A three year strategic plan. A financially sound retirement plan. A solid game plan.
Seems these days, no matter where you look, people are planning. A lot. For good reason. If you were to do something without a plan, you might never achieve your goal.
When it comes to woodworking, there are lots of plans out there. Plans to build new shops. Plans to squeeze the maximum amount of space out of your existing shop. Heck, there are even plans to clean your shop. But, those are usually put at the bottom of the to-do list.
The plans most woodworkers deal with are project plans. From the most rudimentary sketch on the back of a cocktail napkin to elaborately produced plans with complete cut lists and 3-D projections of what the final piece will look like, there are plans out there for every level of woodworker.
After woodworking for a decade, I’ve (finally) come to the realization that there are basically three different types of plans out there to choose from:
- The purchased plans. Whether you go to a website such as U-Bild, a magazine like Popular Woodworking or buy a book at place like Borders, you can find dozens of plans published by woodworkers from around the world. These are typically very easy to follow, frequently with step-by-step instructions and helpful hints. The only problem with these plans are that your project will frequently look exactly like the hundreds – or thousands – of pieces cranked out by other woodworkers. Adding your individual touch does require making some choices with wood selection, trim and other decorative elements, but can take a run-of-the-mill project to a new level if done properly.
- The next type of plan are shop-drawn ones made to reproduce an existing piece of furniture. Whether it’s from a drawing of a project you saw in a museum or a picture of an exquisite antique piece you wanted to bid on at an auction, these projects can be fun to plan and build. I find myself looking at pictures of projects from the modern masters – Krenov, Nakashima, Maloof – and sketching out ideas of how I would build pieces. Sure, your project will strongly resemble what exists, but, in some cases, that’s a good thing. Also, again, you can work your own signature touch in to a project that makes it your very own. One day, I really do plan on building a Maloof-Iovino inspired rocker… That’s the plan, at least.
- Finally, the most rewarding way of all to arrive at a plan is by letting your creativity run wild. Now, I do have to preface this by saying that it’s really tough to come up with a truly 100% original idea. A chair typically has a seat, some way to support the seat above the ground, and a back rest. A table typically has a top you can place something down on and some way to hold it off the floor. A bookshelf… well, you get the idea. That being said, there is no limit to the amount of creativity you can put into a project when you come up with the design. For example, if you take a look at Doug Stowe’s boxes, they come in a bewildering array of sizes, materials, finishes and forms. Sure, they are all basic boxes, but with some creative thinking, each is its own one-of-a-kind creation.
Regardless of how you choose to plan out your next project, just remember to save yourself a lot of hassle and try some of these simple tips:
- Draw the piece out to scale. Once you start cutting and shaping boards into component parts, you will want to know exactly how large that piece needs to be.
- Plan your joinery. Is this the project you use dovetails on, or will you stick with something simpler like splined miters? The call is yours, but you will have to cut the boards to different lengths to cut each of these joints accurately.
- Take your time. Rome wasn’t built in a day, so don’t think you will hand-craft that elegant highboy in in a weekend. Make sure you are working accurately so the piece will come together beautifully in the end.
Sounds like a plan to me!