inch wide block (OK it was a VCR tape).

Here’s a picture of the finished product, I applied a coat of Cedar stain.


completed table

Completed with a coat of stain

This same format and style could be used to build other shapes, longer or full tables, etc.  Enclosed is the plan.  Hope you find it helpful.

Happy Building,

Table Plan

Adding Single Pieces With the Layout Wizard

Someone asked us the other day whether there was an easy way to add a piece in relation to another.  It went like this: “Hey Builder Guys – I just want to add another piece on top, how can I do that quickly?”

Answer is: Using the Layout Wizard

The Layout Wizard is for adding multiple pieces based on one piece, but it can also be used to very quickly add a single piece.  So if you want to add a second piece on top, beside or behind another, you don’t need to type in special positions or wiggle it into place, just use the Layout Wizard.

Here’s how:

(1) First, select the piece of lumber you want to copy with your left mouse button.

(2) Next, bring up the Layout Wizard, located on the toolbar under this icon:

The Layout Wizard

The Layout Wizard Toolbar Icon

(3) Depending on where you want the new piece added, set the Layout Wizard accordingly:

Horizontal - If you want to add the piece to the left, or right of your selection.

Vertical - If you want to add the piece in front of, or behind your selection.

Up/Down – If you want to add the piece on top of, or underneath your selection.

(4) Select ‘Inside to Inside’ on the ‘Layout Measurement’ field.

(5) Select the number of pieces you want to add, in these examples, just 1.

(6) Add a small amount in the ‘Measurement between pieces’ field, like .05 of a 1/16 (as shown) and remember, if you add a negative amount here (as in our second example below) you can position the new pieces on the opposite side.

Here’s an example of adding a second piece on top of our anchor piece (shown in green), below is the Layout Wizard settings we used:

Example 1 - Layout Wizard Settings

Example 1 - Layout Wizard Settings

Here is the result, with a new piece added on top.

Example 1 - The Result

Example 1 - The Result

Here’s another example of adding a piece in a different direction using ‘Horizontal’ and also a negative amount in the ‘Measurement between pieces’  field:

Example 2 - Layout Wizard Settings

Example 2 - Layout Wizard Settings

And here’s the resulting piece.  A second Horizontal piece added to the left of the anchor piece.

Example 2 - The Result

Example 2 - The Result

Notice how the piece has been added to the left of the anchor piece.  That’s because we specified the measurement between pieces as a negative amount (-.05).  Had we used a positive amount (.05) the new piece would have been added to the right of the selected piece.

This is just one example of how the Layout Wizard can be used to quickly add new pieces.  Let us know if you come up with other good examples on your own.

Happy Building,

Cool tricks with the Layout Wizard

Today we’re discussing cool things you can do with the Layout Wizard in 3D Build Planner.  The Layout Wizard is used to add multiple pieces based on an anchor piece.  For example, you want to add several Fence Posts spaced 4 feet apart as measured as center to center, the Layout Wizard can do that.  Here’s another example where you don’t know the spacing.  I have a 5 foot Fence Rail and I want to add my Fence Boards to it,  problem is, I don’t know how much privacy I want, how many pieces I need, or what the spacing between each piece would be.

Here’s where the Layout Wizard really shines.  This second example happens quite a bit.  Adding Fence Boards is one example where you might not be sure how much privacy you’d like or what the spacing would be for each choice. Maybe you’re adding roof pieces to a Pergola and again, you’re not sure how many pieces to add or what the spacing would be for each.  This can be quite time consuming to figure out by hand and a real pain.

Two Slotted Fence Privacy Options

Two Slotted Fence Privacy Options

If you know the measurement you need to span, such as the length of the Fence Rail, you can use the Layout Wizard to add a certain number of pieces and calculate the spacing when you’re happy with the choice.  So how?  The Layout Wizard works by copying an anchor piece and adding more pieces just like it.  So if you were adding Fence Boards, you would add the first Fence Board using the Joint Wizard, and if you were adding Pergola roof pieces, you would add the first roof piece with the Joint Wizard.  Remember, the Layout Wizard will copy the first piece, so if you’d like to add mitres to the ends to make it look nicer, now is the perfect time to do it, on the first piece.

