Woodworking plans abound in the printed media like books, magazines and trade journals as well as the Internet. The issue with such abundance, however, is that not all woodworking plans are made equal to the needs and wants of amateur and professional woodworkers. The trick then is to choose the right woodworking plan by looking at the most important aspects of said document.
To narrow down your choices in woodworking plans, you must look at two important aspects first. These are:
- Final Results – What kind of woodworking project do you want to take on? Woodworking plans include just about everything that a home, school and office, among other structures, can have in their interiors and exteriors. Furniture woodworking plans include tables, chairs, cabinets and closets for the living room, dining room, kitchen and bedrooms for the home; computer tables, work desks, conference tables, cabinets and chairs for the office; and chairs with arms, open cabinets and shelves for schools.
Woodworking plans for exterior spaces are also available. These plans include patios, decks, and terraces as well as the furniture and fixtures for these spaces. Think of planter boxes, tool sheds, and even greenhouses plus an assortment of plans for canoes, boats and wooden racer cars, among others. You also want to know the dimensions of the space where the woodworking project will be placed. We suggest measuring the indoor or exterior space first and then look for the woodworking plan that will suit its dimensions.
If you are building something that will be eventually taken out of the woodworking shop, we also suggest measuring the shop’s entry and exit points. You want to avoid building the parts of a canoe inside the shop and then being unable to get these parts out the door for assembly outside.
- Skill Level – Your next consideration is your skill level in woodworking and carpentry. In most cases, the woodworking plans will state the skills level of each project – beginner, intermediate and advanced – so you can easily choose which one is suitable for your abilities. Go for the woodworking plan within your skill level. This way, you can achieve good results and, consequently, be motivated to improve on your skills. In time, you will be able to take on more complicated projects in your home workshop.
When you have several woodworking plans that answer your woodworking project needs and your skill levels, you can start looking at their attributes. These woodworking plans must be judged based on their design, list of tools, list of materials, and materials. We shall discuss these in the following sections.
Your first consideration is the design of the woodworking plans especially in terms of the dimensions, drawings and diagrams provided. Although there are no hard and fast rules followed by draftsmen of woodworking plans, the most important thing is that these documents can actually be understood by users. Draftsmen usually abide by proper drafting rules to achieve such purpose, said drafting rules of which are akin to a universal language among woodworkers.
The woodworking plan must provide for 3 primary view of a particular object, namely, front, side and top, which will show all its dimensions. In most cases, exploded views of the sections of said object are provided in the plan obviously to show details that are difficult – too small or too complicated – to render in its primary views.
Aside from the exploded views, draftsmen may also show the particular object with one or more cut views. This is typically done when an object’s important element cannot be rendered in one of the primary views. Last but most important, the draftsman for the woodworking plan must state whether it is drawn to scale or not. If it is, indeed, used to scale, then the scale used must also be stated.
A few words of caution in regards to scale: First, if the plan does not use a scale, don’t take measurements using a ruler from said woodworking plan. You will end up with several serious mistakes. Second, the woodworking plans printed from an online source are not drawn to scale regardless of the draftsman’s assertion. This is because print commands like “fit to page” will change the scale of the drawings, thus, either lengthening or shortening the object in the drawing.
The best way to test the to-scale measurements of printed woodworking plans from an online site is to measure the vertical and horizontal defined measurements. If these measurements exactly match the stated scale, then the dimensions are on target. If not, then the scales were skewed and, thus, unreliable.
Why the significant emphasis on the quality of the design, drawings and dimensions of the woodworking plans? These aspects of woodworking plans are the foundations upon which the rest of the succeeding considerations are based on. Without the proper design, detailed drawings and complete dimensions, the woodworking plan cannot stand on its legs, so to speak.
List of Tools
Obviously, you want to choose woodworking plans that address two basic aspects in terms of tools required. You must ask yourself these important questions:
- Availability of Tools – Do you have the required tools in your workshop or tool shed? If not, can you afford to purchase these additional tools?
- Ability to Use the Tools Properly – Do you have the required ability to use the tools in a safe and effective manner? Does your workshop have the required power connections and other accessories for the tools?
Keep in mind that you want to finish the project with the right tools on hand. Beginning a woodworking project and then stopping on the halfway mark is wasted time, effort and money. The tools used in woodworking projects usually consist of hand tools and power tools. Take a regular inventory of these tools to determine what kind of projects you can take on.
List of Materials
The best woodworking plans also contain a complete list of materials required to finish the project. When we say complete, we mean that the list should outline the exact type, quantity and measurements of the materials from the nails, varnish and glue to the lumber, wood and plywood. The lumber used can be hardwoods (i.e., poplar, walnut and maple) and softwoods (i.e., cedar, fir and pine) depending on the final results.
The complete materials list serves another purpose – to estimate the final cost of the project. Of course, you must also add the labor and overhead expenses but since the materials expense forms the bulk of the final cost, the materials estimate is a good way to start.
Complete and Detailed Instructions
Last but not least, the woodworking plans must have a detailed, complete and step-by-step set of instructions from start to finish. The steps should be outlined in a clear manner so that the reader will easily understand what is required in the step and what the final look will be.
Photos of every step as well as photos of the final product help in making a three-dimensional picture of the furniture, fixture or structure in your mind. Most, if not all, of the best woodworking plans also have video instructions wherein a master woodworker takes viewers through every step of the project.
With complete text instructions coupled with photos, videos and drawings, even an amateur woodworker will be able to create a thing of beauty from a few simple tools and materials.