As I get more experience wood working, I find it interesting how I have come to enjoy seemingly basic or what in the past has been downright challenging parts of a project that I sometimes feared in the past. Stock selection is one of those. I’ve started taking a very different approach to stock selection fairly recently. This is probably the result of watching the Wood Whisperer. I had a great time working with my wife on this step. She helped me pick and choose boards to use for the various parts of the project. I’d move around the boards for the most part, while she was ready at hand with a list of the rough dimensions. Chalk works wonders for marking out boards and indicating the waste side of each line. Sure beats sharpening your pencil every five minutes and the marks are so much more visible. Because my hand writing is so poor, and writing on rough cut lumber is still a bit challenging, I resort to obscure acronyms like FP (front post), BMR (back middle rail), and so on. These days I try to cut stock around 2” over the length required just in case I get a little snipe while planing and since you often encounter small cracks towards the ends of the rough cut boards.
In order to break the boards down to length I’ve tried a variety of methods in the past, including the compound miter saw (not so great for me since I don’t have a sliding saw and thus I easily reach or exceed the cutting capacity and don’t much enjoy doing dangerous things like tipping up the board to complete the cut). I’ve also tried using a circular saw with the board raised up on 2×4 scraps and the blade partially raised. That’s a lot of work and if the rough cut board has any twist you can easy get the blade to bind and get some pretty violent and downright scary kick back. Only recently have I tried using what I once considered the most crude of wood working tools – the jig saw. The jig saw actually works really well. Sure you get a small amount tear out and a fairly rough cut but who cares, if you have an extra 2” factored in then it’s simply not a problem. Kick-back is a non-issue. You can clamp one end of the board to a work surface, then place a couple of rolling stands just below the end that will drop down towards the end of the cut. The icing on the cake is that even if you don’t have a fancy Festool jig saw (I don’t, I use a very cheap Ryobi that isn’t great but gets the job done) you probably have a dust port that does a decent job to keep dust to a minimum. After rough cutting all the cherry for this project I only had a minuscule pile of dust on the floor and only right below my cut. Not all over my bench and not all over me. :-)
Since breaking down the wood worked out so well using this method, I couldn’t help but post a picture of myself with the large pile of rough cut stock I had produced. A few of the smaller parts came out of wider stock I ripped on the table saw after first jointing one edge using a small bench top jointer. I figure it’s best to first rip these down before surface planing since the boards they came from were fairly cupped so by ripping before planning I cut the amount of cupping in half.