Whether it's a rocking chair, a post-and-rail fence, or an orchard ladder—items with parallel pieces benefit from gang layout. You simply arrange all the vertical elements side by side, align the ends, and mark the connection points with the horizontal elements across all pieces with the same stroke. Do the same for the horizontals. This is standard practice in joiners' and cabinetmakers' work, but even the roughest split locust fence posts can be marked out for mortising a dozen at a time with the snap of a chalked line, using the same principle of gang layout.
Of course, marking all the pieces at the same time means that you'd better be right about your measurements. So, in addition to confirming all your dimensions before you cut, be sure to stop after cutting that first piece and try it out in place. You can still use the remaining pieces if something is amiss.
At some point you have to make a commitment and cut a piece to length, but the "leave it long" maxim will serve you well. Extra length on a piece gives you something to hold onto, as well as keeping your options open for correction until the last minute. Holding the wood while you work it is no small part of the job. For a common example, imagine that you need to saw a six-inch-wide, two-foot-long board into four equal pieces. If you first cut the board across the grain into a pair of one-foot-long boards, you'll have a tough time holding these short pieces on sawhorses for the lengthwise ripping. But if you reverse the order and cut down the grain first, the long 2-by-3s will be easy to cut to length.
Conversely, when you're making items such as long, narrow moldings with planes, you often want to "leave it wide." The extra width gives you something to clamp in the vise or on the bench top as you shape the molding. When you're done with the shaping, you saw off the narrow molded strip. You may have heard of Native American artists who carve ceremonial masks into the side of a living tree and then split it away only when they are done. This may be based on spiritual rather than mechanical principles, but it sure holds the wood steady.
Leaving a piece long also allows you to fit it into dimensions created by earlier steps. You join three pieces together and then fit the fourth piece in between them. You don't know what the numerical measurement is: you just hold the last piece in place, mark how long it needs to be, and then cut it to fit. Your work grows in an emergent, building process—going with the flow.
Was this article helpful?
There are a lot of things that either needs to be repaired, or put together when youre a homeowner. If youre a new homeowner, and have just gotten out of apartment style living, you might want to take this list with you to the hardware store. From remolding jobs to putting together furniture you can use these 5 power tools to get your stuff together. Dont forget too that youll need a few extra tools for other jobs around the house.