Fine Woodworking has started carrying plans for several of the more popular projects that they have had in the magazine. Though I'd give my first impressions...
Since a beautiful huntboard by Garret Hack that was featured in a recent issue was one of the available plans http://www.taunton.com/finewoodworki...ges/011220.asp
I thought I'd take a chance and buy a set of plans. At 24.95 for this set of plans, they are relatively inexpensive as plans go, and would have a lot more detail than the magazine article alone.
After browsing the plans page, I selected two other projects that I've had my eye on, including Steve Latta's Federal style table (24.95), and a tilt-top tea table (19.95) - after all, it's the holidays and I was treating myself!
So, here are my initial thoughts...
Service: A+ Plans were ordered on Sunday and arrived Thursday
Quality: B+ Plans are packaged fine - they consist of one (19.95) or two (24.95) folded sheets in a zip lock bag. Certainly kept the plans clean, but for the money, they would have been better if rolled and sent in a mailing tube. Creases in the plans will inevitably lead to tears at the folded points.
What do you get for the money? Plans consist of one or two sheets 36"x48" sheets and a simple cover sheet with a color pic of the piece. Included on the sheets are cut lists and necessary patterns and full size joinery details. The pieces themselves are not drawn full size, but are large scale.
The cover sheet details each plan as a "Beginner", "Intermediate", "Advanced" or "Expert" skill level. Interestingly enough, this is not identified as such on the website and would be useful to woodworkers in selecting appropriate plans. The Tea Table is listed as "Intermediate" and the Huntboard as "Advanced", while the Card Table is listed as "Expert". Knowing the projects and after seeing the plans, I'd say the skill levels listed are appropriate.
The cover sheet for the huntboard indicates in includes a "detailed builing guide" - Well, there are joinery notes all over the plans, but nothing included that would approach what I would consider a detailed building guide. You will want the article from the mag., which is available as a download.
The cover sheet for the Federal card table indicated it included "Veneering techniques", the "related article", and a "detailed building guide", none of which appears to be included. On the website, it points you a link to download the article, which I had already done... Not sure if they are missing some items in the plans, or if their cover sheets are a little "generous" in their description. I'll be dropping a note to Taunton asking about this...
The joinery detail and exploded views as well as the full size details will save a great deal of time in getting ready to build one of these pieces. But the lack of true full size drawings means that you can not take some measurements etc, directly off the plans which is very useful. Much better than the mag article alone, but could have been better.
So in summary, I'll give Value a "B" and I might be a little generous. But there is a significant shortage of good plans out there and they have done a lot to fill the gap.
I'm sure some will think them overpriced for a couple of pieces of paper, but when you place a value on the time they can save you, and the potential of avoiding a significant "oops", I think they will be well worth it.
As I get into actual construction of some of these pieces, I'll be in a better position to comment more on the plans.