When Good Plans Contain Mistakes

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Forum topic by HorizontalMike posted 10-09-2012 10:44 PM 3370 views 0 times favorited 29 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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7913 posts in 3924 days

10-09-2012 10:44 PM

Topic tags/keywords: wood working plans mistakes published magazine plans magazine

How many times has this happened to you… You choose a set of plans out of your select WW-magazine and head to the shop. Sometimes you catch a glaring error in posted/printed measurement early and cross your lucky stars. On occasion, the error(s) is much better hidden and only during assembly does it jump out and bite you in your tool bag.

Well, it bit me today in the shop. I have been so careful to double, triple, quadruple measure before cutting and to leave a slight bit extra for final sizing on this project, A Shaker 7-drawer chest. I even made a couple modifications, using a long dado instead of biscuits and using floating tenons. After making 8-dust panels to fit the side panels, I notched them on the TS sled AFTER having had squared them all and sized them all. Everything looked perfect.

Then I thought I would go ahead and dry fit all 8 dust panels to the sides and rails. Everything was snug… so snug that it took several minutes to fit all 8 dust panels into 8 + 8 dados and tap them into place. Then came the BITE.

All of my dust panels came up an 1/8” short of bottoming out in the side panel dados, on BOTH sides! How could I have screwed up THIS bad? Back to the plans and drawings (A 7-DRAWER DELIGHT LINGERIE CHEST, WOOD Magazine, March 2009, pp.34-40). Where was my mistake? What did I do wrong?

Well, all I found was that I was better than within 1/64” in all measurements and angles,... in other words dead on to the claimed measurements.

SO HERE IS MY QUESTION: Why would plans ever call for having panels fit into dados without bottoming out?

The dust panels only fit 1/4”into each of the 3/8” dados (16-total). Common sense tells me they should bottom out into this 3/4” plywood panel. However, I do recognize that I have only built a hand full of furniture pieces in my WW-ing hobby and may be missing something.


All 8-dust panels have this gap, though I did make them quite snug.

It looks like I will have to deepen the notches on the dust panels another 1/8” and shorten my bottoms rails accordingly, unless there is a better way…

-- HorizontalMike -- "Woodpeckers understand..."

29 replies so far

View 47phord's profile


182 posts in 3248 days

#1 posted 10-10-2012 12:44 AM

I feel your pain, man. The thing that usually works for me in a situation like this is to sleep on it and look at it again the next day with fresh eyes, just to be sure it really is the plan and not me (which in my case it usually is)as it’s easy to overlook stuff when you are in a pissed-off mood. Good luck!

View derosa's profile


1597 posts in 3846 days

#2 posted 10-10-2012 12:52 AM

So your panels are floating in the dados? If so maybe the original design was with glued up hardwood panels and not plywood and the gap was created to allow for expansion? Those little rubber spaceballs that cabinet doors use should solve the problem.

-- A posse ad esse

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5688 posts in 4319 days

#3 posted 10-10-2012 01:12 AM

One word bigassshims

View HorizontalMike's profile


7913 posts in 3924 days

#4 posted 10-10-2012 01:30 AM

Plans called for 3/4” hardwood framed dust panels with 1/4” plywood panel inserts. The panels DO bottom out on the 4-legs that are attached to the side panels.

What I do not understand is IF these plans were actually “designed” to have such a gap, and that I may be missing something in my understanding of this. Common sense says no, but does anyone know if such a dado gap has EVER been designed into such a piece? And if so, why? I really wonder if there is/was a reason…

FWIW, it would not be too much of a big deal to trim the dust panel notches another 1/8” or blade width each, instead of shims/Space-Balls. Setting up my TS sled with a stop and holding the panels vertical actually makes short work of the task. I would also have to shorten the two bottom rails by 1/4” as well as their floating tenons, but still not difficult. The drawers have NOT been cut or built yet, so that is not a problem. I would just end up with a 19 3/4” wide chest VS the 20” width called for in the original plans (and current measurements indicate).

-- HorizontalMike -- "Woodpeckers understand..."

View MJCD's profile (online now)


608 posts in 3382 days

#5 posted 10-10-2012 02:10 AM

Interesting … as I’m working with a Fine Woodworking plan now – will finish the thing tomorrow – which has a center seat support specification which is 0.25” short; and a piece where the article text differs from the full-size Plan. Fortunately, I’m so out of my skillset on this one, I was paranoid enough to check both specifications prior to cutting.

The REALLY frustrating part to this is the man-hours which go into a piece; then you find it’s fractions short.

View derosa's profile


1597 posts in 3846 days

#6 posted 10-10-2012 02:39 AM

Couldn’t see your pics before, can’t see any good reason for the screwup except someone somewhere typed the wrong number into the plan. Maybe it was a bad conversion from metric.

-- A posse ad esse

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Lee Barker

2172 posts in 3861 days

#7 posted 10-10-2012 04:58 AM

I have a conspiracy theory, the only one I subscribe to. I think the plans are, in many cases at least, intentionally sloppy because you will end up frustrated. We do lots of interesting things when we’re frustrated.

Like turn the page and there’s a new Whiz Bang Electric Do-All and it promises to make everything better, faster and louder. And we bite at that, to assuage the ire we’re feeling.

Sales of Whiz-Bangs keep the magazine afloat. Whiz Bangs sell when amateur woodworkers are frustrated.

That’s the theory.

