Building the Plan Table

Having a good plan table helps move a project forward with broader understanding amongst everyone involved on site.

In reviewing leading practices for construction sites, it became clear that a site office with a good plan table helped everyone involved. A deeper understanding of the requirements, easy to understand, and fewer errors/mistakes and re-work. A win-win all the way around.

The job site that we visited numerous times in Menlo Park has a plan table that is just visible in the photo – take a look at the entry from April 25.  Here is a close up of the plan table.

Plan table at job site in Menlo Park.

Plan table at job site in Menlo Park.

In designing the plan table, we didn’t know what the dimensions should be. Darren’s advice was
to be able to have two plan sheets visible at one time. Flipping back and forth between pages introduces the opportunity for errors and makes it more difficult to understand quickly. Thus, we finalized the dimensions for the plan table instantly – two sheets wide and one sheet tall. Since the largest sheet is 42 inches by 30 inches, the plan table dimensions are 30 inches tall and 84 inches wide.

Off to Home Depot for materials … a couple sheets of plywood and some 2x4s.

Started selecting the materials and loaded up a cart. When reviewing the plywood, someone went by with a sheet from another aisle. Curious, I went down that aisle and noted that it was higher-grade, plywood from oak, birch and other woods. Not just ‘sheathing grade’ plywood. Higher quality plywood would be great for the actual plan table surface. Sheathing grade would be fine for the shelves under the working surface.

Looking at the various types of wood and the cost per sheet, we settled on the 12 mm birch plywood. Almost $42/sheet (vs. $13/sheet for the lowest grade). I put a sheet on the cart and noticed that there was only one sheet left, and it was damaged on several sides. Actually, the last sheet looked pretty bad.

Off to the ‘cleaner aisle’ for the window cleaning supplies. Reflecting on the cost of the nicer plywood for the plan table, I thought about asking for a discount on the damaged sheet.

Back to the lumber department. It took a couple minutes and, yes, the damaged sheet was available for $20! Into the truck and off to Reed’s house to pick up his chop saw. On the way, I called Reed and asked if he had a few minutes to help me cut the plywood to size. He had the time! Very cool …

Reed took out his extension cord and sawhorses to help me cut the plywood. He has a very cool jig to use with a circular saw in making accurate cuts. Using a couple C-clamps, we set it up to cut the birch plywood for the top, bottom rail and edges. Cutting these off site with Reed saved me the afternoon of struggling by myself to butcher the plywood.

After cutting the birch, Reed helped with a couple more cuts and the shelves were done. Back to the job site. With the chop saw.

Chop saw.

Chop saw.

Nik arrived minutes after the materials were unloaded. Perfect.

We laid out the materials for the shelves and then started using the chop saw to cut the 2x4s to size. Using the chop saw allowed the cuts to be much, much more accurate that we could do otherwise.

Laying out the first shelf.

Laying out the first shelf.

Oh yes, it was a beautiful blue-sky, California afternoon.

Completed shelves, ready for the legs and top.

Completed shelves, ready for the legs and top.

After building the shelves and legs, we moved inside the site office to assemble the plan table. After cutting temporary spacers, we assembled the legs and shelves and needed the top. This was trickier but we managed (yeah, a couple extra holes but, hey, it is only a plan table and not a china cabinet).

Voila! We were done.

Completed plan table.

Completed plan table in the temporary site office..

Jo-Anne and Kate arrived to inspect. We’re golden!

Nik, Kate and Jo-Anne left, and I cleaned up the site and went to Weird Stuff.

More on those goodies tomorrow.

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