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How I design on-the-fly,you don't always need plans when you can make your own

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Blog entry by a1Jim posted 12-28-2020 06:18 PM 1023 reads 0 times favorited 11 comments Add to Favorites Watch

As I stated in the title you don’t always need plans.
Here is a post that I answered a question about someone asking for plans for a simple table pictured above I thought it might be helpful to some of my friends on LJs.
I understand when you first start woodworking many people feel they need plans, but part of improving your woodworking skills is to learn how to make many things on-the-fly so to speak, use the photo to work up your own plans, start by estimating the dimensions, as an example if the top is 1ft wide how many times taller is it than then the top, so let’s say it’s 2 1/2 taller than it is then the top is wide, that would make it 30” tall, now estimate how wide the legs are compared to the top, my guess they are 1 /2” square now move on and guess how wide the lower shelf is we know it has to at least 3” less wide than the top so let detect and extra 1” to have a to have both legs inset 1/2” inside the top shelf so that makes the shelf 8” , now use the legs hight to determand how long the table is, so let’s say it’s lenght is 1 1/3 the lenght of the legs that makes if 40” long. Now you have developed your own plan. How can you be sure you are going to be happy with your estimate of the dimensions you came up with? You can do a full-scale drawing, just get some butcher paper and tape it together so it’s large enough to draw out your plans with space leftover and or you can build a full-scale model out of cardboard cheap wood or if you have plenty of wood just build it and see what you think, even if it’s not exactly what you wanted it’s a great learning experience. Lastly, if you are adept at graphic computer programs some people will use those sketches to get a feel for dimensions and develop their plans. This something I’m not good at it but it is a great way to go if you have those kinds of skills. If you want to improve your woodworking skills the more projects you build the more skilled you will become. Good luck I’m sure you will do a great job and learn a lot.

-- https://www.artisticwoodstudio.com/videos



11 comments so far

View Peteybadboy's profile

Peteybadboy

3081 posts in 2961 days


#1 posted 12-28-2020 09:23 PM

Jim,

I like the design well done. I get out a T square and triangles and a scale rule, if I need something to go from. I don’t think I have every used plans.

-- Petey

View Craftsman on the lake's profile

Craftsman on the lake

3710 posts in 4449 days


#2 posted 12-28-2020 09:38 PM

I’m like that. When I need to make a bed I start with the size of the mattress then sketch out and idea and start building. I never do more than a sketch to decide dimensions.
That being said, I’ve worked with some people who need to have a CAD diagram and when they come to work in my shop (usaully relatives) they bring their calipers. On the fly stuff drives them nuts.

Upsides and downsides to both methods. If you’re right brained and design as you build, sometimes it leads to re-does or a finished product that isn’t exactly what you had in mind. If you’re left brained the rigidity of the design requirements sometimes leads to a ‘stuffy’ product. And if things don’t go according to the blueprint it drives them absolutely bonkers with frustration.

-- The smell of wood, coffee in the cup, the wife let's me do my thing, the lake is peaceful.

View Karson's profile

Karson

35270 posts in 5412 days


#3 posted 12-28-2020 10:43 PM

Good words of technique for newbie and advanced woodworkers. If you’ve got a space to fill. That is your measurements and from that you figure out what your other measurements need to be to have it look great.

You can go to a store and see what looks great. Take a picture on your cell phone and you are starting on your way to make a custom piece.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Appomattox Virginia [email protected]

View mafe's profile

mafe

12928 posts in 4101 days


#4 posted 12-29-2020 12:28 AM

For me doing projects by plans, is taking away the most interesting part; finding your own way, making your own details and being an explorer on a wood working journey, I’m not sure I have ever build any thing from plans…
I sometimes sketch as I go and often makes sketches in my sketchbook after, just for the joy.
Yes of course we need the fixed measures, if we make a door, it will be the door hole and so on.
Nice table, less is plenty.
Thanks for the words,
Mads

-- MAD F, the fanatical rhykenologist and vintage architect.

View Jim Jakosh's profile

Jim Jakosh

25937 posts in 4117 days


#5 posted 12-29-2020 01:33 AM

Hi Jim. I always make my own plans too..most are just sketches where I write in dimensions and knowing I can change them at any time and for any reason ( like cutting one piece a bit short so everything has to be shortened to match). I typically design on the fly!!!!!!!!!!!
For that nice table that you did, the only thing I might think I have to hold is the height.

You and I and Mads are cut from the same piece of cloth!!

