Plans or Inner creativity

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Forum topic by Nostradamit posted 01-26-2018 12:45 AM 1294 views 0 times favorited 48 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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41 posts in 1640 days

01-26-2018 12:45 AM

How does everyone start a project. Do you use purchased plans, Magazine plans, or your inner creativity.

48 replies so far

View Alex Lane's profile

Alex Lane

574 posts in 4693 days

#1 posted 01-26-2018 12:52 AM

I like pencil sketches of what I want to make. Especially taking the time to draw a perspective “3D” view helps me visualize fit and proportion. But many times I get ideas or inspiration from the projects posted here on LJ or articles in Fine Woodworking magazine. When I get into the shop, I often deviate from any calculated or measured plans to accommodate my available materials or a new idea right in the middle of the build. Sort of design on-the-fly I guess.

-- Alex...builder of wooden wings for vintage sport biplanes...I'm your wingman :)

View Kelster58's profile


759 posts in 1343 days

#2 posted 01-26-2018 12:58 AM

I never purchase plans. I start out with an idea, a picture, a YouTube video, a sketch….anything. Then I go to AutoCAD and draw up plans. I draw enough to get started on AutoCAD including a cut list and go back to AutoCAD to trouble shoot or confirm measurements. CAD saves me time and money and I can do the plans on my computer while I am sitting on the couch watching TV or having coffee with my wife. Just how I do it…....;-)

-- K. Stone “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.” ― Benjamin Franklin

View jimintx's profile


934 posts in 2387 days

#3 posted 01-26-2018 01:01 AM

I’m with Alex.

I don’t buy plans, and I don’t use any form of an auto CAD package.

-- Jim, Houston, TX

View John Smith's profile

John Smith

2507 posts in 965 days

#4 posted 01-26-2018 01:02 AM

agree with Alex – simple drawings can get your personal thoughts into it.
just copying from someone else’s plans is not really your “personal project”.
and these new design programs such as SketchUp are okay for architects and designers.
but, for the weekend handyman, it is not so good because you can sit in your recliner
and design stuff that is beyond your skill level to actually build and you become frustrated.
if you stay within your skill level and start with something that you know you can do
and something that you can actually use or sell, then you are off to a good start.
start small – work your way up to the more complex or larger projects.

learn how to read a tape measure – measure twice = cut once.


-- there is no educational alternative to having a front row seat in the School of Hard Knocks. --

View woodbutcherbynight's profile


6069 posts in 3212 days

#5 posted 01-26-2018 04:24 AM

I am with Alex, mostly I just wing it based on a original design sometimes drawn on a napkin..


-- Live to tell the stories, they sound better that way.

View bandit571's profile


26126 posts in 3486 days

#6 posted 01-26-2018 04:54 AM

Callled the Single Brain Cell Sketch Up… least that is what I use.

-- A Planer? I'M the planer, this is what I use

View 000's profile


2859 posts in 1702 days

#7 posted 01-26-2018 05:12 AM

I use my inner creativity to draw anything with sketchup, from a small box to a full kitchen.

”it is not so good because you can sit in your recliner
and design stuff that is beyond your skill level to actually build and you become frustrated”.


View Woodknack's profile


13439 posts in 3183 days

#8 posted 01-26-2018 06:52 AM

How does everyone start a project. Do you use purchased plans, Magazine plans, or your inner creativity.

- Nostradamit

I’m interested in how you do it. Show us some projects, explain the inspiration and how you started.

-- Rick M,

View Redoak49's profile


4798 posts in 2791 days

#9 posted 01-26-2018 12:13 PM

I hand draw some plans. For simple things, it is just a sketch. For more complicated things, I will hand draw to scale and use that to create a cut list. I will also detail some joints or more complicated parts.

Sketch up is fine but I just did not want to spend the time learning it.

View knotscott's profile


8382 posts in 4178 days

#10 posted 01-26-2018 12:23 PM

I never buy plans, but usually start with something I’ve drawn or sketched up. I started out drawing out fairly detailed plans, but found that I usually deviated from them so much that I stopped putting so much detail in the drawings.

I’ve also done several simpler projects with no plans at all.

-- Happiness is like wetting your pants...everyone can see it, but only you can feel the warmth....

View Ron Aylor's profile

Ron Aylor

2649 posts in 1450 days

#11 posted 01-26-2018 12:30 PM

Having spent years drawing exploded isometrics for various cabinet shops, I can now see a photo, or imagine a piece of furniture, and see the exploded isometric drawing with the mind’s eye. I may make a few rough sketches if I want to change a particular detail, but mostly I just visualize and go for it. However, just recently I had to produce a full size drawing in order to make templates for a rather complicated door panel.

It is my contention that plans can sometimes be a hindrance. We need to be able to visualize particular joinery, based on our tools and skills. I address that here: Plans or No Plans ...

View JayT's profile


6402 posts in 3014 days

#12 posted 01-26-2018 12:41 PM

Depends on the project, though I never use pre-made plans. Some projects are from my imagination and many are based on inspiration from something I’ve seen. If the project is simple or involves techniques I’m comfortable with, then I just build it. If there is anything I’m unsure of, then Sketchup is used to solidify the ideas. That might mean anything from drawing up just a corner to makes sure of how the joinery should work, doing a quick overview to look at proportions or a complete workup that shows every detail.

There is no wrong way, just what works for each person. We have one member of our woodworkers guild that only uses plans. In many ways he is a better woodworker than me, as his attention to detail and precision are really good. He’s just not comfortable drawing up his own plans. He gets enjoyment out of seeing a precisely done finished project. I do woodworking more as a creative outlet, so prefer to design and try to do things that are a bit different than what has been done before. We both enjoy the craft.

-- - In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice, there is.

View MrFid's profile


906 posts in 2707 days

#13 posted 01-26-2018 12:44 PM

I start with a hand drawn sketch almost always. I’ve only ever bought one plan explicitly; Matthias Wandel’s bandsaw. For that I needed and was grateful for the plans, but for client work or projects for myself I haven’t used plans. I do subscribe to FWW and Woodsmith, which I flip through and occasionally get inspiration from.

-- Bailey F - Eastern Mass.

View BFamous's profile


344 posts in 923 days

#14 posted 01-26-2018 01:46 PM

I’ll go with “it depends”.
If I’m building a one off custom piece, I’ll typically just start on it and sometimes even do the “figure it out as I go” method if I’ve already thought about it for awhile. Generally I don’t even write things down or draw them out for this.
Though, if I’m going to build several of the same or have precise needs in mind, I’ll do a Sketchup plan so I have all of the dimensions and know the necessary cuts beforehand. Now, I’m not necessarily using those plans as a step by step guide, but they provide a point of reference to ensure my output is precise and repeatable.

-- Brian Famous :: Charlotte, NC ::

View tomsteve's profile


1044 posts in 2022 days

#15 posted 01-26-2018 02:07 PM

im also an “it depends” one.
sometimes ill get plans.i consider plans as suggestions.ill use some of them- mainly dimensions- and change up different techniques or features.

sometimes ill have the vision in my head and just run with it and, as with brian, figure it out as i go.

then theres the scrollsaw work i do. i have a tendency to stick with the plan/pattern, but do make changes when theres some flimsy parts.

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