OK, at this point, you should have completed the design process and now have a scaled drawing in hand as well as a bill of materials and/or a cut list. You’re ready to start putting that thing together! (If you can still remember what you were building…)
Consider putting together a plan of procedure to guide you through the construction process. It doesn’t have to be elaborate, just something to help you identify a logical sequence of building steps in order to organize the work flow. Here is a fairly typical Plan of Procedure (or, at least one that I like to use) :
1. Lay out sheet stock. Consult your cutting diagram that was created by hand or with a sheet layout program. Use finished dimensions for the layout lines. (Note: it’s often more productive to just cut the pieces directly from the cut list rather than transferring all the cutting lines to the sheet stock – it’s your call).
2. Cut sheet stock. Put a good plywood cutting blade on your table saw and go to town. If you have a lot of sheets to cut, this might be a good time to invest in a panel cutting saw!
3. Select and lay out solid stock. This is where your cut list comes in handy. Start with the largest pieces and work to the smallest, crossing items off the cut list as you go. Use chalk or a crayon as a marking tool. Lay out widths about 1/4″ wider and lengths about 1″-2″ longer than needed to account for stock removal during milling.
4. Rough cut solid stock. Allow allow extra width and length as noted above. This step will generally involve the radial arm saw for cross-cutting and the table saw or bandsaw for cutting to length.
5. Square and glue up solid stock. Mill the pieces as necessary to create fairly flat boards with good gluing surfaces. The glued-up pieces should still be a bit oversized.
6. Mill solid stock to final dimensions. This is where you put your arsenal of tools to work – the jointer, planer, table saw, radial-arm saw, chop saw, etc. The end result should be pieces that are flat, straight, square-cornered and cut to finished dimensions – with allowances made for joinery!
7. Complete curved and irregularly-shaped parts. The squared-up blanks for these parts were prepared in the previous step. For this step, you’ll likely be using your bandsaw, jigsaw, sanders, and miscellaneous hand tools.
8. Lay out and cut joints. This is where the fun begins. We’re talking mortises, tenons, tongues, grooves, rabbets, frogs, dovetails, half-laps, dowels, biscuits, … You’ll probably spend a good bit of time making and setting up jigs – but this is what it’s all about. Try to avoid getting saliva on the wood.
9. Perform pre-assembly sanding. It’s usually much easier to sand boards before they’re assembled. Note that the sanding process itself may represent a separate plan of procedure involving a specified sequence of sanding grits.
10. Assemble and glue up. For some projects, this will involve both a subassembly and a final assembly. Tools of the trade here include glue, hammers, clamps, swearing, and praying.
11. Perform post-assembly sanding. This should be a quick once-over using the final sanding grit (perhaps 180-220). It’s also a good time to touch up corners which tend to get banged up during assembly.
12. Apply finish. Depending on the complexity, finishing might warrant its own plan of procedure. For example: apply sanding sealer, apply base coat, sand after 24 hrs, apply 2nd coat, sand after 24 hrs, apply final coat, rub out after curing, apply paste wax. (Or you could just slap on some Watco and call it a day).
13. Install hardware. Hinges, locks, drawer pulls, knobs, …
For most hobbyist woodworkers, a formal plan of procedure is probably not needed for every project – assuming you’ve gone through the planning process before and have a viable plan of attack in mind (or previously committed to paper). However, for commercial operations, a plan of procedure is a useful tool for keeping track of the time/labor required at each step, thereby making it easier to identify bottlenecks in the production pipeline. It can also help to reduce errors when new employees come on board.
To help you out, I’ve put together two project-related template documents. The first is a project summary for keeping track of the various project-related expenses and labor.It also has space for a photo and construction notes. The second is a plan of procedure log sheet. It allows you to record each procedure along with start/stop times, part ID’s, and required tools or equipment.