Cheers, Jim

-- Jim Jakosh.....Practical Wood Products...........Learn something new every day!! Variety is the Spice of Life!!

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile

TopamaxSurvivor

20270 posts in 4688 days


#6 posted 12-29-2020 04:37 AM

That table looks great Jim.

I’m a sketcher too ;-)) Too many years of designing, reading and building complex electrical systems.

Might mention keeping the Fibonacci or Golden Ratio in the back of the mind during sketching. I normally cut precision cuts twice. Once too long to make sure it isn’t too short ;-) then a fine tune cut. That system rarely fails me. I don’t want to talk about cutting spendy wood a foot too short ;-((

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View Redoak49's profile

Redoak49

5096 posts in 3000 days


#7 posted 12-29-2020 03:28 PM

I am not certain what you mean by using plans. You say you do not need plans but you make plans based upon some measurements or general dimensions?

Are you advocating not using any plans? Or are you suggesting making your own plans?

Each person designs and builds according to their skill set. For a newbie, building from plans is an education. Seeing how others have built things is a way to learn. As you build more and understand how things are built one can graduate to building with just a sketch.

I have built a lot of furniture for my house and draw plans to better see how the design works and also to plan my materials usage for economy and looks.

View a1Jim's profile

a1Jim

118161 posts in 4589 days


#8 posted 12-29-2020 05:41 PM

Peteybadboy Thanks for your input I think the drafting type approach is what many people use.

Dan my Brain fights with itself all the time LOL I’ve had students that can easily use cad programs but like your friend’s design on the fly makes them crazy.

Mads, yes of course some builds need those fixed measurements to start, too like the flexibility to create throughout the whole project.

Jim thanks for the input, but I didn’t build the table it was a photo of a table someone online wanted to build wanting to know about plans,I wish I was a was creative as Mads.

Hey Karson, Taking photos or finding examples online is a great source of idea

Hi Bob, Not my table just an example. Yes, I sketch to start as to not submit those numbers to my dyslectic brain,I use what Charle Neil use to call the “sneak up on it” approach on projects too as far as cutting material and encourage my students to do the same.

Redoak49 Good Point As I said in the first line in my suggestion to the person I was giving the advice to “you don’t always need plans” perhaps I should have said you don’t always need purchased or ready-made plans, but as many people have said on this post the pre-draw their own plans or sketch as they go along. I agree people do plan and build on their skill level, and just the same as learning the other skills in woodworking learning to make or use plans is a learning process also.

Thanks to everyone for their input, I posted this to help new woodworkers or others that do not have experience in using or making plans, all of your ideas will help those that need help in this area of woodworking.
Happy new year to everyone on Ljs
Be safe

-- https://www.artisticwoodstudio.com/videos

View James E McIntyre's profile

James E McIntyre

1102 posts in 2304 days


#9 posted 01-01-2021 04:37 PM

Awesome design Jim. Looks like an original with some modern and Japanese influences. Well done.
I’m glad to see your posting again.

Your suggestion on the butcher paper is a good idea. I have a large roll of heavy white paper that’s 42” wide by 15’ long that I use.

I may have missed it in the comments, what type of wood is that?

Happy New Year!

-- James E McIntyre

View splintergroup's profile

splintergroup

4710 posts in 2234 days


#10 posted 01-01-2021 04:44 PM

Great advice Jim!

I often start with a “feature” of some design, be it a box lid or maybe a table top, then work around it. There always seems to be a feature you have your mind fixed on which is the beginning of a plan, be it mental, on paper, or both.

In my mind, plans are to keep track of details that are important, things like dimensions for joints and other fitment issues. The rest is called creativity.

View James E McIntyre's profile

James E McIntyre

1102 posts in 2304 days


#11 posted 01-02-2021 02:54 AM



I am not certain what you mean by using plans. You say you do not need plans but you make plans based upon some measurements or general dimensions?

Are you advocating not using any plans? Or are you suggesting making your own plans?

Each person designs and builds according to their skill set. For a newbie, building from plans is an education. Seeing how others have built things is a way to learn. As you build more and understand how things are built one can graduate to building with just a sketch.

I have built a lot of furniture for my house and draw plans to better see how the design works and also to plan my materials usage for economy and looks.

- Redoak49

Redoak49.
I thought we all understood that Jim was talking about making our own plans instead of using other Craftsman’s plans. We all study others plans to learn but the true Craftsman makes his own way eventually like Jim and I’m sure like you.

-- James E McIntyre

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