How to use and understand Woodworking DIY plans

For a while now, I’ve been thinking about making 
a new tutorial video to make understanding and   using the plans on my website as easy as 
possible, and here it is. I’ll show you  what programs you need to open and use all the 
files, the many ways in which you can use the   plans according to your way of working or the 
tools at your disposal. At the end of the video,   I’ll also be showing you how to download some 
of the free plans you’ll find on my website,   which will allow you to have a 
better idea of everything you need.

The required PC or mobile programs are: a 
decompressing program like Winzip so that   you can decompress the files you download, a PDF 
reader such as Adobe Reader, any program that lets   you view images, a CAD program like SketchUp and 
an optimized cutting diagram program like MaxCut.  After downloading the zip file on your computer or 
phone, first you must decompress it.    To do that, install the decompressing software and right 
click on the file and press “extract here.”   Open the new folder and you’ll find folders 
including all the files, sorted by categories.   All my plans are in millimeters, but I’ll 
show you how you can change some of them to  inches.

First I’ll open possible the most important 
folder, known as “cutting list.” Inside you’ll   find several PDF files. This list is a reference 
of all the pieces along with their width, length,   amount and material. If you scroll down, you’ll 
find a 3D model, helping you locate each piece. I   highly recommend printing it out and having it on 
hand to locate pieces or check their measurements.  Now I’ll open the PDF with all the necessary 
fasteners, amounts, types of screws and their  measurements.

Each name is a link to the 
site’s forum, where you can see pictures of   the fasteners and, in many cases, where to find 
them. I would also suggest printing this file.  Inside the “cutting list” folder there’s 
another folder named “maxcut files.”   Open it to find the optimized cutting sheet for 
each board. The name in each picture indicates the   type and thickness of each board, and you can open 
the image to see all the pieces and the external   measurements of the board.

If it is a small 
project, the plans may not include this folder.   This is an Excel file where you can see 
or edit the measurements of each piece,   or import to other optimization programs. 
Here you can change the measurements of   some pieces. For example, you can 
make any project taller or wider.   You can also import this Excel file to an online 
application where you can change the measurement  units to imperial. Finally, this file is used 
to open the project on MaxCut. I’m using the   free version of this program. Though it has fewer 
features, it’s enough for these kinds of projects.  By opening the program, you can see the optimized 
sheets, and this is the input items tab.   You can edit or delete entries, or add new 
ones. The first time you open this program,   it will ask you to create the boards. Their names 
can be copied from the images I showed just now.   The program has an option to change 
the language, and a neat thing you can   do is go into “settings” to change the 
measurement system, even to imperial.   Another option is opening the 
program without loading the project   and importing the Excel file included in the 
plans.

There is no Mac version of this program,   but there is similar software which will 
surely allow you to import the Excel files.  I return to the main menu and 
go into the instructions folder.   Here you’ll find PDF files and links with 
information on how to build the project.   This is the link with the 
assembly instructions on the site.   In these online articles, you’ll also 
find more links to additional information.   This is the instruction PDF, which you can 
print out so that you can keep it handy.   Here’s another interesting link where you can see 
the project, made by other users. It can give you   ideas on modifications to the original design, 
or on other materials and construction methods.   In this folder named “web instructions,” you’ll 
find links to other manuals, such as this one,   where I’ll go into interesting topics like 
which tools to begin with, required knowledge,   cost or safety at work. It also contains accurate 
manuals for programs like MaxCut and SketchUp.  Now I’ll show you the PDF files with measurements 
and cutting sheets in the “PDF plans” folder.   Here are the printable templates, ready 
to be printed and glued to the board.   They will allow you to premark cuts or holes in a 
convenient and accurate way.

They’re only needed   for pieces with irregular or curved shapes, 
so you won’t find every single piece here.   These are the PDFs with exploded 3D model 
views, measurements and names of fasteners.   This file contains every 
piece with plan or scale view,   and here’s another PDF with 
the unexploded 3D model.  The plans also come with a folder 
with pictures of the design.   And now the last thing I have to show off are 
the CAD files. As you can see, I normally include   two copies of the same file that can be opened on 
Autocad or SketchUp. Autocad is a pretty expensive   program, but it’s good to have these files which 
you can import to almost any other CAD program.  SketchUp has a free downloadable version 
and another online version. I have a Pro   version installed on my PC, which is 
what I will use to open the project.   Once it’s open, we can navigate the various scenes 
I created.

