what makes a set of plans good? - Woodworking Talk - Woodworkers Forum
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post #1 of 19 Old 01-18-2016, 08:27 PM Thread Starter
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what makes a set of plans good?

I have gotten countless requests for plans to a piece I built years ago. I am considering creating plans for it and offering them for sale, but given that I never use plans to make anything, I would like to ask the opinions of those of you who DO use plans. What do you look for in plans? What details make the difference between good plans and not-so-good plans? What aspects would you request in plans if you had that option? What should be avoided when making plans? Given that the cost of plans varies from free to about $30, generally, what do you think a good set of plans for a unique piece should cost? Any feedback will be appreciated. Thanks.
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post #2 of 19 Old 01-18-2016, 11:01 PM
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A shopping/cut list. That's my favorite part of plans.

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post #3 of 19 Old 01-18-2016, 11:18 PM
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When comes right down to it, measuring and cutting the stock according to a plan might not work out for me. Maybe I am not careful enough, or bad eyesight, or whatever, but most of the time I build something on the fly. The plans are just a reference. They are still nice to have on hand to look at. A cutlist is a plus so the purchase of materials can be optimized.

I used to draw a sketch on a pad and work off of it. Now, I use Sketchup and that does help alot.
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post #4 of 19 Old 01-19-2016, 12:50 PM
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As a novice, I probably look at etchings differently then an experience woodworker does. Then again, most experienced woodworkers don't require the same detail in a set of plans. You might consider looking at some plans that have been done. I have purchased plans from Woodcraft & Rockler, which were pretty good to follow. I also have 2 sets from Toys & Joys that I feel are not designed at all with a novice in mind. A few things I look for are:

- Materials List
- Cut List (Identify pieces which should be oversized for later sizing to exact fit.)
- Good flow with directions.
- Identify what each joints are (dado, tongue & dado, butt, M&T, etc)
- Provide tips for cutting "tricky" parts.

Like I said, I'm a novice with little confidence in abilities and good plans can make or break a project for me. I have 2 projects which I haven't started yet. Even though I have plans, the plans seem overwhelming and I'm not sure where to begin.

Mark

"Measuring is the enemy of accuracy." Chris Schwartz
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post #5 of 19 Old 01-19-2016, 01:26 PM
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I've had lot's of drafting

In high school we had drafting classes where we drew up plans for houses. Each set of drawings had a floor plan, front rear and side elevations drawn to scale. From those plane a good rough carpenter could lay out the walls and build the house.

I would look for the same thing in a set of project plans, a top view, side views and front and rear views drawn to scale. The scale is important and would be a common one like 1" = 1 foot or 1/2" = 1 foot. This allows you to measure the drawings and convert them to actual full size dimensions.

Joinery details are also just as important, so exploded views of how parts fit together would be a great asset. The dimensions of the parts would also be needed.... depth of mortises, etc.

We also drew in 3 D perspective to better illustrate the overall look of the home, and this case the project. This is a pretty exacting artistic skill and not everyone would be proficient at it. In that case a 3 D computer modeling program is far and away your best bet. Sketch Up would be able to perform all the drawings and a perspective view easily.

The answer to your question will only be as detailed and specific as the question is detailed and specific. Good questions also include a sketch or a photo that illustrates your issue. (:< D)
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post #6 of 19 Old 01-19-2016, 05:54 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mort View Post
A shopping/cut list. That's my favorite part of plans.
This. Just so much this. Ill also add a cut layout as well. It's so much easier going into a project knowing "okay, I'll need 4 8 foot long 6 inch wide boards, and if I cut them like this I wont have to go back to the lumber yard tomorrow"

I need cheaper hobby
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post #7 of 19 Old 01-19-2016, 06:31 PM
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All great ideas from previous posts. For me plans should include materials, supplies, a cutting list/diagram, and an easy flow of information as to how items go together. A good starting point to create your plans IMO would be to look at any issue of Woodsmith/Shop Notes magazine (or any other woodworking project magazine) to get their flow and requirements of "making plans". The plans themselves should have dimensions in both standard (USA) and metric (outside USA) for each piece required. Also include "specialty" items usually not available in a big box store. As for $ charge, consider the project itself - more detail = more $. Be safe.
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post #8 of 19 Old 01-20-2016, 04:14 PM
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For me, a good plan will first show two views, front and side.
It will give me the overall dimensions for height, width and depth.
It will show dimensions of all component pieces. Drawers, doors, legs, aprons, etc.
It will offer a close-up detail if needed. (On some no further detail is needed)
This is enough instruction to complete the project.