Further backing of the concept comes from the simplicity of making a perfect plan: Give the draft to three woodworkers of varying degrees, give them the wood to build the project, and then read the report they submit afterwards. Bingo! Every error fixed.

I’m certainly open to other ideas, but I’ve seen this so often (nearly 100% of the time back when I was buying plans for community college adult ed classes) that I’m operating on this unless and until I get really convincing evidence to the contrary.

Case in point: I just finished a rocking horse from a Grizzly plan (purchased years ago, to be fair) and there were two errors in the cut list. Furthermore, the photograph had a detail quite different from the plan (though the narrative was consistent with the plan).



-- " his brain, which is as dry as the remainder biscuit after a voyage, he hath strange places cramm'd with observation, the which he vents in mangled forms." --Shakespeare, "As You Like It"

View fussy's profile


980 posts in 4061 days

#8 posted 10-10-2012 05:06 AM


Wood, in particular, seems to have a tendency to make ths sort of mistake. I have seen them come back nearly a year later with corrections to a published plan. One in particular was the arm dimensions for their a&c couch were wrong and were corrected several months later. One probably should wait 7 or 8 issues, checking carefully for revisions, before building anything.


-- Steve in KY. 44 years so far with my lovely bride. Think I'll keep her.

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20263 posts in 4686 days

#9 posted 10-10-2012 05:47 AM

Mike, be glad they are not electrical plans. You would have to totally redesign to make the plans work ;-)

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

View HorizontalMike's profile


7913 posts in 3924 days

#10 posted 10-10-2012 12:23 PM

@MJCD and Russ—Yeah, it seems like this “mistake/misprint” thing involves several of the most popular WW-ing magazines and no ONE entity appears exempt.

Lee—That is a very interesting “conspiracy theory”, and quite convincing with the abundance of evidence published throughout the WW-ing World over the past decades (I have collections dating back to the mid-1980s). Common sense would say that ”poor published plans” would be bad for the bottom line of the publishing company, however it is obviously continuing to occur on a very HIGH percentage basis. I am afraid that you may have convinced me… ;-)

Steve—As far as “waiting for the corrections to be made, I think that would take a lot of additional scanning of the “select” magazine. For example, I have:
Wood Magazine: Issues # 1—201(only missing #1) collection from Dec.1984—Dec 2010
I use the online index to find a project and then reach for the hard copy. At this rate, I will never know if measurements/plans have ever been corrected. Shoot, even the DVD plans, that I actually purchased from Popular WW-ing, for building my workbench were 3yr old at the time of purchase (approx. 18 issues later), yet the plans had the same mistakes in them as when the magazine had been published. The only thing that saved me that time, was the “Sketch-Up” model of the workbench. At least Sketch-Up software showed the correct measurements without fail.

Topa”Shocking” you would say such a thing! ;-)
But at least in the electrical business there would be a financial (criminal?) liability for such foul-ups. With WW-ing magazines, it looks like it may have been turned into a “profit center”... kind of like bank fees, you know, when you want a “corrected” set of plans they will sell THOSE to you at a ”discounted” profit to make you feel better. ;-)


-- HorizontalMike -- "Woodpeckers understand..."

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3112 posts in 3791 days

#11 posted 10-10-2012 12:57 PM

And now we wait for the executive response.
Mike, I’m with you on the error factor, most of the mags have a correction or MORE
in each issue, you’d think there’d be some sort of check system in place at that level.

-- Glen, B.C. Canada

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Mark Whitsitt

86 posts in 3990 days

#12 posted 10-10-2012 01:15 PM

While we shouldn’t have to worry about errors like this in published ww plans, I do have a suggestion on how to catch them before I actually start cutting my valuable stock. Granted, this may be a little overdone, but personally, I don’t have the money to buy extra materials to make up for this kind of error.

For more complex projects, I like to pre-build them in sketchup. I try to create all the parts according to the plans and “virtual-fit” them together before I even make the first cut in real stock. First, I enjoy doing this because I’m just that kind of person, but I find this exercise has value in other ways too.

It helps me visualize the parts and final product in 3-D and can make the assembly process described in the text of the article easier to understand. It also gives me a virtual product I can use to try out modifications without wasting real wood. And, of course, it can also help identify measurement errors like the ones you found.

This shouldn’t excuse poor quality control by editorial staff, but it saves me some headaches and money.


-- -- "there are many good reasons to use old hand tools, but moral superiority is NOT one of them..."

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Rex B

320 posts in 3261 days

#13 posted 10-10-2012 01:37 PM

I agree with Mark. For me, the first step of a complex project is always 3D modeling, whether the plans are my own or someone else’s. Of course, 3D modeling is what I do for a living, so it doesn’t take long and I enjoy it.

-- Rex

View HorizontalMike's profile


7913 posts in 3924 days

#14 posted 10-10-2012 01:52 PM

Mark and Rex my hat is off to both of you, for your dedication to Sketch-Up. I did attempt this once, but found it more tedious to do than I personally cared for ( ). On my workbench project, however, I did appreciate that the 3D modeling in Sketch-Up had already been done (on the purchased DVD) and it did allow me to catch a number of “print” errors in the published plans in the magazine.

Glen, I appreciate the thought… we’ll see.

-- HorizontalMike -- "Woodpeckers understand..."

View mafe's profile


12928 posts in 4100 days

#15 posted 10-10-2012 04:18 PM

Shame shame shame.
Yes measure twice, check plans once and cut as little as possible….
I feel with you.
Best thoughts,

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

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