What is my problem?

O.k., I have been building things and doing repair (apt maintenance) stuff and do fairly well. Following plans is no problem. However, I have noticed my biggest screw ups are when building things with no plans IOW when I have to decide on the design and steps, is a disaster. Is this a fairly common problem or am I missing a 2x4 somewhere?
Terry
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I will be interested to see what kind of replies you get.
For me, the main enjoyment is figuring out the construction details to make the finished product. That makes it more like puzzle solving than a simple craft. If I couldn't do it, I would find a new hobby.
I don't know what your problem is, except that we all have different talents and this probably just isn't one of yours.
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And after you figure out the best way, you have to figure how you can do it with the tools and materials available.
Best thing for the OP to do is make his own plans. Nothing fancy, but at least crude sketch of where things should be. I also mark the wood as I go to be sure everything is properly oriented and rabbets, dadoes, grooves,mortises, etc are on the proper sides. Not that I've ever made three left and one right for chair legs or anything like that. Ed snipped-for-privacy@snet.net http://pages.cthome.net/edhome
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"toller" writes:

"Edwin Pawlowski" writes:

You guys ought to build a boat<G>.
Lew
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I think I'd be good at it. No straight parts right? Plenty of practice already ;) Ed.
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I recently built a corner cabinet from a Gottshaw book and found more mistakes than you can shake a stick at, plus there was a bunch of stuff incorporated in the drawings that were never mentioned in the text........mjh
http://members.tripod.com/mikehide2

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Terry Cano wrote:

You've given TWO problems you're having when working without plans, designing and building. "Designing" can have several meanings - one being the proportions, another not only the proportions but the joinery and order of assembly. The "building" is the parts fabrication and assembly
Working from a good set of plans will make you aware of the joinery available, perhaps provide suggestions for making the joints, assembly instructions and maybe even some notes about things to do and things not to do. A GOOD set of plans can teach you a lot of things you need to know for that project and which you can use in future projects. BUT finding a GOOD set of plans is a rare occurance. Hell. getting plans with accurate dimensions forALL the parts can be hard.
If you "wing it" there's a more to know up front - types of joints, what applications they're to be used for, when to use joint A instead of joint B, how to make them ... Winging it also requires making things in increments/modules and dry fitting them together to get critical measurements for the next increment/modules -a "design/fit as you go" thing, as opposed to cutting all the parts and THEN put them all together - in the right order.
The advantages of winging it and "make as you go" are - you get to see what you've got so far - at the actual size with the actual wood - screw ups are limited to the increment/module where they occur - it's easier to make something to fit in an ACTUAL space than to make parts that are supposed to fit a space shown on the plans but may or may not be actually what you made. It takes a good working methods and procedures to make multiple parts that all have the same critical dimensions. Even minor differences between parts that are suppose to have the same critical dimensions can accumulate and raise all kinds of hell. - breaking down a problem into smaller, manageable parts lets you focus on just what you're doing now and how it fits with what you've got so. It also gives you a series of accomplishments to enjoy along the way, encouraging you to get on to the next increment / module/ step.
Personally, I enjoy wing it, though it no doubt takes longer. For me it's the journey, not the destination, that makes woodworking enjoyable.
Learning from "mistakes" can be as valuable as getting it right the first time. Hang in there.
charlie b
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I've seen too many poor measurements and out-of order instructions in plans to place much more faith in them than the ones I sketch myself. After that, there are some common mistakes, like not preparing enough stock where a certain number of pieces have to be the same, forgetting to add dimension for joinery, inside versus outside dimensions, getting too ambitious in glue-ups and such.
A plan can help you avoid someone else's mistakes, never your own.

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wrote:

you just need to work on your design skills.
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No you are not missing any pertinent brain functions. heheh. I am the same way.
Alot of it is experience. If you built cabinets all day and had to design one for say a wine rack it would be no big deal.
Keep at it and enjoy the ride!
Rich

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"Terry Cano" wrote in message