By clicking on any piece, you will   see its name; you can also take measurements or 
toggle any of the layers on and off. Of course,  you can also modify the 3D model, but that 
will require some experience with the program.   SketchUp lets you change the units to imperial by 
going into “Window/model information,” although   the conversions are not always effective. Now I’ll open the exploded 3D file,   from the free online version of the app, to 
show you how it works.

Before anything else,   we must create a user account, look for the 
model on our PC and open it. Once it’s open,   we can see the interface is slightly 
different, but the tools are quite similar.   We can also take measurements, consult the name 
of each piece or switch between different scenes.  Some plans include a CAD file with a DXF 
extension so that you can import them into   CAM programs so that you can machine them with a 
CNC, like in this case. By clicking on each piece,   you can see its name in the “layers” section. 
After importing these files into a CNC’s CAM   program, you will need to check the rest of 
the plans to see if the router bit has to cut   on the inner or outer face of each trajectory, 
or the depth of the cuts to generate the G code.  I’m going to give you a brief summary of the 
steps you will have to follow once you’ve   downloaded the plans.

First off, you should become 
familiar with the plans and the project themselves   and go through all the files like I just 
did in this video. Print out the files that   you should keep handy such as the cutting list 
and find the materials and fasteners you need.   If you have a table saw, you could cut all of the 
materials at home, but if it’s a large project or   you don’t have a table saw, you could also take 
the list to a woodworking store, where not only   will they sell you the materials, but also cut 
them and mark each piece with a reference number.   I’ve had materials cut on more than 
one occasion in large projects,   such as my woodworking workbench.

  To avoid  unwanted surprises, ask for a quote for the  materials and then for the materials 
and the cuts to see the difference.   The next step is to follow the videos, 
and look up the rest of the measurements,   such as holes or rebates on the PDF files included 
in the plans or by measuring them on SketchUp.  The last thing I wanted to talk about was how 
to download some of the free plans available on my website.   Downloading one of these 
is an excellent way to get a better idea   of what they’re like. Look for one of these free 
plans on the site, like the drill press stand. In   the product page you’ll find information on the 
project and everything included in the plans.  Click on “add to cart” and it will open a window 
where you can complete the process or keep   browsing to see more products.

This time, I’ll 
click on “checkout.” If you’re already registered  and logged in, your information will appear on 
the left-hand panel, if you’re registered but   haven’t logged in, you can click on “already 
registered” and enter your email and password.   If you’ve previously saved this information on 
your browser, it will show up as a suggestion when   you click the box. If you’re not registered, you 
can do so easily by using this panel on the left.  First, enter your name, surname and email 
address.

It’s important that you type the   address correctly in order to receive the 
emails with the link to download the plans.   Type a password and confirm. Set the address, 
click on “I have read and accept the Privacy   Policy” and finally click on “save information.”  We are registered on the site. On the right, click   on “I agree to the terms of service” and “I accept 
the privacy policy” and then click on “checkout.” That will open a new window where you can download 
the plans directly from your user profile.   You can download your plans from here 
whenever you need them by logging in.   You’ll also receive an email with a link 
to download the plans. If, for any reason,   this doesn’t work, right click and select 
“save link as.” If you can’t find this email,   check to see whether you entered the right email 
address on the site and also your spam folder.  If you’re already registered 
but lost your password, click   on “forgot your password” and you’ll 
receive an email to restore it.   Also, in this case, you should check your 
spam folder if you can’t find the email.  Don’t forget you can download the plans whenever 
you need them from your user account on the site.   Once you’ve logged in, click on your name 
and enter the “Order history” section,   click on the order reference and at the 
bottom of the page you’ll find a link.

That’s all for today. I’ll be uploading 
new videos with new projects soon. See you!.

As found on YouTube

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