To plan or not to plan

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Forum topic by RussellAP posted 12-27-2012 10:58 PM 1419 views 0 times favorited 39 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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3104 posts in 2283 days

12-27-2012 10:58 PM

No, I didn’t say to PLANE, I said PLAN.
I know there are some things we make that need plans. It would be folly to not have them. But lets say your building a box, or a chest even. Do you look for a step by step, or do you envision a rough method and let the build take you in new directions as you make it?
Some of my best pieces had no plan and didn’t even turn out all that much the way I envisioned them. At some point I said to myself that fighting this is useless, it clearly wants me to do it this way now, so lets go from there. If I were a slave to a plan, I’d have just thrown it all away.

You get into some project that has room for departure from the plan a bit, and before you know it you’ve gone off in a totally new direction. I made a wall hanging once out of some padauk bordered with walnut about 2”. As I looked at it, it became apparent that this was a chest or box lid, not a wall hanging at all. That chest turned out to be my finest work to date.

I want to make it clear that I do not support one way over the other, and in fact sometimes I am forced to alter a plan due to my own incompetence, but I try to learn from all kinds of things and this taught me some lessons. The folks who are able to follow a plan to the end usually make much better looking stuff and it serves it’s purpose better, but sometimes the plan deviation people can make stuff that captures the imagination and is a different kind of art.

So have you discovered the fun of letting the wood design some of your project or are you the type that has to have no deviations from the plan?

-- A positive attitude will take you much further than positive thinking ever will.

39 replies so far

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Mark Smith

509 posts in 2036 days

#1 posted 12-27-2012 11:03 PM

I usually work without plans on most stuff. I built a chest of drawers and dresser in my bedroom and did it with no plans other than to figure out the outside deminsions. Once I had that I just built from the outside in. If you get good with some of the computer programs they are pretty nice because you can actually get reliable measurements right out of the program if you design something online. That is assuming the information you put in was reliable. For example if you designed a box on TurboCad you could actually get the measurements for your pieces directly out of the program.

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2202 posts in 3155 days

#2 posted 12-27-2012 11:10 PM

I think I always have a plan, it just doesn’t often show itself in terms of a schematic drawing. The more you do this stuff, the more there are just standard ways of completing a task to which you become sensitive.

Even if I have a schematic, I often deviate from it, perhaps changing dimensions or types of joinery. But again, it’s not like I don’t have a plan.

-- jay,

View Ted's profile


2846 posts in 2207 days

#3 posted 12-27-2012 11:28 PM

I have never worked from a plan. As a kid I used to build plastic models. The directions were handy if I needed to know something, but other than that they were completely ignored. I had the pieces, I knew how to put it together. It’s the same with everything I do today, from home remodeling (my paying job) to woodworking (my new found joy). I think working from plans is too much like somebody telling me what to do. I don’t like being told what to do.

-- You can collect dust or you can make dust. I choose to make it.

View crank49's profile


4030 posts in 2967 days

#4 posted 12-27-2012 11:28 PM

I’m a plan sort of guy. Been an engineer for 40 years and I draw everything and work out all the details before I start. Just the way I work.

Some people, and I have worked for several of them, can’t see how a plan works to save their life. They can’t envision anything. There are just people like that as well.

One thing I would never do is throw some of my work out because it wasn’t coming together like I planed it, though. I would just go back to my plans and rework them to fit where it’s headed.

I think everyone who thinks on their feet and designs things has to do this in some way or another.

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4725 posts in 2347 days

#5 posted 12-27-2012 11:29 PM

If you want something to turn out a specific way, you must have a plan. If you don’t care what the finished product looks like then it doesn’t matter.

-- Bondo Gaposis

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Don W

18711 posts in 2564 days

#6 posted 12-27-2012 11:29 PM

I haven’t worked off plans in a while. Most of my planning is done after I go to sleep.

-- - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

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10880 posts in 3111 days

#7 posted 12-27-2012 11:38 PM

I have build from planes many many times
when building R/C airplanes but I still have to see one plane that is followed excactly
from the first cut to the end …. on the feild there is a word saying
if the plane is build stricly to the plan … it can´t fly :-)
even the newest rookie deviates from the plan one way or another
I gess I continue with that in woodworking too :-)
I can´t build on the fly I need to have atleast a raw schetch to tinkering over :-)


View NiteWalker's profile


2737 posts in 2573 days

#8 posted 12-28-2012 12:15 AM

For some projects, I have the finished piece in my mind and go from there. For projects where I want no surprises and want easy, predictable results, I draw up a plan. For my recent shop cabinets I drew up a plan that included cut diagrams for the plywood to make the most of it.

-- He who dies with the most tools... dies with the emptiest wallet.

View JesseTutt's profile


854 posts in 2107 days

#9 posted 12-28-2012 12:33 AM

If I want a chance of getting it right on the first attempt there is a plan. It may be a sketch on a scrap of paper or an actual set of measured drawings. I have stopped spending the time to do the drawings in CAD.

-- Jesse, Saint Louis, Missouri

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3051 posts in 2253 days

#10 posted 12-28-2012 01:57 AM

I always have plans. Mostly they are my own, but whether mine or drawn by someone else they usually get modified to some extent along the way for a variety of reasons.

-- Art

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2899 posts in 2244 days

#11 posted 12-28-2012 02:06 AM

I usually don’t work from plans. I’m going to start. They will be my own, but sometimes when you draw EVERYTHING out first, you find the stupid mistakes you make in the middle of a project. Maybe not everyone makes the stupid mistakes I do, but drawing it out first has definitely moved some ”what the hell were you thinking there!!” moments from tools and lumber to pencil and paper… Much cheaper and easier to fix.


View a1Jim's profile


117090 posts in 3573 days

#12 posted 12-28-2012 02:21 AM

It depends what I’m making say a box for myself or something for a friend that does not care about the measurements after it’s made ,I just go for it, but even this type of project needs a mental plan ,such as what material to use where to start,what needs to be done and in what order. 99% of the time I have plans ,my own.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

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118 posts in 2300 days

#13 posted 12-28-2012 03:40 AM

I’m a “tweener” I make drawings and calc.s for the overall concept and leave room for changes, details and new ideas as I put it together.

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850 posts in 2114 days

#14 posted 12-28-2012 04:04 AM

It depends on what it is. If it has alot of components that need to be a certain size then I draw up plans. If it doesn’t have to be a certain size, or if it’s just the finished height, length, or width that need to be a certain size then I just make the measurments as I go… I guess I have the plans, but they are just in my head and not written on paper…or wood or whatever I have lying around lol

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5688 posts in 3305 days

#15 posted 12-28-2012 04:52 AM

My definition of “plans” is something I would sketch out with pencil and paper only when necessary. Following a strict set of plans for me would be too mechanical and against my creative instincts.
When I sculpt and carve my boxes I visualize the finished design in my mind and adjust as necessary as it comes together.

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