Tips & Tricks: Creating Your Own Plans

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Forum topic by MsDebbieP posted 11-14-2011 12:11 PM 1661 views 0 times favorited 16 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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18618 posts in 4398 days

11-14-2011 12:11 PM

Topic tags/keywords: plans designing tips tricks

What are your tips/tricks re: Creating Your Own Plans?

(also add links to helpful blogs etc that are related to the topic)

Gateway to all Tips & Tricks Topics

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (, Young Living Wellness )

16 replies so far

View mafe's profile


11771 posts in 3327 days

#1 posted 11-14-2011 12:40 PM

Debbie I have my own plans…

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

View Don Butler's profile

Don Butler

1092 posts in 3633 days

#2 posted 11-14-2011 02:22 PM


-- No trees were damaged in posting this message, but thousands of electrons were seriously inconvenienced.

View MsDebbieP's profile


18618 posts in 4398 days

#3 posted 11-14-2011 02:31 PM

remember to calculate for wood removed due to cutting (ex. a 4 foot piece of wood cut in two will NOT produce two pieces of wood exactly 2 feet long)

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (, Young Living Wellness )

View Dick, & Barb Cain's profile

Dick, & Barb Cain

8693 posts in 4537 days

#4 posted 11-14-2011 05:41 PM

I usually look through catalogs of the particular project I plan on building. I then interpolate the dimensions to a sketch. That’s one way I go about it.

For instance, this wall clock I made, its one of my favorites.
I only drew the plan for the face frame, & built off of that gradually, until I ended up with the finished product.

-- -** You are never to old to set another goal or to dream a new dream ****************** Dick, & Barb Cain, Hibbing, MN.

View Don Butler's profile

Don Butler

1092 posts in 3633 days

#5 posted 11-14-2011 05:48 PM

I used to just start in the shop with the idea in my mind. The trouble with that is that I couldn’t be as detailed as I should have been, and that left me doing some details over to get them right.

With Google’s SketchUp I can work out every detail, all the joinery, all the dimensions and if I wish I can apply the finishes with the program’s paint brush. Even more, if necessary, I can export the model to a photo renderer like the free Kerkythea program to get a beautiful photographic appearing image.

With nothing left out in the details I can then go to the shop and build it out.


-- No trees were damaged in posting this message, but thousands of electrons were seriously inconvenienced.

View nate22's profile


475 posts in 3113 days

#6 posted 11-15-2011 04:29 PM

I design my own plans from scratch. So I pretty much come up with my own design and plans. I don’t go by anyone elses plans or designs.

-- Gracie's wooden signs. Middlebury, In.

View MsDebbieP's profile


18618 posts in 4398 days

#7 posted 11-15-2011 06:24 PM

Rick and I often find that we end up with a problem when we try to follow plans—sometimes it is because of an error in the plans and sometimes it is because we have misread the plans or implemented incorrectly.

We don’t do fancy woodworking (aka precision work) and so we tend to start with an idea, one piece of wood and start building from there, one step at a time.
Sometimes I will create an outline for something that I want, providing certain dimensions and then, again, we just start from there.
For example, for shelving, I identify how much open space I want (typically the key factors to my request) and then add the height of the spaces to the height of the shelving wood in order to determine how high the finished project will be.

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (, Young Living Wellness )

View Mark Shymanski's profile

Mark Shymanski

5623 posts in 3950 days

#8 posted 11-21-2011 05:55 AM

SU and fellow LJ daltxguy’s Cutlist addin for SU ( I have a hard time guessing how much wood I need for a project, daltxguy’s addin gets me a whole lot closer. I still seem to need more but I am pretty sure it isn’t a shortcoming of the addin LOL!

-- "Checking for square? What madness is this! The cabinet is square because I will it to be so!" Jeremy Greiner LJ Topic#20953 2011 Feb 2

View Byron's profile


92 posts in 2618 days

#9 posted 11-21-2011 06:52 AM

Sketch sketch and sketch. Too many people will jump right to 3d modeling software. One thing most people tend to do is think an idea through in orthographic view, front, top, and side, forgetting that an object is most interesting in more then a 90 degree plane. Sketching and following it up with samples and models, working with a real material is what I have found to work best. We work the material and live with our object in the real world not on a computer, so our design should see that before the final project. Full scale sketching and drawings are also very helpful. Once you get an idea closer then doing a scaled or full scale drawing, or using sketch-up or 3d software is very helpful to nail all the dimensions and plan view. Making a scale model of the final idea is also a great thing to do, and the more effort and time you put into this model the more you know about actually building the piece, and building the real thing goes much much quicker.

