Archive for the ‘General Discussion’ Category

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

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 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,

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,

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 or watch the online video 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,

What is a Kerf?

What is a Kerf?

That’s a good question, and even if you haven’t come across the term before,  I bet you’ve come across it when
building your own projects.  The Kerf is often defined to be the width of the saw blade.  While that’s almost
correct, the Kerf really refers to the amount of wood consumed by the saw as the saw cuts through a piece of lumber.
In many cases, the actual blades of a saw are slightly wider than the saw itself.  This helps to ease the saw through the wood.

The Kerf is then made by the width of the saw blades cutting through the lumber.  But depending on how fast the blade is moving and what type of lumber you’re cutting, the blade may be under different ‘loads’ and this can also alter the Kerf amount. The Kerf is different for every saw and lumber combination.  Luckily, you can make a test cut and measure it for yourself.

Is the Kerf bad?

So what’s the big deal, a little bit of lumber is consumed with each cut, it’s no big deal right? Well, not really. When you’re making multiple cuts with a single piece of lumber, the Kerf amount in each cut can really add up, even to the point where you no longer have enough lumber for your pieces.  Let me give you an example.

The example – Fence Topper

Let’s say we’re cutting 1 foot sections from 1×1 cedar to frame a lattice topper for a fence, you want 6 of them.
We have a nice 6 foot piece of cedar.  Actually its 6 feet and one half inch as purchased at our local store.
Now it turns out that our Kerf is about 1/8 of an inch on our Mitre saw.  To get 6 sections from our 1×1 cedar,
we’ll need to make 5 cuts.  Each time we cut, we’re losing 1/8 of an inch due to our Kerf.  So after 5 cuts, we’ve
lost 5/8 of an inch, which is more than the half inch or 4/8 we had to spare.  Now one of our rails is short by 1/8
of an inch.  The more cuts you make from a piece, the more impact the Kerf will have.

So now what?

First, make a test cut with your saw on a rough piece to get an idea of the amount of Kerf you have, round up if you need to. Second, make sure you know how long the pieces are that you’re buying at the store.  Third, plan you projects
with the Kerf in mind.  When cutting, always make sure to position the blade on the outer side of your cut line,
and include your Kerf amount in your measurements when planning your cuts.

In 3D Build Planner, you can set the Kerf amount under the Preferences Manager.  3D Build Planner will include any Kerf amounts in the plans that it produces, ensuring you’re buying the right amount of lumber, and not heading back to the store for more supplies.

If you want to experiment a bit with the Kerf to see the impact, download the Trial version of 3D Build Planner at It’s good for up to 10 pieces and can show you an effective layout with different lengths of boards and different Kerf amounts.

Happy Building,