Creating a Woodworking Plan, E-Books
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Creating a Woodworking Plan, Part Two: Getting Started

Screenshot of Publisher

Microsoft Publisher: the main software program for my plans.

Go back to Part One

Once the SketchUp model has been completed it is time to work on the project plan itself. Typically, I use four different software products to create a plan: SketchUp, Microsoft Publisher, Microsoft Paint, and Adobe Acrobat Pro.

There are several ways you can generate a project plan. I have seen people use Microsoft Word and Adobe InDesign. I have both of these programs and hopefully I’ll graduate to InDesign in 2013, but I use Publisher for three reasons: 1) it is very flexible, 2) it was what I had; it came included in the Microsoft Office bundle we bought a while back, and 3) I have become skilled in using Publisher to get what I want. As soon as I can get my hands on an InDesign book, I’ll start the process of learning it since InDesign seems to be what the professionals use.

What do you want your woodworking plan to be?
I originally called my plans e-books. This seemed to be a somewhat accurate term since my first project plan was 27 pages in length. But, they don’t really resemble a book; there is no cover, except for my first plan, there are no table of contents. I no longer call them e-books (I also dropped that term when I realized people don’t search for woodworking e-books, they search for woodworking plans). My plans are really meant to replicate a magazine article – they include the construction process, a ton of illustrations and hopefully teach a thing or two about the steps required to bring a project to life.

So, the first step towards writing the plan is to decide on a format: what you want your plan to be and look like. Many people like the book style, others adopt a magazine approach, some plans are as simple as a measured drawing along with some very basic information.

Something I’d also suggest is to get a dose of graphic design inspiration. I have a collection of magazines which I use to get my creative juices flowing. Chief among them are Rolling Stone, Sports Illustrated and even Time magazine. My woodworking plans rely heavily on illustrations to communicate construction tips, so among woodworking publications I get inspiration from are Fine Woodworking, but especially Woodsmith magazine since they are big on illustrations. A word of caution though: don’t get too fancy with fonts and images. Decorative fonts can be hard to read and a page over-run with graphic elements often becomes visually confusing. Keep it simple and lean toward traditional graphic design.

Massive Bookcase, page 1

Click to enlarge – an example of an introductory page.

The back story
Prior to getting the construction process going, I like to introduce the furniture piece by writing a page about it’s reason for being: why I built it, what drove the design of the project and some construction comments. I also like to add a little humor here, but just a little. For my Queen Size Bed project plan I included links to videos as well as graphs since it was inspired by a much bigger event.

Introductions like these enable readers connect more personally with the project. My back stories are written in a very conversational manner; as if the reader was has stopped by from Facebook. Such a person likely would be family or a high school buddy or someone from my college days. For this reason, I try to keep the woodworking terminology pretty simple and light. But, if I rate a project at a moderate skill level, I’ll assume the reader has a basic understanding of woodworking methods. If a part needs a dado joint for assembly, I’ll leave it at that and skip how best to create the dado joint. A moderate skill level woodworker will know how to do this.

Go to part three by clicking here.

About my woodworking plans: to see the list of woodworking plans available (some are free), click here.

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