I started woodworking seriously when I was in junior year of art school. I was sick of my profs telling me how to do this and that, and mostly what this and that meant conseptually. I knew to continue in my career after school I had to find something that was mine. Something that I could express myself in that they hadn’t destriod with their rule. To be able to have the level of fluidity in wood that I needed however I knew I had to build a knowladge base that transended plans. Once the inspiration of the design had been recieved I needed to just be able to visualize how it needed to be built. So I subscribed to ever wood magazine there is and poored over the plans and building articals. I bought all the woodworking plan books I could and studied the plans. I even got a cd with 400 woodworking plans and spent hours thumbing through them.
I have recieved alot of great comments on my new hope chest project on LJ and from others who saw them. Many of the comments though are “Where did you get the plans?” or some such. To their surpize I reply “there are no plans”. Infact I have never built a project from a plan. I design first, then if there is something I can’t get my mind around in the consruction I go online or dig though my wood mags to look at how someone else built something similar. Many times though my reference for a table comes from a artical on drawers or I look for chest constrution wisdom in a chair plan. If the project doesn’t require it I usually go off a very rough drawing with the basic final measurements of the piece.
Now days I don’t study plans. All my references now are the gallery pages in fine woodworking and studio furniture volumes and online gallerys. I’ve spent hour and hour recently looking at Artful.com and other studio furiture sites to see what other have designed and wonder about how I would build it. Take your woodworking for knowlage to wisdom. Through out you plans and start designing.