I think most people ask for plans because they're not experts
(you, I gather, have reached a certain level of expertise).
Folk starting into something new look for guidance on what
proportions will work, on what joints are appropriate for a
given situation, even for how to make a joint that they haven't
previously made. As you gain more experience, first you take
existing plans and adapt them, as you learn where you can change
dimensions without resulting in ugly proportions or weak
construction; with further experience you can design from
To take your painting example, many of the old masters of the
renaissance learned by painting over another master's work.
They weren't born with an inate grasp of color & perspective,
they learned it. Would you condemn their later work because
they started with "paint by numbers"?
No I haven't reached very far up the ladder of expertise. I'm new to
building cabinets. I DID do them without using anyone's plans, but
that's only after a lot of thought, using Excel to get the dimensions
right, and thinking about what I wanted. My workbench and cabinets are
simple affairs; had I a complex project, my limited ideas would fail me
and I'd need much assistance.
I wasn't condemning anyone for painting by numbers. It was the first
thing I thought of as an analogy. It's been pointed out by several
folks that it was a poor one. I used it in the mistaken belief that
following along with a plan offered no creativity or sense of
accomplishment. That was my mistaken idea. I get it now.
Let me share something: Years ago I built a 25" TV, and o'scope, and a
couple of other electronic testers. I didn't feel a whole lot of sense
of accomplishment because they were all kits. I followed page after
page of detailed instructions in order to build those things. So I
related that feeling of lack of accomplishment to the use of plans while
woodworking. Instead of mentioning the kit building, I thought of paint
by numbers first...
Also I recognize that everyone has their own skill set. I was wondering
out loud if the need to follow plans was due to a lack of 3D thinking.
That's not a character flaw. Now I see that the "need" is not usually a
"need"; but a convenience, a tool. As I've mentioned to other posters
this morning, I have seen the error in my thinking!
and thank you for contributing to this very interesting thread.
John McCoy wrote:
I`m new to woodworking but most of all I enjoy buying woodworking
reading them before work and at lunch time.
I`m good at my trade (which isn`t woodworking).
I`m glad woodworking tradesmen don`t need plans.They just need to be
more understanding,to some this is a hobbie.
If somebodies that good at designing and planning then sell them to
the ones who buy them. And get over it=)
Seems to me that most of those folks we call musicians play music
written by someone else, even the words they sing are usually by
someone else. The result may be termed their "interpretation" of the
song, but it is them playing and/or singing someone elses song. They
still win the Grammy, though don't they? All of the best cooks I have
ever known had recipe books in their kitchens. They may have made some
modifications to suit their own or their family's tastes, but they
used the recipe books. They still received the accolades when
everybody was sitting around with their belts loosened after a good
meal. A plan is nothing more than a recipe or a song. It is nice if
you are a person who can and enjoys the developement of the plan or
the recipe or the song, but the person who makes the item, sings the
song or cooks the meal gets the ultimate acknowledgement. Please don't
denigrate the skills and artistry of the woodworker who uses a plan
any more than you would the grammy winning singer or the best "mom"
who ever cooked a meal for you.
Who uses plans at least as often as not (if not more so)
I'll second that... It was easy to tell that someone was trying
unsuccessfully to redo a Fleetwood Mac song. And also entertainers are for
entertainment, absolutely not a source of usable or credible information.
Since I am late into this discussion I can add to the philosophies of
As I understand it Years Ago in the days of master Craftsman (not talking
about a Sears line here) and apprenticeship, Design was something that was
taught. My teachers always said If you can't draw it you probably can't
build it. They had a point. Although it is nice to just buy a plan and
build with everything figured out, there are a few things missing, Like Why
this joint is this way and not that. Anyway Design was taught buy having
them copy out of previous masters plan books. As the student advanced he
modified the plan, if it worked it was added to the plan book or the
modifications were written in, etc. Finally he got to the point that he
knew what was what and drafted his own plan completely.
So is it like painting by numbers? Maybe, but as a kid did you have great
color concept? probably not. You had to start somewhere. Did the picture
come out. Hopefully yes. Thats the philisophical part.
The practical part:
I agree with Ben Sider on the drafting part. If I had never been to college
and learned drafting, carpentry, or cabinet making (a little bit) Then I
would probably not even know where to start in my drafting. Sometimes plans
are easiser, even now. They help me see various styles and joints and
procedures taht I would never had known about.
Newbies need to start somewhere. However A guy who has read books and done
projects for a year, and asks "I need a plan for a book shelf 3x6 set of
shelves" Maybe shouldn't be using those tools in the first place. He
problably hasn't learned anything. If he says "I want the plans to Norms
bookshelves he did last week made out of Maple" he has a point and wants a
Some guys are lazy wanting gracious people like JOAT to do their work for
them. Some are just ignorant. Some don't deserve even the "hobbiest"
If you won't read, what are you doing here anyway. If you are too cheap to
buy a $20 book on design, drafting etc. or spend $$ for a class then find a
new hobby. Its gonna cost you huge $$$$$$$$$ in the future anyway. Might
as well spend the first few $$ on training.
Second Point: some can do the "plans I don't need no stinkin plans" and
come up with a master piece. However most people start with a plan of some
sort. Remember I said even Master craftsmen had plans. How detailed, is
another story. For me it's a skill I have developed. I can now draw basic
dimensions and make a descent project. A few years ago forget it.
Three. Plans are made to be modified. I cann't think of the last plan I
did to the T. Everyone comes out different than the intended. Usually do
to my ineptitude, but one of my most recent projects I made a modification
'cuse A. I hated the style. B. if anyone had ever dragged it accross the
floor the whole thing would have ripped apart.
Conclusion: Shunning your own plans is stupid, shunning other plans is
stupid, refusing to learn is idiocracy.
off my box for now.
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