Adding The First Piece With The Joint Wizard

Adding The First Piece With The Joint Wizard

Next, start the Layout Wizard by pressing the Layout Wizard icon, and the Layout Wizard will be shown:

The Layout Wizard

The Layout Wizard

Once the Layout Wizard appears, select your anchor piece, and add it to the Layout Wizard by pressing the ‘Select Piece’ button.  Next, tell the Layout Wizard that you’re measuring ‘Outside to Outside’ since you’ve measured the span to fill.  Note, you may need to reduce your measurement by a sixteenth or so.

At this point, select the direction you’d like to add pieces in, and select option 2 under Layout Options.  Tell the Layout Wizard the measurement of the span you’d like to fill, and tell the Layout Wizard how many pieces to add (sometimes there’s not enough room) and press ‘Add’.  If you’re happy with the pieces you’ve just added, you can press the ‘Note Spacing’ button to record the spacing amount in the Project Step Notes section.  If you’re not happy with the outcome, simply press ‘Undo’, alter the number of pieces, and try again.

Fence Boards Added With The Layout Wizard

Fence Boards Added With The Layout Wizard

In this fashion, you can experiment with the Layout Wizard until you find the right number of pieces to suit your taste and then save the spacing amount with the ‘Note Spacing’ button to record the spacing in the Project Step Notes section.  This saves tons of time trying to figure out how much privacy is enough and what your spacing calculation would be for each option.

Happy Building

Help us make better products and get a free key!!

Hi All – This week and hey, maybe this month, we’re running a cool promotion to collect feedback from our user community.  Not just the people that have 3D Build Planner licenses and are actively using it, we want feedback from everybody!!!

Our License Offer

Our License Offer

So to do this, for a limited time of course (cause ya know we can’t do this forever…) we’re offering free licenses to anyone who can download the free trial www.3dbuildplanner.com/buy.htm and then spend 10 minutes or more and give us some good constructive feedback on our products.  We’re looking for the good, the bad, and oh ya, the ugly, but written in a nice way of course.

In exchange, we’ll send out license keys to the product that will provide updates for the next few releases.  Pass it on, send out the word, tell a friend, and hopefully we get some great feedback for an awesome next release.

Happy Building,

Adding slotted joints to your projects

Often there are times when you require a slotted joint in your designs.  Situations like connecting Fence Rails to Fence Posts or building custom Stairs, Rail Balusters, or any situation where you`re looking for a nice strong joint that won`t require a bracket, nail, or screw for support.

Slotted Joint

Slotted Joint

Above is the classic example.  In 3D Build Planner, there is currently no easy way to carve these sections out of your pieces.  However, that doesn’t mean there`s no way to get these into your projects.  Here`s a little trick that you can use in these situations.

Below is an example of two Fence Posts that we`d like to connect with slotted joints for the Fence Rails.

Fence Section - Before

Fence Section - Before

As you can see from the illustration, we`ve extended our Fence Rail an extra inch on each side to fit into the slot that we`ll be adding to each of our Fence Posts.  Problem is, 3D Build Planner won`t let us move the Fence Rail into the Fence Post to make the slotted joint.  This is because 3D Build Planner won’t let two pieces of lumber occupy the same spot, which makes sense, but doesn’t help us.

What we can do though is set 3D Build Planner to relax this restriction a bit, and allow us to move these pieces together into place.  To do this, we visit the Preferences Manager (which is the green check icon in the toolbar) and we’ll see the Preference Manager window  appear as shown below.

The Preferences Manager

The Preferences Manager

Near the bottom, find the ‘Check for Colliding Lumber’ check box, and un-select it, and press Save.  At this point, you’re free to move the Fence Rails into the Fence Post.  Make sure you set the Nudge Amount to inches or even sixteenths to make sure you get a nice flush fit.  You can use the number keys 1-4 to quickly change the Nudge Amount.  After you do this, this is what you should see:

Fence Section - After

Fence Section - After

As you can see, we now have a nice flush Fence Rail slotted into the Fence Posts.  Remember to turn the ‘Check for Colliding Lumber’ setting back on when you’re finished.

This simple technique can be used for Fence Rails, Custom Stairs, Sinking Fence Balusters and Railing Posts, and other items where inserting one or more pieces into others is needed.  This and many other tips and tricks is contained in the 3D Build Planner video section www.3dbuildplanner.com/videos.htm as well as in the Product Help Section and Quick Start Guide.

