I remember when I made the jump from pre-cut Home Depot Oak to rough-cut stock… half your time for the project is spent squaring the rough-cut stock down to the final sizes! But the pre-cut Home Depot stuff is so limiting, boring and uniform. I found that the effort spent starting from a rough-cut board and working from ground up was well worth the extra time because I could venture into a myriad of other woods and grain patterns besides “Oak.”
In Italy, I used a full-up industrial woodshop where I would buy my stock and dimension it. Planers, table saws and belt sanders, oh my… And it still took a full day’s work (if not two) to get everything cleaned off, squared, dimensioned, and ready for joinery. Joinery will always be my favorite aspect of woodworking, but honing the rough stock has its own fun. In fact, it’s almost like unwrapping a Christmas present: you never truly know the beauty of the grain underneath until you start unwrapping it by planing the layers away.
Here in Britain, I have only me and my hand planes. That’s it. When it comes to dimensioning the stock, it’s daunting.
Using the power machines in the Italy shop gave me peace of mind: I knew after I ran it through the machines that everything was square, exacting, and perfect. By hand, I have to make compromises (in part, because I’m somewhat impatient). It’d take me an entire day to gnat’s ass just one board to square and exacting. I personally want to build and join, not fiddle around with a straightedge and micrometer for days on end. Instead, I find myself asking “what truly needs to be flat?” and “what truly needs to be square?” If it needs to be flat and square, then I’ll take the extra time to make it exacting. Otherwise, there’s a point when “good enough” is truly good enough (though it still lacks that peace-of-mind perfection I like to have).
So here’s the 4-hour montage of readying just one board for joinery (the upper rails & stretchers). They will ultimately be tenoned on both ends into the legs of the grill table.
The outdoor grill table I’m taking on is my case in point. The rails and stretchers need to be relatively straight boards, but they absolutely need to be straight and square where they will butt up against the tabletop as well as tenon into the legs. The other surfaces? Well, who cares really. They won’t affect the structural soundness at all, and I don’t think they will affect how it looks either.
That took about 5 hours today. I’m sure things will speed up as I go. Regardless of by power or by hand, dimensioning and squaring still remain time sucking processes. I couldn’t help but think that if only I had the use of that industrial power shop in Italy, I’d have all the boards dimensioned and squared today. Alas, I do not… but I will have the pride that this project will be made purely without electricity.
The next day or three: dimensioning the Elm legs that are caked in bird shit…