As woodworkers, the rest of the decisions should be left to our individual taste.
Stain or paint, oak or pine, handles or knobs, oil finish or polyurethane.
Oh also I must add: The decision to make it completely with hand tools or use power tools?
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post #9 of 19 Old 01-21-2016, 01:10 PM
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I would say that a materials list and a cut list are the handiest things to have. Also, have a GOOD technical writer do the narrative...someone who actually knows how to instruct. Detailed illustrations from different angles can be helpful.
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post #10 of 19 Old 01-21-2016, 01:25 PM
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I've never used plans other than what I've made for myself. From what I've read here by folks following plans is often their skill level isn't near the same as the person drawing the plans and a lot of detail is left out. They're reading the plans and scratching their head trying to figure out what they mean. The plans need to spell out everything so the most novice person can follow. Also I've seen posts where a person buys plans that are not proven. They've made some mistake in the drawings and the parts even though made right don't fit. I think the person selling the plans should build the project using the plans before selling them.
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post #11 of 19 Old 01-21-2016, 03:48 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by epicfail48
This. Just so much this. Ill also add a cut layout as well. It's so much easier going into a project knowing "okay, I'll need 4 8 foot long 6 inch wide boards, and if I cut them like this I wont have to go back to the lumber yard tomorrow"
The only plans I've ever used are from Jay Bates for his horse bench. All the structure pieces are laid out in different colors on a Sketch-Up drawing and then the bench itself is shown in the corresponding colors. What more do you need out of life?

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post #12 of 19 Old 01-21-2016, 05:40 PM
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Originally Posted by MT Stringer View Post
When comes right down to it, measuring and cutting the stock according to a plan might not work out for me. Maybe I am not careful enough, or bad eyesight, or whatever, but most of the time I build something on the fly. The plans are just a reference. They are still nice to have on hand to look at. A cutlist is a plus so the purchase of materials can be optimized.

I used to draw a sketch on a pad and work off of it. Now, I use Sketchup and that does help alot.
"I used to draw a sketch on a pad and work off of it. Now, I use Sketchup and that does help alot."

Those ARE plans of a type.

George
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post #13 of 19 Old 01-21-2016, 10:34 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks for all of the feedback, everyone. I appreciate it. Now I need to decide if it's worth the time to make a good set of plans, or not. The piece in question is the set of shelves I made long ago. Pictures of it went viral years ago and I just keep getting more and more emails about plans for it.
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post #14 of 19 Old 01-21-2016, 10:45 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mmwood_1
The piece in question is the set of shelves I made long ago. Pictures of it went viral years ago and I just keep getting more and more emails about plans for it.
That's certainly a beautiful piece of art you made there.

Mark

"Measuring is the enemy of accuracy." Chris Schwartz
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post #15 of 19 Old 01-21-2016, 11:27 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mmwood_1
Thanks for all of the feedback, everyone. I appreciate it. Now I need to decide if it's worth the time to make a good set of plans, or not. The piece in question is the set of shelves I made long ago. Pictures of it went viral years ago and I just keep getting more and more emails about plans for it.
Wait a minute, you made that? I've lusted after that for a couple years! The picture I have only shows the top, I thought it was a bench.

I hate signatures.
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post #16 of 19 Old 01-22-2016, 10:42 AM
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Fantastic design and build! If you are (still) getting emails and feel comfortable having your design go worldwide, and IMO it will, check into the legalities of having your design trade marked or apply for a patent, but in creative arts & crafts it may be difficult to get any exclusivity for it. Thanks for sharing the pic, and be safe.
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post #17 of 19 Old 01-23-2016, 06:24 PM Thread Starter
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Wait a minute, you made that? I've lusted after that for a couple years! The picture I have only shows the top, I thought it was a bench.
Thanks Mort. As I said, that photo went viral a few years back. I had been asked to build shelves for music books for a family of musicians, and to do "something fun". The photo you refer to is a cool photo, but it only shows the top half with a close up of the G clef, so most people think it's a bench. It had been taken from my website I expect.
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post #18 of 19 Old 01-25-2016, 12:24 PM
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Originally Posted by mmwood_1 View Post
Thanks Mort. As I said, that photo went viral a few years back. I had been asked to build shelves for music books for a family of musicians, and to do "something fun". The photo you refer to is a cool photo, but it only shows the top half with a close up of the G clef, so most people think it's a bench. It had been taken from my website I expect.
That's funny. I actually wondered how strong it would be since the Bass Clef comes to a point on the bottom, but if they're shelves it wouldn't matter as much.

Plans for something with two live edge shelves would be problematic I would think, since they're one of a kind, but templates for the clefs and sides might be doable.

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post #19 of 19 Old 01-26-2016, 10:32 AM Thread Starter
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That's funny. I actually wondered how strong it would be since the Bass Clef comes to a point on the bottom, but if they're shelves it wouldn't matter as much.

Plans for something with two live edge shelves would be problematic I would think, since they're one of a kind, but templates for the clefs and sides might be doable.
The clef notes are not structural, only decorative book ends. The walnut stand is what supports it and they are pretty sturdy. They are made of 4 members each: One vertical, and 3 horizontals, and they are attached with 1" long x 1/2" thick tenons, then a 1/2" cherry dowel is driven through the M & Ts, in addition to glue.
The shapes were cut after assembly.

As for the live edge shelves, I think that as long as the thickness of the shelves was consistent, it would be workable.
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