Happy Building

Can I improve the display at all?

Question: How can I get 3D Build Planner to look better on my screen?

Answer: It depends.  Here’s an example taken from one of our systems running an ATI Radeon HD 5850 graphics card (http://www.amd.com/us/products/desktop/graphics/ati-radeon-hd-5000/hd-5850/Pages/ati-radeon-hd-5850-overview.aspx)

Here’s the first image which is basically just an imported fence segment:

The Before Image 3D Build Planner (ATI Radeon HD 5850)

Doesn’t look great.  You can see that there’s some serious texture shading happening around the ends of each piece, and what the graphics types refer to as ‘jaggies’, the broken black outlines that run down the side of each piece, rather than a smooth black outline.  This tends to clear up as you get closer to the piece, but that doesn’t exactly make for a great product tour from 20 feet out.  You would think there’s more that can be had from our graphics card, and you’re right.

There’s a few ways to get to the ATI Catalyst Control Center, but one method is to select the Advanced tab under the Windows 7 Screen Resolution menu, your OS may be different.

From the ATI Catalyst Control Center or any other graphics card settings window, you’ll want to find the 3D or OpenGL settings.  In this case, they’re listed under the Graphics->3D section.  From this list, you’ll see individual settings that can be changed.  Pressing the ‘All’ tab will list all possible settings.  Scroll to the bottom until you reach ‘OpenGL Settings’ ‘Triple Buffering, and enable that.  From there, select Apply and Save and exit.

You’ll need to restart 3D Build Planner to see the improvement, but here’s what you get now:

The After Image - 3D Build Planner (ATI Radeon HD 5850)

The After Image - 3D Build Planner (ATI Radeon HD 5850)

Much improved, wouldn’t you say?  There’s other settings you’ll want to ensure are set, such as 24 bit ‘Z’ buffering if your graphics don’t appear to be working as well as they could or if items such as grid lines or lumber pieces tend to disappear in the distance.

There’s also more information in the 3D Build Planner Troubleshooting Guide within the product Help pages.  We’ve tested our product with ATI, NVidia, and many integrated graphic chipsets, and in the vast majority of cases, 3D Build Planner can look great on all of them with a little occasional tweaking.

Happy Building,

Minimizing Lumber Use and Cost

Hi Gang – Today we’re talking about making the most of the pieces you buy.  Have you ever seen dimensional lumber at the store in different lengths and different prices, like 10 foot sections instead of 8 foot sections?  These are typically used for long  joist runs and 9 foot ceilings.  Have you ever wondered whether it really matters and whether they could ever save you cash?  Well the answer is, it depends.  To illustrate, let’s use an example using something really simple like a child’s Sandbox.

Here’s the 3D Build Planner import file:

sandbox (Right click and save the file to your desktop, open with the Import button)

Child's Sandbox

Child's Sandbox

Now, this is a basic Project made up of 2x8s and a single piece of plywood on the bottom.  Initially this was completed with 8 foot 2x8s.  The totals in the Project Manager window show:

4 2×8 (8 foot)

1 4×8 Plywood

Total: $40.96

Now, if we select one of the corner seats and bring up the Layout Tool, we can see this was how 3D Build Planner laid out the cuts:

First Layout Plan

First Layout Plan

This makes sense.  But now (using our right click menu, selection options and shift key) select a few of the shorter pieces and also select a few of the longer pieces (as is shown below) and change these to 10 foot 2x8s by selecting the Type: 2×8 (10 foot ) under the Lumber Types list and pressing Update to change the pieces.

2x8 Pieces to switch to 10 foot

2x8 Pieces to switch to 10 foot

After changing the type of those pieces to longer 10 foot 2x8s, what we end up doing is reducing both the cost of our project by about $4.00 as well as reducing the total number of pieces of lumber (and overall weight)

The reason is because using the longer 10 foot pieces, 3D Build Planner is able to condense some of the longer sections together with some of the smaller pieces. Selecting one of the seats and bringing up the Layout tool now shows this:

Second layout option using 10 foot 2x8s

Second layout option using 10 foot 2x8s

A better use of the lumber. Bottom line, don’t make the assumption that just because a longer piece of lumber costs more money that it can’t save you money.  In particular, when using a combination of long and short pieces, it can often be the case that longer pieces of stock lumber can yield better results, meaning less cost, less lumber, and less overall weight.

