What Makes a "Good" Plan?

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Forum topic by willtobuild posted 09-06-2012 07:21 AM 887 views 0 times favorited 2 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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1 post in 2244 days

09-06-2012 07:21 AM

Topic tags/keywords: woodworking plans

Depending on the type of woodworking project the contents of a good plan may widely vary. For example, what a segmented bowl project requires versus an Intarsia project versus a carving is different. However, Sawtooth Ideas has come up with a few common attributes of “good” plans we’re putting on our FAQ page. What do you think should be changed or added to the list?

An exploded diagram that shows all the parts and how the fit together.
Dimension information on individual pieces
A material list (it can be helpful to include vendor information for specialty items like hardware)
A cutting diagram (how you might cut the individual pieces out of a piece of wood to minimize waste).
Step-by-step instructions. Photos or illustrations of intermediate steps can be very helpful
TipsAn exploded diagram that shows all the parts and how the fit together

-- Will, Idaho,

2 replies so far

View JesseTutt's profile


854 posts in 2107 days

#1 posted 09-06-2012 02:06 PM

1. Diagrams of subassemblies
2. Clear writing style – let the project creator write the first draft, then give it to a novice woodworker and ask them to build it. Watch them and wherever they are confused will tell you where you need more detailed instructions
3. 1:1 scale patterns of complex parts
4. Any patterns need fine crisp lines
5. Finishing instructions – what kind of finish, how best to apply, etc. Note parts that need to be finished prior to assembly
6. Sidebar articles on any special techniques used (i.e. steam bending, veneering, etc.)
7. Bear in mind that some woodworkers will photocopy the article and take the photocopy into the workshop in order to protect the original magazine
8. Any special tools, skills, or techniques needed
9. Cross links to other projects that might form a set (i.e. see xxx for matching end tables, see x, y, and z for other toy construction equipment of the same style)
10. If appropriate, a discussion of style elements and why they are chosen (i.e. “this is an arts and crafts piece as indicated by the through mortises and the square end plugs used to hide the screws”)
11. Options. if you don’t want to do a leg with a ball at the bottom (sorry I can’t remember it’s name) then here is how to modify the design for a tapered leg

To sum it up. First it needs to be a good plan. One that not only interests me and motivates to spend the time to read the article, but one that I can say to myself “I understand the steps well enough that I can do this.” Take a look at Woodsmith magazine, although i am not interested in building furniture, when I subscribed I could read any article and I would come away with the feeling that I could do it.

-- Jesse, Saint Louis, Missouri

View casual1carpenter's profile


354 posts in 2473 days

#2 posted 09-07-2012 02:41 AM

Will, I actually looked at your page and there were a few free plans, but I would not join the site to view them. I normally draw up my own ideas and puzzle over them in digital in an attempt to assure I get the look I am seeking and utilize what limited skills and abilities I have and use the tooling I available to me. It would have been interesting to see if the reviewed plans on your site were even usable for me and what I feel should have been required by your submission and review process.

I think I’m a dope! If you open your book to “store/product/58” one of the free plans mind you, and thanks to the poster / designer who offered his work for free. You might read “Required Tools: Table Saw, Router, Band Saw, Jointer, Drill, Panel Raising Router Bit”
NO router table mentioned…. is a fairly radical Panel Raising Router Bit for the panel depicted really recommended to be used without a router table? As to the band saw, Is that for the fancy curves in the toe kick region? Why did I go the router table route when I needed a band saw? The tools list requires jointer, how about a planer?

So I guess I would suggest that the tool requirements and degree of difficulty be evaluated as well as safety concerns. I would also consider offering optional tooling and construction methods. If the plan / project designer is using a jointer to prepare edge glue-ups might not a hand plane or straight line rip jig for the table saw be sufficient? Could a different cut profile option be offered for that fancy curve toe kick area so a jig saw could be substituted for a band saw?

I realize you likely posted not really for advice but to draw traffic to your page in light of one post in 159 days and for the cost of the plans your not really asking a lot of the designer. As the web page holder or staff, the common attributes of “good” plans along with the kind of things Jesse mentioned should be on your list of requirements for a design to be submittable, If it is not there you should either help the designer to develop it further or provide a resource references area.

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