The "2x4" you're missing may be as simple as a sheet of paper, a ruler and pencil, or a CAD program. You'll find that the discipline of taking the time necessary to make an accurate, and well thought out, shop drawing will result in a lot less frustration and screw-ups when it comes time to put blade to wood.
--
www.e-woodshop.net
Last update: 7/10/04
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I am currently building a bar for my daughter. Didn't have a clue how I was going to go about it. Looked around for some plans for a long time and couldn't find anything that I liked. Actually, couldn't find many plans for a bar at all. Anyway, am now just winging it and what a ride this is turning out to be. I initially drew up some very crude plans that really weren't much more than the basic shape and size, but as I talk to my daughter about them the plans keep changing anyway, so the plans have gone out the window. Just today I found the original "plan" and this thing doesn't look anything at all like it was initially going to. The shape has changed, the counter height has changed, the bar counter height has changed, The finishing is still not totally decided yet, etc., etc., etc.
The first thing that she mentioned (aftert getting the shape and height down) was that she wanted to put her small refrigerator in it (a small 1.5 cu ft job that she has had for a long time). I said fine, what are the dimensions of the fridge? She says 24"x24"x20"deep. After I get the pieces all cut to assemble the inside frame, I called her and asked her to go measure the fridge before it's too late to do anyting about it. "It's a little over 18 wide and the same height". OK, Same height as the "the little over 18", or the same height as the original you told me? OK, so now I know that it is a little over 18 square. Sure glad I didn't glue/nail everything in place.
Just yesterday I was talking (chatting really) to her and I told her that I was working on all of the drawers. She answers back "uh oh". All I could think was "Aw shit! Now what?". After a few more messages I talked her into keeping the drawers. BUT! She now wants the drawer fronts to have cut-outs in them. That's just great! :-) What's going to be next with this kid?
Bottom line of all this is don't worry about your missing 2x4. There are times for plans and times for wings. Winging it can be both fun and instructional. I sure have been learing a lot about several aspects of woodworking. Some are unintentional, of course. But it is definitely interesting. Some of the "funest" things can be trying to figure out a way to do something that you either didn't think of in the first place, or decided on later, or because SWMBO (or other loved one) changed their minds, or you discover that your design won't work the way you want it to, or . . .well you get the idea.
I have managed to pick up a couple of tools too. Just yesterday I went to Rocklers and picked up one of their dovetail jigs to do the drawers. (My money is tight right now. Later on I want to get a D4 but for now I can't). One thing that I can see coming up is that I might need to do a little steam bending so I have been keeping my eyes open for materials to build a steaming chamber.
Wayne

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When working with out plans in front of you, you have to learn to think several steps ahead before making a move. Sorta like Chess I guess.

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Terry Cano wrote:

No Terry, your not missing a 2x4, or maybe your not.
Building's easy when there is a plan. The better the [plan the easier something is to build.
When building something from scratch without a plan no one is doing your thinking for you.
As has been said, get a sketch pad and drawing tools. Get a drafting text book and do some of the exercises. Expand on this by drawing up things you never plan to build.
Here's a thing that kills me about some people in this news group: Some of these people have the 8" jointer and the industrial planer and, golly, your not a serious woodworker if you don't have at least the 10" Uni with 54" Byes, but many of these same people can't plan a box.
How the hell can someone justify this level of equipment if they're still needing others to do their thinking for them? I know they do because I see them posting looking for plans. Mayhaps they should spend less time worrying about having 'the right' make of tools and more thinking about what they're doing.
To me knowing what I want and figuring out how to get it is more a part of building anything than having a shop full of tools.
--
Mark

N.E. Ohio
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Don't worry so much about your mental health, and buy 1/3 more wood for a project than you think you need!! Pre made plans almost invariably have mistakes so you have to think about the design anyway. Learn good basic joinery, I also recomend the tuaton press book on design (with the little side table on the cover) The book is not so much on how to build one project, but a way of thinking about what has to be done, why one way rather than another, how to do it and what order to do it in.It will show you how to batch cut pieces for a project including the joinery, it was very helpful for folks that don't like to draft up each and every component of a project, and also what parts should be completed and fitted first.Get the book. -Frank
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Terry Cano wrote:

A lot of times, my construction work is done without plans. Or at least, without complete plans. When I am contemplating a project, I may draw out a rough plan for the project on graph paper as to where the components will go. I then may spend days, looking at the site, and building the complete project in my mind, over and over, thinking about the construction, how those component elements will be constructed in relation to other components, and the amount of material I may have to buy. Very rarely do I run out of material, or have a lot of extra material left over. My latest project was a small 20' x 8' deck attached to a contractor installed Four Season's Room added to my house. http://www.willshak.com/temp/deck.html
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I have never worked from a commercial plan. I do work to plans though, drawn by me. Fairly simple projects are drawn in 2D cad. More complex ones in 3D. By 3D I don't mean a picture of the finished piece. Each part is drawn to size, including all joinery, and the item is assembled. 2D prints are then made from these parts. With this method, running into something that just does not work is virtually eliminated. Not really recommended for most as the amount of time spent learning the program and how to draw effectively is well beyond what most are willing to put into it.

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