No, I'm not talking about working without a blade guard. I'm talking about working without plans. I recently started my first real WW project and because I couldn't find plans for a step stool for my son, I decided to design my own and base it off of a box design in the book, Woodworking Wisdom. The adventure that ensued has caused me to fall hard for woodworking. I met with some tough questions on how to accomplish what I envisioned with the tools that I have. Joining the feet to the box was the main problem. I decided to cut rabbet joints and dowel the feet to the box and let the dowels show in the design. I also am going to allow the dowels to show through the top of the stool where it fastens to the box.
Cutting the rabbets on mitered feet was a challenge. I first tried the router w/straight bit, but the cut was very uneven due to the small feet not being able to be guided very well. I wish I had a router table. Or, if I had cut the rabbets first, it would work. But I didn't. So, I decided to use the table saw. This worked perfectly. The feet all fit exactly the way I envisioned. Through trial and error, I found great satisfaction in being able to accomplish what I imagined. I used scrap wood in my experiments so I didn't waste a lot of wood either. What fun.
Anyway, here is my question. How many of you rely upon plans religiously and how many like to use them as a basis? My wife has talked about cooking in this way. She doesn't use recipes. She knows how to make just about everything and loves to improvise. It's a bit like jazz in the kitchen! Me, I have to have a detailed recipe to boil water. But this foray into woodworking improvisation has intoxicated me. I love the problem solving that takes place. And the satisfaction of finding a way to make something beautiful. What say you?
"Everyone thinks about changing the world, but no one thinks about changing himself."
I never use plans for anything but a loose guide. It seems I always need to alter dimensions or features, reducing the accuracy of the plans anyway.
That doesn't mean not following plans doesn't cause problems along the way. I have had to think my way out of more than one corner when something didn't go right because of my improvising, but it's still fun.
I don't see a thing wrong with following plans when they apply. there are many times I probably should have do just that.
I have never bought a plan, or used a commercial plan. Reason? I don't want to make something exactly according to someone elses plan...probably explains why I work for myself too...can't stand bosses! I have gotten lots of inspiration from pictures, magazines, well...everywhere! I'll see something, or someone else sees something they like (wife, customer, etc.) and it gets built from that idea using techniques I know work for a particular situation. I do make sketches, drawings, cutting lists...whatever I think I need to keep me from screwing up. I also build using a method that I don't think has a name...(hmm...is there a name for this method??...got me wondering now )
Anyway...I'll see something I want to build, and base my decisions on one piece based on the dimensions of another..Ok...an example. I wanted to build a Grandmother clock, but there were several things I didn't like about the one I was looking at (in a magazine) so I go with what I do like, and construct around that. I liked the base...so I built the base. I then made the middle section based on the dimensions of the base and dry fit the pieces and sat them on top of the base and stood back and looked..."Hmmm...too wide"...so I trimmed the pieces and looked again.."hmmm... might be too tall, but I wont really know until I build the actual clock part"....built the clock part, set it on top..."yep...too dang tall"...anyway...you get the idea. When I was finished I critically judged the clock, asked a couple friends and family what they thought, and made fairly detailed sketches and notes so I could reproduce it when I needed to.
Anyhoo...that's my "method"...even though it's not a "method" I like the freedom to do as I please....I have to conform to customers wants quite a bit, but that can be fun too... Well, sometimes ;)
I don't buy commercial plans. Sometimes I'll carry a sketch pad and ruler to make a dimensioned sketch of something.
Most all of what I build is original design. I'll CAD it up to work out the cut list and materials. Sometimes I start with materials and work backwards to figure out the largest whatever I can make with it.
Once I have the CAD plan in hand I head to the shop. But the CAD plan is just a roadmap, not an absolute. If I make a change in the shop I'll mark up the change on the sheet and sometimes go back and update the CAD drawing.
I use CAD because I have it and am very fast at it. Sometimes I'll draw something and then ask the drawing how big it is.
I have tried it both ways and found the challenges are similar. Without book/magazine plans I have to plan every joint and cut myself and got a lot of satisfaction from it. With plans I've found that after the first cut the plan is just a guideline because I now I have a physical object to work with; the object is not 5-3/4" long it's pretty close but not exactly so I need to account for discrepencies. There are also mistakes in books/magazines (as I found out in my first project) that need to be noodled out. What if the plan calls for a tool that I don't have? Again I need to think my way out of the problem. Lastly, I (like most folks) have many demands on my time so often I'd rather get to cutting quicker which I can usually do with pre-drawn plans. At least for now I think I'm mostly a paint-by-numbers-on-black-velvet kind of woodworker except that I have a whole lot more invested than $4.99. :)
Yeah, I do use them, but I always seem to deveate from them. (Imagine that! Me deveating?)
I seem to always take a different course with joinery, or, and I really hate this, find errors in "the plan". So I have to re-plan the plan.
Or the cutlist needs rearranged to cut down on waste or leave a better chunk for the shop leftovers.
Mostly I use the pictures. Often a picture or a rough idea of what is wanted is enough for me.
I'm glad to hear you found the soul satisfaction there in the wood and project, Drew.
It is an elixor to the being. I usually get an emotional spell along towards the end of a project thinking about the one's it is made for, and what time will bring to them.
Sort of a mix of saticfaction and sadness all balled up from the heart. Makes my derned eye's wet, too. Seems to happen with every project.
Seems the blood, sweat and tears all come together and well up.
I guess that's when what I refer too as "The Soul of the Wood" touches me. When I step back and am Thankfull for the experiance of the project, the plan, and the effort, finally all coming together.
When I am finally satisfied, often the ones it was made for are as well.
I suppose that's a part of why I don't do "commercial" work. I'm just too soft to sell it, I want to give it away. Oh, maybe someday, and I've had inquries, but I'm not sure I REALLY want to go there.
And Drew, I sure belive in your signiture line, my friend. That is deep and I can relate very much, looking back at time.
Well, back to the project at hand for me. Another work of Love coming to a close.
Sorry to have rambled so darn long.
I have never purchased plans but nearly always build from plans. The plans I use are my own and may be a couple simple sketches or quite a bit more involved and complete plans. The commercial plans I've seen usually leave a lot to be desired when it comes to accuracy, design and appropriate joinery. My biggest problem with commercial plans is that each wood worker's tooling and skill are actually what control the final product. You can't build from a set of plans without having the tooling the designer expects. I want the tools I need and prefer without having some yahoo dictate them to me.
There was a thread on this very issue about two months ago. Many said they do not work with detailed published plans unless there are critical dimensions involved.
Studying a good set of plans can yield a number of useful insights and ideas beyond just looking at the finished product. Also, when moving parts get involved you will find your powers of visualization are taxed beyond comprehension.
I do not work from published plans although I do a fair amount of sketching in Visio before I start. Forcing myself to think through the appearance, function, ergonomics, and assembly on paper is a good idea and cheaper. Sometimes in the free flowing creativity mode one can lose sight of why something was a certain way, change it, and then have it catch up with you later. This in turn just provides another challenge to overcome or more firewood.
Iv'e always wondered if norm Draws up plans and works from them I also wonder if he has plans does HE draw/CAD them or does he have like a designer doing it for him.
Inever really work with plans i might scetch an Idea down when i think of one though
Hey, Sonny. Just wanted you to know that I am not the source of that quote. Tolstoy said that. The way my signature came up on the final message made it look like I attributed it to myself. I wish I had said something so profound! But, it is one of my favs.