For the first time in years, I’m using a published plan to make a project. Of course, the finished project will probably bear little resemblance to the original.
I noted last time that I was in toy-making mode around the Hamler woodshop, creating Christmas gifts for my one-year-old grandson. The common thread for many of the toys is dragons, as his room is decorated heavily with fantasy themes featuring several of the aforementioned beasts. In searching the Internet for ideas I stumbled across an articulated dragon project published more than a decade ago in Woodworker’s Journal. The old project plans were long out of print, but I contacted the editors and they graciously emailed me a PDF of the original article, written by woodworker/author John Hutchinson.
I’ve mentioned before that I rarely use plans, and when I do I usually just use the pictures as a guide and redesign the project on the fly. This one’s a bit different – because the articulation of the toy has to be exact in order for the various parts to move properly, I’m following the mechanics of the project precisely. When it’s done, it’ll work exactly as John intended, but I doubt he’d recognize it.
Although I’ve left the mechanics alone, as is typical for me I’ve changed most aspects of the dragon’s appearance. The little guy’s snout will be longer and more tapered, the legs more muscular, the tail a bit longer with a more pronounced curve, and I’m adding a compound curve to the front edges of the wings. In short, I’m making it look more like the dragons I’ve observed from personal experience in my previous life as a science fiction/fantasy writer. (What, you’ve never seen a real dragon?)
The mechanics of articulation aren’t something I design well, but John’s done a lot of these so I’m relying on his expertise for that. But I know what I want my dragon to look like, so I’ll do that myself. To me, that’s the best way to enjoy woodworking: Taking the expertise of someone else in one area, and combining it with my own expertise in another.
Done that way, the resulting project is always greater than the sum of its parts.