|Woodworking Plan Buyer's Guide|
Woodworking Plan Companies - The Big Players
There are lots of web sites featuring woodworking plans but many of these sites are essentially resellers for a relatively small number of plan suppliers. Plan shops if you will. Some of the largest woodworking plan companies in the United States and Canada are listed below.
American Furniture Design has been around since the early 1990's and has grown by leaps and bounds during that time. You will find their plans in every major woodworking mail order catalog in America, Canada and Australia, plus in oodles of web sites. Their designs are from leading craftsmen such as Sam Maloof and cover all areas of furniture design. Included with each CAD generated plan is a booklet of instructions, with techniques, jigs and fixtures to assure completion of your project.
Gold Country Woodworks is a smaller plan company that has been around since 1990. They are known for their award-winning Adirondack Furniture plans. All plans from Gold Country Woodworks include simple to follow step-by-step instructions, detailed illustrations, material list, and best of all- full size traceable patterns.
Meisel Hardware Specialties sells both woodworking plans and hard-to-find specialty hardware parts. Paul Meisel, the company president, is a former industrial arts teacher and an accomplished author of several woodworking books. All plans feature Mr. Meisel's rigid criteria for simple, practical construction: common lumber sizes and simple painting and finishing techniques, plus tools that are readily available to the do-it-yourselfer. The Meisel web site currently offers plans for over 1000 woodworking projects.
PlansNOW is a division of August Home Publishing Company, publisher of Woodsmith, ShopNotes, and Workbench magazines. The downloadable project plans and technique articles offered at PlansNOW are developed by the editors of these magazines. These plans feature detailed instructions, easy-to-read drawings, plenty of photos, exploded views and cutting diagrams. I have a considerable collection of Woodsmith magazines and I'm always impressed with the jigs and woodworking techniques provided in the plan articles. PlansNow offers yearly memberships that amount to huge discounts. For example, you can sign up for a Platinum membership for about $30 a year and get 20 plans, 2 woodworking books, and an e-newsletter.
Sherwood Creations, Inc. has been serving the woodcrafting enthusiast for nearly 10 years. They offer thousands of plans, patterns, and supplies, both mail order and online. They claim their plans and patterns are exclusive, not to be found anywhere else. Sherwood is a good plan source for yard art, holiday decorations, animals, and miscellaneous projects of an artsy nature.
Somerset Publishing is a long-time plan business based out of Minneapolis, MN. Their plans feature projects from the editors of The Family Handyman Magazine, and Popular Woodworking Magazine, as well as their own line of shed, garage, and deck plans. Somerset does not sell their plans directly: they must be purchased from one of their online retailers. These include: Handymanplans.com, Toolcenter.com, Woodzone.com, Woodworkingdiscountbooks.com, and Woodprojects.com. Their plans are top notch, containing features such as "Tips from the Pros," to help you achieve professional results. All of the structural plans (sheds, decks and garages) include step-by-step instructions, come in multiple sizes, and include a complete materials list.
U-Bild, based out of Oceanside CA has served the north American plan market since since 1948. Their unique "trace, saw and assemble" designs feature simple-to-follow patterns (like sewing patterns) that allow even beginners to achieve professional results. Each plan features detailed step-by-step instructions, full-size traceable patterns (where needed), in-progress photos, isometric diagrams and complete materials lists and cutting schedules. Some of the U-Bild plans have a dated look to them (they have been around a long time after all) but many are also quite contemporary. Their plans are featured in leading woodworking catalogs such as Rockler and Woodcraft. Personal gripe: U-bild's free plan selection is rather skimpy compared to some competitors.
WOOD Plans are created by the editors of WOOD magazine, a publication that has been around since 1990 or so. Their plans undergo a detailed process of scrutiny, review, and shop-testing. As they like to say, every project you see in WOOD is �brought to life� in a workshop before it is presented to the reader. I must say that the WOOD plans have a certain user-friendliness to them -- lots of illustrations, how-to photos, step-by-step instructions, cutting diagrams, bill of materials, etc. WOOD plans are sold throughout the Internet and many woodworking sites, including this one, have signed on as affiliates. In addition to woodworking plans, WOOD also offers downloadable technique articles and tool reviews (1200+ at last count).
Woodworking supply companies such as Rockler and Woodcraft offer a diverse selection of woodworking plans, many of which are purchased wholesale from several of the plan suppliers listed above. For example, Woodcraft carries plans from American Furniture Design, U-Bild, and WOOD, as well as their own line of Woodcraft Magazine plans. Rockler carries plans from PlansNow, the New Yankee Workshop, U-Bild, as well as their own line of plans. An obvious advantage of buying plans directly from these supply companies is that they provide one stop shopping for the plans as well as plan hardware. Rockler also features user reviews of plans to assist you in the purchase decision.