For almost everyone, it’s not enough for a woodworking piece to simply fulfill its intended purpose; it must also be aesthetically pleasing. Indeed, an entire industry revolves around interior design, home decor, landscaping, etcetera. So, a woodworker / woodcrafter must consider not only function but also form when exercising their craft.
The skills required include not only the mechanical aspects of constructing a piece, but the artistic skills of forming and shaping that piece into something beautiful, or at least interesting. It’s actually relatively rare to find someone who excels at both of these areas. Most of us have our strength in either one or the other. But, no matter which is your strength, either can be helped by a good set of plans.
Woodworking plans, available in books or online, provide guidance in the structure and assembly of a project, and also in the contour and character of that project. Whether you’re an expert or a novice, an artisan or utilitarian, professionally developed and published plans can help you fill the gap, whichever it may be.
Plans are available for probably any project you can think of: commercial or residential, indoor or outdoor, from buildings to furniture to decorations and more. When considering a plan to use for your project, start with the end result in mind. What are you trying to accomplish? Then work back, considering the purpose, the size, the shape, the design, the look, the feel. The varieties available are nearly endless. Then consider the complexity of the plan. Do you have the necessary skills, tools, time, resources, and desire? If the answer to any of those is “no”, don’t necessarily let that stop you. Unless you do something beyond what you are currently capable of, you will never grow in your abilities. It reminds me of the saying, “The game isn’t big enough unless it scares you a little”.
Also, when considering a set of plans to use, examine them to see if they are clear and easy to follow. Do they include not only instructions on the assembly but also the artistic design? Are the plans of high quality, giving good descriptions and explanations? Do they include good diagrams, illustrations, and/or pictures? Do they include precise measurements for each and every component, or are you going to be left guessing half way through? Do they include a good “bill of materials”, so that you neither buy unnecessary materials nor have to drop what you’re doing and make a trip to the hardware store to get a critical item that you didn’t get up front?
In summary, get a plan, and work that plan, and you will be pleased with the outcome!