At some point I plan to try to document my process, hopefully it will be helpful.

-- Byron Conn, Woodworking/Furniture Design at Rochester Institute of Technology,

View KenBee's profile


109 posts in 2873 days

#10 posted 11-26-2011 05:47 PM

I have Auto-Cad and Sketch-Up installed on my computers but I rarely ever draw up anything except for knife blade designs. If I see a picture of something I like I just use that as an example and determine my own measurements as I go along and 90% of my projects are built from pictures I see in magazines. I think my one advantage is that I worked on aircraft for over 25 years with most of those years in the sheet metal modification field. I worked in Vietnam for 3-1/2 years on crash and battle damaged aircraft with no drawings or prints to guide your work. Measure, cut, bend or shape and install was the norm so I apply that to my woodworking endeavors. In aircraft I had to shoot for a ten thousandth tolerance most of the time, but with woodworking I figure 1/32nd is close enough for most applications even though I strive for dead on. My eye sight and nerves are not as good as they used to be so perfection is a thing of the past.

-- If it won't fit get a BIGGER hammer.

View Grumpy's profile


24818 posts in 4088 days

#11 posted 11-27-2011 09:41 AM

Great subject Deb.

-- Grumpy - "Always look on the bright side of life"- Monty Python

View HamS's profile


1834 posts in 2626 days

#12 posted 11-27-2011 12:48 PM

Ihave been learning sketchup and it is very useful, but I really think the method I use is the old tried and true pointed stick on a flat surface. sometimes it is a real stick and the ground, but more often it is paper and pencil. The purpose of a plan is to communicate your visions to someone else (the someone else could be you) and to help you organize and plan your work. There is a whole science of project management that has been developed and I follow those principles in almost all my projects. Actually, we all do, just not formally. Planning is the first step and in planning we need to determine materials required and a plan of work. The more complicated the project or the more people involved the more formal the project plan needs to be. My grandad built a summer house for a customer with a sketch on the back of a bill and a lumber order sheet, but he only had to communicate to me and the lumber yard. The lumber yard guy knew pretty much what to give him, grandad only had to tell him how many. All he had to do to communicate to me was “HAM” . At that time I did not need to know the grand plan, all I needed to know was nail these boards together here. etc.

This has become fairly long winded. I am a software developer and have managed several large project with ten or more programmers working on a system. Without a formal plan a project like that would degenerate into chaos before it even got started.

I like to sit and doodle plans for projects and mull over things in my mind before I actually start cutting. Also a written plan can often save a lot of wood from becoming firewood. Sometimes I think that is almost as relaxing as working in the shop. In fact I often retreat to the shop and sit at my bench sketching things. It helps that I have a woodstove out there and the shop is often the warmest place in the house, even if it is in the barn. Georthermal heat is great and cost efficient and blah blah blah, but a wood stove is a fire!

Thanks for the soapbox Deb

-- Haming it up in the 'bash.

View Roger Clark aka Rex's profile

Roger Clark aka Rex

6940 posts in 3672 days

#13 posted 11-27-2011 01:02 PM

I rely on the “Little Gray Cells”

-- Roger-R, Republic of Texas. "Always look on the Bright Side of Life" - An eyeball to eyeball confrontation with a blind person is as complete waste of Time.

View Don Butler's profile

Don Butler

1092 posts in 3633 days

#14 posted 11-27-2011 02:17 PM

Planning is the thing we do before we do something.
Our whole life pattern is involved in the way we plan.
Some of us do it on our sleep, waking up with the plan fully formed in our minds.
Others have their planning techniques formed by discipline or habit.

But plan we must.
If you think planning is unimportant, then I don’t want you to build a custom cabinet for me.

Do it with doodles, scratch marks on the materials, pretty perspective drawings, isometric views ala drafting, make 3D models on the computer, or something, BUT – plan we must.

-- No trees were damaged in posting this message, but thousands of electrons were seriously inconvenienced.

View miles125's profile


2180 posts in 4243 days

#15 posted 11-27-2011 03:27 PM

It’s one thing to have a plan for something you work on alone as opposed to plans needed when others are involved. When you’re the “mother” of an idea that you alone will work on, a rudimentary sketch will often suffice because the visualized project is firmly in your head. But other people can’t get in your head and it requires much more detailed plans to communicate your vision to them.

-- "The way to make a small fortune in woodworking- start with a large one"

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