Woodworking plans can make a woodworkers life “heaven”. Imagine making all the parts and pieces for a project, exactly the size and quantity they ask for then simply gluing them all together. Thats what good plans will do for you. If you purchase good quality plans, the manufacture will often state that these plans have been tested. Occasionally, or with new plans you may find some that are not but these are getting rare, especially with computer aided drawing.
The advantage with purchasing woodworking plans is that someone else has done the design work, the drawing and the testing and now all you have to do is purchase wood and do all the fun stuff like making the parts. Sadly, I am not a furniture designer, I have to see it, or at least a picture of it before get a concept of it. At price of wood, I want to make sure I am not going to make any mistakes in cutting and measuring so having the plans is a good start.
One thing I have learned about plans is that just like any other product you really need examine what you are getting. For example a number of years ago I bought some plans for and Adirondack Chair, you know the type, like a summer lounge chair. After I built a couple of chairs and started using them I thought they were awful to sit in. After a while my knees and back would hurt. Some time later I was at Home Depot or Lowes I believe, and saw they had Adirondack Chair kits on sale. They also had a display model you could sit in … which I did. To my utter amazement if was very different from the ones I had made, this one was actually comfortable, even without any padding. What I discovered that day is there can be many different versions of what looks like the same thing.
I was looking for router table plans some time ago and as with the chairs, I was astounded how many different versions there were, over 40 that I counted and probably many more I didn't see. I know that Norm Abram's version from the New Yankee Workshop is popular but it looked more complicated than I wanted. This was one case I opted to purchase a ready made stand as I needed something quickly and make one became not a option.
The reason for the change in buying verses making a router table was that I was being contracted to build a number of items. I now needed to investigate different cabinet plans for one project a blanket chest for another. Once again I began to research woodworking plans for these items. I knew what the customers wanted but wanted to make sure the finished items would be meet their standards. Again there were many variables and what I ended up doing was getting the clients to select their own styles. This way there would be less risk of them not liking the finished product, and it worked.
I have been interested in boat building for some time now. I am interested in building either a kayak or a canoe. As usual, there are many versions of kayak plans and canoe plans and making the decision on these is very difficult, or maybe I'm just being picky. I really don't want to spend all the hours it will take to build a water craft then not be happy with it once it is finished. Most places provide ratings or customer experiences with their plans and finished products, I can only hope their analysis are correct as I will likely need to base my decisions on what others say.