3D Build Planner provides some nice selection features under the right mouse button menu that can be used to make detailed selections and updates simply using the Lumber Type list and ‘Update’ button. After each update, the Project Manager displays the new pieces needed along with the new total cost, and Project weight.  So feel free to experiment to find the right combination for you.

Happy Building,

Easy Lumber Placement

Question: Is there any easier way to add lumber than with all the numbers and all the fields?

Answer: There sure is.

If you’ve watched the quick start video here (www.3dbuildplanner.com/videos.htm) then you’ve seen that lumber can be added by entering the position into the Lumber Placement fields and pressing ‘Add’.  Lumber can also be added by double clicking anywhere on the Project Area surface (the green grass), to mark the position, and then pressing ‘Add’.  These are good options but they’re not that effective when you want a piece in a certain spot, such as right up against another piece or Flush with a piece.  So how can that be done?

Meet the Grid Tool

The Grid Tool icon can be found in the toolbar along the top window.  The Grid Tool takes a single piece of lumber as input and creates a semi transparent ‘Guide Wall’ along a single face of the selected piece.  You use the Guide Wall as a guide to move other pieces up against.  This lets you select one or more pieces and move them in relation to the position of another.  For example, if you want to move several pieces of lumber Flush against a Fence post, you can select the Fence post, start the Guide Tool by pressing the icon in the toolbar, and proceed to move your selected pieces up against the Guide Wall which is aligned with the Fence post.

The Guide Tool has two main buttons labelled ‘Face’ and ‘Direction’ that let the user change the face on the selected piece of lumber as well as change the direction of the Guide Wall.  Depending on how you want the Guide Wall positioned on the selected piece, these buttons can be used to alter its position. For a video with the Guide Tool in action, see the Fence 101 video (www.3dbuildplanner.com/videos.htm) for an example using the Guide Tool to move entire Fence segments in line with one another.

So go ahead and experiement with the Guide Tool, a very handy utility for moving pieces up against another piece of lumber or another surface.

Happy Building,

Designing for Privacy

Building for Privacy – Fences and Pergolas

It’s one of those subjects that rarely comes up until you nail the first few boards to your Fence or your Pergola.  In the case of the Pergola, you may also wish to consider how much light you let in through the rails along the top.

In the case of a Fence, it’s really just a matter of deciding what style of fence you’d like, and how much privacy can be built into that style.  If you’re building a short safety fence around a deck with rod iron poles, don’t expect to get too much privacy.  Whereas if you’re building a simple 2 rail fence with tight fence boards, you can achieve total privacy.  Again, consider your application and how much privacy you’d like before you buy materials.

To get us thinking about privacy when building fences, I broke out the old pencil and paper and threw together this quick diagram so we can all talk about the same things.  Here’s a simple two rail fence that most are familiar with: (please no comments on the quality of my drawing skills :)

Fence Example

Example Privacy Fence with Slots

OK, from the diagram above, we have two Fence posts with a distance ‘R’ between them, which represents the length of each of our Fence rails.  We also have ‘n’ Fence boards that are each, ‘w’ inches wide.  So in the case where we were using 1×6 Fence boards, maybe our ‘w’ would be 5½ inches, remember, when speaking of Dimensional Lumber, a 1×6 is about 5½ inches wide.

To calculate what the ideal spacing should be, we need to first consider whether we’ll start with fence boards placed up against the posts, or will we start with a space up against the post?  Its really just a matter of style and preference, but depending on which option you choose, you’ll calculate the spacing a little differently.  In the case where we’ll start with no space, and a Fence board goes right up against the post, we’ll be leaving n-1 spaces as we add pieces across the Fence rail, so the spacing in between each Fence board would be calculated as:

(R – (w * n)) ÷ (n – 1)

and in the case where we start with spaces on either side of each post, we’ll be adding two more spaces to our rail, so our calculation changes to:

(R – (w * n)) ÷ (n + 1)

Here’s an example.  If we had Fence rails that were 5 feet long, then we’d have: R = 5 feet or 60 inches. If we wanted to put 8 1×6 Fence boards along those rails, starting with spaces on either side of our posts, our spacing would work out to be:

(60 – (5½ * 8)) ÷ (8 + 1) = 16 ÷ 9 = 1¾ inches between each 1×6  (approx.)

