Many woodworkers head into their shops and just tear into a new project, but there are as many reasons not to dive right in as there are woodworkers who do. A little planning goes a long way to reduce wasted wood and hours of frustration. Sure, it’s often fun to puzzle your way through a problem with a project, but most of the time it’s just aggravating. For me, layout sticks are the answer.
I’ve used layout sticks for decades to work out the details of projects before I’ve even chosen the material. In fact, having one in hand can influence my lumber choice for a particular part of a project. Because they are drawn full-size, I’m able to compare the proposed layout to lumber in my stash. Many times, after I’ve decided on a particular set of boards to use for a piece, I discover that the panels aren’t wide enough, or the material length would yield minimum parts and maximum waste, so I dig deeper into the lumber pile to find a better alternative.
If I had jumped immediately into the project, I wouldn’t have known these things until the material had been rough-cut to size or even milled. At that point the material would have to be set aside and the lumber selection and milling processes would have to begin again – wasting both time and material.