Old Style Woodworking Plans

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Dave Richards

Dave
Senior User
I like looking at woodworking books from the 1800s and up into the early 1900s. I find the plans they usually include to be almost works of art. Minimalistic in the info they present but complete. Clearly they expect the woodworker to apply his skills to completing the project. I believe it would also encourage a bit of creativity and originality since each woodworker will approach it in a slightly different manner. By contrast, these days it seems the plans have to give all of the dimensions of every last detail. From my experience drawing plans for various clients, I've found that I have to dimension things that I think should be self-explanatory. I wind up dimensioning both the mortise and its mating tenon which seems a bit redundant to me.

I was curious about creating a very simple plan in the style of those old books and came up with the plan, below. I used SketchUp and LayOut to create it. the background image of the old paper is there for looks but I think I'd remove it if it was going to be used as plan by anyone. Do you think it contains enough info so that you could build a table like this? Would you be comfortable working from something like this?


Here's the model I used for the plan:
 
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McRabbet

Rob
Corporate Member
About the only dimension I'd add would be the largest diameter of the pedestal, but it isn't really critical. Looks like drawings I've seen in several old books.
 

nn4jw

Jim
Senior User
Good plan. I wouldn't mind seeing a couple of other dimensions. The size of the square at the top of the pedestal and the length of the two support pieces that attach to it come to mind. It wasn't clear in the plan that the piece was square, although it's easy to see in the model. If those measurements were in the plan itself then I think I could build that table from the plan itself. And I know that the measurements on those 3 pieces aren't really all that critical, but for me it would make the plan pretty complete.
 

KenOfCary

Board of Directors, Treasurer
Ken
Staff member
Corporate Member
When the top is tilted up, wouldn't all of the weight be skewed to one side? Wouldn't it be better to have one of the three legs going in that direction instead of the opposite? Seems from the original that it was done the opposite of the way I think it should be. Or maybe it is just me over-thinking it.
 

Dave Richards

Dave
Senior User
Ken, it does seem kind of odd that way but the CofG would still be within the footprint of the legs so it won't tip over.

Thanks for the comments Rob and Jim.
 

Bill Clemmons

Bill
Corporate Member
Dave, I'm w/ you. I actually enjoy looking at a set of plans and figuring out the missing dimensions/details. In some of the old ww magazines (pre-SketchUp), it's also interesting to find the mistakes in the dimensions.

Your plan above kinda reminds me of some of the old Carlyle Lynch drawings, though not as detailed.
 

redknife

Chris
Corporate Member
It is interesting concept to think about. I like that plan. Often times, between an exploded view, every joinery detail, labeled dimensions, and material annotation it is hard to memorize or "get your head around" the plan. To me the picture shows what you need in a very concise way. The small picture of the sliding dovetail for the legs is a good example of the concise presentation.
 

Dave Richards

Dave
Senior User
Bill, I like Carlyle Lynch's plans too. I've thought about emulating them for a couple of projects I have in mind. I especially like the plans that are all on one sheet.

Chris, I agree with you. One of the things I'm always conscious of when I'm creating plans for Fine Woodworking and others is where things show up. How can I make them clear enough enough while avoiding redundancy. Perspective views can go a long way in that regard.
 

StephenK

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Stephen
My only quibble - and this is coming from a dummy - is that 16th of an inch on the feet (floor to base of the pedestal). I would ignore it and make it an even 4.5", probably to my detriment :D
 

Dave Richards

Dave
Senior User
Stephen, I agree with you on the feet. That's kind of the idea, though. You do what makes sense in building it. Avoid trying to make an exact duplicate. Of course you have to be smart when making adjustments. Changing the feet is no big deal. It lowers the table by 1/16 in. Does that really matter? Or you could add a sixteenth to the column to maintain the same table height. On the other hand, maybe there are other details that can't be changed. It's up to the skill of the builder to determine that.
 

Rick M

Rick
Corporate Member
I love the look and could build a table from that but from a turning perspective and especially since the leg is so prominent, it would be nice to have the diameters. Assuming the scale is correct (and I'm assuming yours is but many of the actual antique plans weren't) I could grab dividers and suss out approximate diameters. Old plans were sparse and often included barely enough information. You'd have to explain how to redraw the legs from a grid as that is new to most people under 35-ish. And if you redraw some of those old plans (I have) you sometimes find big mistakes that make them unbuildable as drawn.
 

StephenK

New User
Stephen
Stephen, I agree with you on the feet. That's kind of the idea, though. You do what makes sense in building it. Avoid trying to make an exact duplicate. Of course you have to be smart when making adjustments. Changing the feet is no big deal. It lowers the table by 1/16 in. Does that really matter? Or you could add a sixteenth to the column to maintain the same table height. On the other hand, maybe there are other details that can't be changed. It's up to the skill of the builder to determine that.
Exactly! The height of the table should be tall enough to sit and have a nice cup of tea. What's that height? About right "here", lol. Basically in my strange, round about way, I'm confirming your question regarding simple plans with limit dimensions. Even the turnings on the pedestal don't need to be that precise. I tend to get really caught up in dimensions, and then become frustrated because I screwed up (and missed something by a 32nd....). I love building things in an iterative process, where a specific part's dimension isn't as important as the fact that it fits well with the other parts, and the over all size works as intended.
 

Jeff

New User
Jeff
The concept and discussion is very good.

1. I'd ignore the 1/16" measurements and use increments of 1/8, 1/4, 3/8, 1/2...etc. Just easier to set the calipers in 1760 and I doubt that the human eye would've noticed a little +/- stuff.

2. Looking at Dave's info there are some key pieces that stand out to begin...and I did away with +1/16" here and -1/16" there. Nit picky measurements!



3" diameter post, the bottom is 4.5" from the floor21.25" l
6" x 6" x 1" to mount tilting table top with dowels
Legs, any design 10-12" horizontally

All of the other turning stuff in between is your choice.

The overall height with a 1/2" thick tilting top is about 27 1/4". Watch Downton Abbey to see if that's too tall, too short, or about right for a tea table.

It's kind of like whatever dimensions look good to you as the 1760s craftsman.
 

Rick M

Rick
Corporate Member
If you aren't going to include the diameters then why include the distances.
-- Rick M
 

Mike Davis

Mike
Corporate Member
Usually when my wife wants me to make something she brings me a picture cut out of a magazine and says can you make this to fit in a certain space. I measure the space and guess at the rest. So, basically I know one major dimension.
 

Jeff

New User
Jeff
Like a said earlier, the proportions are important. The measurements, not so much.
Just suppose you had a murky mental image about this table without a picture or a plan. How and where would you begin to give it some substance on paper and then continue refining it? As the craftsman you have free license to exercise your analysis and critical thinking skills.
 
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