Build with plans - Or not

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I see several posts asking for the plans to build whatever. I rarely build using plans other than a basic sketch to insure correct dimensions. When someone wants something made, all I really want is a few photos of what they want and I'll design/build it based loosely on what they had in mind. I make several mistakes this way but it's part of the learning process. I love the challenge.
Are you a must have a plan person or do you just build it by the seat of your pants.
Dave
--
Today's mighty oak is just yesterday's nut that held its ground.



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Both. A few recent projects as examples: My recent mission style bed project was built pretty closely to a set of plans (August Home/Woodsmith), though I tweaked the dimensions a little and came up with my own bed rail fastening system. The spice rack I built was entirely my own design, based on the sizes of the spice jars that were in our cupboard. I did google around to look at photos of others' designs, but didn't base my design on any in particular. My router table is entirely my own design - designed around the scraps I had on hand, and made to fit in my B&D Workmate. Thus it's swapable with my stationary belt-disc sander etc. The rocking chair I'm working on is based very loosely on a plan (American Furniture Design), but I basically used that for some of the dimensions and angles. This plan contains very few of the pictures/tips/jigs I found useful in the August Home plan, and the CAD drawings that came with the rocking chair plan are poorly done and inconsistent with the single photo of the original chair. So again, I found all the pictures of mission style rockers I could, measured all the chairs I could find, picked elements of each that I liked or didn't like, and sketched up my own diagram that I'm building from. I'm thinking that it would probably be beneficial to teach myself how to use Google Sketchup or some basic CAD program, but I just haven't motivated myself to spend a few hours in front of a computer when I could spend a few hours with some wood instead. The only problems I've had with my own sketches/plans have occurred when I didn't look at them often enough. Andy
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Andy wrote:

I might make a rough sketch from the idea in my head if the project is complicated enough.
As far as using plans from other sources, I only look at them to get different ideas of how something might go together. To me, woodworking is a process that begins with an idea and ends with the finished product. Building something according to an existing plan cuts out an integral (and fun) part of that process.
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Teamcasa wrote:

I usually work from a plan and cutlist, but in the vast majority of cases, _I_ created the plan and cutlist. If the project is based on an existing item, the plan is created from photos and descriptions of the item. The "plan" is usually nothing more than an 11"x17" pencil line drawing, with notes jotted down as to specific details that I don't want to forget. My cutlists are usually simple Excel printouts. Each project gets a clipboard, and parts are stretch-wrapped together and labeled, as I usually have more than one project going at a time. Shop projects, etc... usually don't warrant a plan.
I've occasionally used commercial plans, not for an entire project, but for a detailed explanation of how a specific idea is executed. Sometimes, there's no point in reinventing the wheel.
Personally, I've found the most difficult and mistake-prone way to work is to modify a plan on the fly that I didn't create.
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I always build from plans. Sometimes, they're other people's plans, either purchased or free downloads. Usually, they're my own plans -- which are frequently just sketches with dimensions, and a picture in in my head. But I always, always, always build from some kind of plan.
--
Regards,
Doug Miller (alphageek at milmac dot com)
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Thu, Oct 12, 2006, 9:13am (EDT-3) snipped-for-privacy@teamcasadot.org (Teamcasa) doth queryeth: <snip> Are you a must have a plan person or do you just build it by the seat of your pants.
Plans? Plans? Don' need no steenkin' plans!
JOAT It's not hard, if you get your mind right. - Granny Weatherwax
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J T wrote:

The problem with using plans is that it is so hard to find them. Now, if there were some way to find plans with a quick and easy search....
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(Teamcasa)

Searching's too hard. I want someone to post links to plans right in front of me. ;-)
Puckdropper
--
Wise is the man who attempts to answer his question before asking it.

To email me directly, send a message to puckdropper (at) fastmail.fm
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wrote:

I generally have an outline as to what, but serenidipty strikes more often than does Murphy. But frustrating Murphy rather than me always makes me happy.
Mark (sixoneeight) = 618
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I'm a recent requester of plans for sideboard -- more for generating some ideas rather than producing a piece. In this case, the sideboard is a gift for my son and daughter-in-law and I just wanted a few plans/pix to make sure what I produce is what they really want.
Teamcasa wrote:

