Scale Models of Furniture for Display

Considering how to design and make small mock-ups for use as a sales tool. August 3, 2009

I am thinking of making a bed (or other furniture) in a reduced scale for display. That way I can display them in a furniture store and other places to possibly get clients to buy the real thing. I think it would be much better than a business card or small poster. That way the people can actually see and feel the quality. This is something that was done back in the 30's, 40's and 50's with traveling salesmen. I guess I am wondering how far (percentage) do I reduce it without it being too big or too small? Does anyone know a specific formula to get a good size and proportion? I would hate to build three or four before I get the size right.

Forum Responses
(Furniture Making Forum)
From contributor D:
Those sales samples, often at 1/4 or 1/10 scale, were from a time when communications were very limited. They did show the skills and more importantly, the styles, of the maker to the relatively far flung and isolated. Today we have photography, CAD drawings, digital imaging and this Internet thing to communicate what we do to the masses.

If you do not have a good grasp on proportioning, then you need to do that before you try to earn a living making anything. Good design is firmly grounded in proportions. Start with an architect's scale and draw what you have around you. For 1/4 scale, multiply any dimension by .25. Read design books and learn about the Golden Mean. Proportions and dimensions are much more critical in model-making, since a small error looks glaringly wrong. Have you ever made 1/10 scale dovetail drawers?

If you have time to make samples, then I think your time will be better spent making full size speculation pieces that can be sold. Do not count on furniture stores to sell what you make. Their mark-up is 300%, so that means nothing for you - you are competing with the Third World, and they are cheap.

If you make period reproductions, there are some well traveled ways to market them, and the proportions of historic designs are available, if not published. If you are making your own contemporary designs, then they need to be made full size, in all their glory, and marketed (with yourself) to galleries, designers and such. Do a search here on WOODWEB for previous information on marketing and solo shops. There is a wealth of info.

From contributor G:
I've thought about this too: using marquette’s to make a display room that could fit on a countertop. I've only used models for design purposes, and I've found 1/4 scale works well - about twice the size of what you would find in, say, Barbie and Ken's house. That is, big enough to spot details, but small enough to be compact. I think that marquette’s let you see the design better than even 3-D modeling software. I've never actually tried to make fine models - I do things like draw on drawer fronts with a felt marker. It's more an effort to get the proportions right. I know I've seen some pretty incredible models in the pages of fine woodworking - dovetail pins the width of toothpicks, etc. People do seem drawn to models, and think they're cute. I say give it a try. The hard thing would be to take as much care as on the real thing. One thing I've found that works well is to butt everything together with 2p10 adhesive - the parts see very little stress if handled carefully.