I have often mentioned that I draw most of the more complicated automata I make using a CAD system before building. This allows to use templates for cutting, avoiding interferences, and creating a template for reconstruction. I don't always use it to rough in carved characters but I do use it to locate their controls points so I can place the actuator linkages in the mechanism in the right place.
Here is a rendering of "The Waiting Room" automata in progress right now to give you an idea of how much work is involved.
Automata is a creative blend of my life interests , engineering, art and woodworking.