Understanding Blueprints: A Cheat Sheet for Cabinetmaking School Students

March 21, 2019

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If you’ve ever tried to put furniture together yourself, you may be aware of the frustration that comes with trying to make sense of a confusing blueprint. They are, however, essential to any woodworking or cabinetmaking design, and while they may seem confusing, there are actually a few things you can do to help make sense of the jumble of numbers, figures, and diagrams.

One of the primary goals of any good blueprint is that it has to be easily understood if another person were to read it. What may make sense to you might not always translate well for others, which means it’s important to use the proper drafting rules and techniques to make sure your blueprint is clear and concise.

If you’re interested in finding out more, here are a few helpful ways you can better understand the blueprints you may see during your career in cabinetmaking.

Understanding the Types of Woodworking Plans during Cabinetmaking School

A blueprint may have a variety of different components, depending on what you’re trying to build. Woodworking plans for example, probably won’t have the same level of detail as the ones for NASA’s next satellite. Although reading a blueprint may feel like rocket science, familiarizing yourself with its different formats can help you better understand the information a blueprint is trying to convey.

Blueprints often come in three basic views: plan, elevation, and section. Each of these views offers a different dimension and perspective of what the final product should look like. A plan is most commonly a horizontal bird’s eye view from above, while elevation blueprints show an object at eye level from its north, south, east, and west sides, and a section blueprint offers a vertical, cross section view, as if you were looking at the final product cut in half.

What Does a Good Blueprint Look Like for Professional Cabinetmakers?

There are many aspects of a blueprint that help make it easy to read and understand, including specific features such as lines and scale.

cabinetmaking trainingA good blueprint needs more than images to make sense to its readers

Scale is essential to understanding a blueprint, and helps readers better visualize what the final product should look like. Architectural scales are the most common, and are expressed using fractions; 1/2”=1’, for example, would mean that a half-inch on paper would equal one foot in reality. Important details such as scale, grid, and measurement units should be properly listed in your blueprint’s legend or notes.

The lines you use also play a part in how a blueprint is read. Bold, heavy lines—usually referred to as object lines—are meant to outline the surfaces that are visible to the eye, and should be the standard line you use to compare and define the other lines against. Hidden lines are made of short dashes to indicate hidden surfaces, while center lines use long dashes at each end and short dashes at points of intersecting components. These are only a few of the lines you will commonly encounter as a cabinetmaker, but cabinetmaking training can teach you the finer aspects of the specific details you may see on a woodworking blueprint.

Cabinetmaking Training Can Familiarize You with the Cabinetmaking Code

Although there is a standard format for the blueprints that cabinetmakers use, you may run into a variety of abbreviated or initialed words and code that describe various parts of the cabinet.

Standard cabinets should generally include specific codes which help readers understand what type of cabinet they’re building as well as its features and dimensions. A typical wall cabinet, for instance, would come in this format: W2430, with W meaning ‘wall cabinet,’ 24 indicating its width in inches, and 30 its height, also in inches. The code for a base cabinet may look similar but could include different dimensions according to its size.  Cabinetmaking school teaches you to be as precise as possible, so you should always make sure the codes you use in your blueprints are accurate and properly noted.

cabinetmaking coursesNATS students can use their training to better understand different parts of a blueprint

Do you want to apply your new professional blueprint-reading skills in a hands-on career?

Contact North American Trade Schools for more information about our cabinetmaking courses.

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