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Thu, Oct 12, 2006, 7:02pm (EDT+4) snipped-for-privacy@NOSPAMsbcglobal.net (Cap'n321) doth claimeth: <snip> the sideboard is a gift for my son and daughter-in-law and I just wanted a few plans/pix to make sure what I produce is what they really want.
In that case, if it had been me, I'd have asked THEM for pictures or plans of what they really want.
JOAT It's not hard, if you get your mind right. - Granny Weatherwax
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Build from plans when you don't have one. Then run around getting the material called for in the plan. Or mess around with the plan, substitute material and dimensions, and likely mess up the project.
Or get a plan in your head from other plans or pictures, mull it around a bit, sketch it out for the joints and build it with the material you have. At least your not building what someone else has built before you. Call it original design if that makes you happy.
I get the idea and work out the details in my mind, sketching where I need to, Lay out my material, write all over it, sand it off, do it again, revise the plan because the material doesn't fit, down/up size the plan, get more material if I really feel I need it. This takes a month. Start cutting to size, need a jig - build one (jig takes 2 days, cutting takes 10 min), dry fit, cut some more material, more dry fit, change plans because I got a better idea, complete all the cutting and final dry fit. Begin glue up, take back down because I got ahead of myself in the glue up sequence, curse the glue squeeze out, fix that, recut the piece that doesn't fit, complete the assembly. This takes a week or so, depending on project size and complexity - your time may vary. Grab a coffee, have a smoke and watch the glue dry. Sand the snot out of it with progressively finer papers, make a great show of being fussy, damp wipe the project down to raise the grain and find missed spots to resand, lighly sand again. Grab more coffee and a smoke and watch the wood dry while looking for areas that need more sanding. This takes about 2-3 days. Give it a first coat of oil/stain and curse your blindness for missing that obvious sanding swirl that didn't show up when damp wiping, resand and curse some more. Complete the finishing, sanding out the damn fruit flies that came out of no where and landed in the last wet coat, wax it. Grab another cuppa and a smoke, sit down and finally see all the stupid mistakes you made, and curse some more. Plan the next project.
If this hasn't happened to you, you don't enjoy working with wood and need a new pastime like bottle cap collecting. Pete
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snipped-for-privacy@mts.net wrote:

LMAO! You must have a hidden camera set up in my shop! (Except I did manage to quit smoking a few years back)
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LMAO, sounds familiar....
Allen

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I've never built from someone else's plans, but when I get an idea of something I want to build, I usually draw my own detailed plans.
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wrote in message

That's mostly what I do as well. Sometimes I'll detail out a particulair connection just to get a better idea on what order to make the cuts or should I mortise first, shape later or shape first, mortise later. Oh the sweet delima.
I also agree with Pete's statement "If this ... (put togeather - take apart) hasn't happened to you, you don't enjoy working with wood and need a new pastime like bottle cap collecting."
Dave
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wrote:

Seat of my pants, now- but when I was starting out making "real" furniture (as opposed to sawhorses and nailed-together 2x4 benches) I used plans until I got a good idea of what joints were availible, when they were appropriate, what approaches I did and didn't like, and glue-up procedures. Without that initial education via plans, I think my current projects would be suffering.
I don't bother with cutlists, either- I've got a lathe, and do little projects as well, so I just get a couple more planks than I think I need, and keep the extra in the shop for some future project. I might plan out buying hardwood ply, but I don't use that much.
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Teamcasa wrote:

I'm really fond of the planning process; there's always a plan. The making of an esthetic whole out of materials, processes, and techniques is my definition of a satisfying craft (or craft hobby).
There's three stages of a project (bookshelf, room moulding, room rearrangement... whatever). First you identify the goal; bookshelf for books this size, in this quantity, in this location in the house. Second, you put together a plausible scheme to reach the goal (shelf boards this width, of softwood, vertical supports blind-sliding-halfdovetailed in plywood, finished before cutting, and a cutting plan based on standard lumber sizes). Third, you make the trip to the lumberyard and transition those boards from raw wood to furniture-plus-sawdust.
Sometimes it pays off big; sometimes you have happy accidents on the way and the plan changes. I ran into a sample-size display of stains while shopping for lumber, and my playing with different stains and woods soaked up an extra weekend. Sometimes you hit a hitch and have to re-plan or accept the uneven staining as a gift of the wood...
And years of enjoyment of the project can be had if the plan is sound, while months of dissatisfaction can result if the wood finish sticks to your books. The plan DID call for finishing applied weeks ahead of final assembly, I'm happy to say.
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Teamcasa wrote:

I rarely have the luxury to work so loosely. I design in the laptop for most of my clients, generally on site with a tape measure in hand. I take it home and detail it out from there. I usually have a complete cutlist and drawings of plan and elevation views complete before I buy any wood.
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If woodworking was my profession, I too would carefully design, plan and purchase with care. As a hobby, I am relieved of that responsibility. If this hobby ever became work, I'd go back to playing golf, welding or diving.
Dave
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