Which seems reasonable, or we could try fitting another 1×6 on to the rail to get:

(60 – (5½ * 9)) ÷ (9 + 1) = 1 inch between each 1×6 (approx.)

So we can see that by adding another 1×6 onto the rail, we tighten up the spacing in order to get that perfect fit for each space.  We also make the Fence much more private, and this is where a little experience and trial and error can come in handy.  Ideally, you know how many boards you’ll be laying out across the Fence rail before you make it to the store to buy supplies.

Here’s another thought. Rather than placing all the Fence boards on one side, you’ve probably seen Fence boards placed on alternate sides of the rail.  Here’s a top down view of what the Fence boards would look like in this sort of an arrangement with the alternating version on the top of the diagram:

Fence Slot Options

Options For Fence Slot Placement

This gives the Fence a nice look, but again, you’ll need to be thinking about privacy because the spacing options discussed above may not work out as well with this style of Fence.  In fact, you’ll realize that you need to overlap the Fence boards on one side with the Fence boards on the other side just to get a reasonable amount of privacy.  In these cases, the calculations for the spacing amounts is the same, but because the Fence has some space between the boards on each side, you’ll generally consume more boards for this style.

So there you have it, a few ideas for Fence construction, privacy, and how to go about laying out the Fence boards for the perfect fit.  If it sounds like a hassle, it can be, because often there’s no way to really know how private the results will be without experiencing it.  As you can see, from my pencil pictures, a drawing is of little help in this situation.  This is where a software planning application can help.

There’s two nice things 3D Build Planner can help with here.  The first is visualization.  It’s true that nothing can replace a real project and an inspection, but through the power of some first class graphics, 3D Build Planner can give you a pretty good idea of how private your Fence is going to be.  Secondly, all those calculations?  3D Build Planner makes life easier by taking care of all that for you.  3D Build Planner will suggest spacing options for you, and has tools to let you experiment with privacy options until you’re satisfied.  Something you just won’t find in hard coded plans, spreadsheet applications, or drawing packages.

Give the demo version a try here at www.3dbuildplanner.com/buy.htm or watch the online video www.3dbuildplanner.com/videos.htm that shows how the Joint Wizard can come to the rescue.

Happy Building,

What should your planning app do for you?

End of the day, when you’re deciding how to get started on your weekend project, you’ll have a few choices:

  1. No plan – Hey, it’s worked so far for oil companies and big banks, why not you?
  2. Ye old pencil and paper – this classic is tried and true, never fails, but never gets any better either.
  3. Spreadsheets – Still need a drawing first, and who the heck wants to work in these after doing it all day?
  4. Templates and guides – Gets us 80% there and we’ll spend the weekend making trips for more stuff.
  5. Drawing packages – Spend all our time perfecting the picture, now what do we really need to get started?

Of course there’s 3D Build Planner, but in suggesting this, we asked ourselves what should planning software really be able to do for you, here’s some ideas: (Hint: Make planning more fun)

  1. Basic measurements – I put a piece here and I put a piece there, surely a computer can figure out how far apart they are and record it somewhere.
  2. Keep track of my pieces – I start with one, maybe I cut it, and then I have two.  Please keep track of what I need.
  3. Please track fasteners too, and in a smart way.  Don’t tell me I need 379 #8 screws, tell me I need 8 boxes of 50.
  4. Suggest Spacing – Every fence has fence boards and they have to be evenly spaced so as not to drive the builder crazy cutting the last one or pounding on a calculator – there’s a theme here, let the computer do it.
  5. Mitres – Maybe I want pieces on an angle and computers are smart enough to know how to make a nice flush edge with a mitre, so please do it.
  6. Optimize, tell me just how much lumber to buy so that I’m not buying too much…computers are good for that.
  7. Tell me how much paint I need to buy so I’m not going back to the store while half my project dries in the sun and I’ve forgotten the color I just picked.
  8. Tell me how much the stuff I just bought weighs.  I’ve had embarrassing moments like this before moving friends…
  9. Give me videos, guides, and tips I can use to get going quickly, and support options if I get stuck.
  10. Show me what this thing will look like.  Maybe the Pergola isn’t private enough or I really don’t like the look of horizontal lattice on my fence.  Show me please so I know before I buy materials.

and there you have it…self serving for sure, but planning can be as fun as building,

Happy Building,