How many times have you seen a a well proportioned, well executed and beautifully finished piece - that’s just not quite right - because of - frugality?
For the beginner and even intermediate amateur woodworker, there’s a tendency / temptation to use as much as possible of each board. And it’s understandable, given the price of wood these days and the difficulty of finding furniture grade stock. Or it could be that we buy only what we’re going to need for the current project - and not a board foot more. OK - so maybe we go with the 15% Rule - get 15% more wood than your Cut List says is required.
And when it comes to cutting the parts for a piece, it’s easy to worry a lot about dimensions and efficiency - and overlook the grain of the wood. That’s understandable because it’s pretty important that parts that are supposed to be the same length are in fact the same length, and that parts that are supposed to be the same width and thickness - are. There is a reason for the maxim Measure Twice, Cut Once. In order to make parts with the same dimensions, it’s best to cut ALL those parts with one machine set up, the same fence set up for rips, the same stops for cross cuts, the same angles for miters, the same setting for the marking gauge when laying out mortises, tenons, etc..
With all the things to keep track of it’s so easy to fall into The Forest For The Trees trap - the grain in the WHOLE piece and how they work together being the forest, the trees being all the individual parts and the machine operations for cutting them - not just rips and cross cuts, but the cuts the joinery necessitates. There are a lot of operations and details that go into even the simplest of pieces - it’s understandablenot surprising that the look and flow of the grain is often overlooked. If I can make all the parts, including the joinery - that fit together as they should - without the loss of a body part, or even some blood - well THAT my friend is a SUCCESS. If the finish is even half way decent - THAT is a MIRACLE!
And then the Post Project Critique begins - that joint should be tighter, that sapwood is distracting, why did I narrow down this part just to avoid a knot or a sap pocket when I had the wood to make a better part? The list goes on and on - but often does not include - the look of the grain for the whole piece and so I end up with a piece that doesn’t flow, doesn’t look quite right - that leg is quarter sawn - and this one isn’t, those two boards don’t go together in that door panel, . . .
And I suspect that the overlooked but critical part of the process of making the piece - the grain and the flow of the grain - didn’t get the attention it deserved in order to avoid “wasting wood”. Why cut off 6 or 8 inches, maybe even foot or more of a fairly good board just to get a part with nice grain that goes with what will be around it. Don’t I have enough cut offs stashed around the shop I’m certain I can use - someday. “In a pinch, maybe I can use ALL of this cherry board.” might not be such a good idea - in the Big Picture.
Would you take a 26” x 32” rectangle, diagonally, out of a 4x8 sheet of birdseye maple if that’s what the piece required? How about ripping am 8”wide part - out of the middle of a 12” wide mahogany board?
Are you Penny Wise - Pound Foolish?