I come by my nickname, "the 2-by-Guy," honestly. Whenever I'm scoping out new tools as an editor for HGTVPro, in the back of my mind I'm imagining how they will advance my first interest: building projects with 2 x 4s, 2 x 6s and so on. Typically, this lumber is used for decks and framing walls, but there's nothing like it for experimenting and honing your basic woodworking skills--without investing a lot on materials or devoting too much time to a single project. The wood rack shown on the next page is a good example. It's simple but good-looking, and it takes just a few hours and commonplace tools to build. Best of all, it proves that not every worthwhile project requires gossamer-fine precision and lots of little pieces. Come winter, I'll store hardwood logs on the rack to feed my wood stove. And during a recent warm-weather remodeling project, the structure proved to be ideal--appropriately--for safely storing 2x stock off the ground.
Before You Begin a Job
* Untreated hemlock fir is inexpensive and easy to find, but it's susceptible to the elements and wood-eating bugs. A few coats of deck stain can offer protection.
* Pressure-treated lumber (PT) suitable for ground lasts a long time but is often wet when you buy it--expect movement in the joints as the wood shrinks.
* Western red cedar staves off weather naturally and resists insects. It's readily available, fairly affordable and dry when purchased.
* TimberSIL (the material we used) appears to have everything going for it, except its limited distribution. The inert treatment process used to make TimberSil renders it a green material that looks (and works) a lot like wood. It's dry, affordable and resistant to rot.
Don't purchase randomly piled 2 x 6 studs, which are likely to be warped. You'll find the best wood still on the pallet, banded together and stored straight. At home, if your project is on hold, bundle the boards with duct tape and store them off the ground.
Take measurements carefully--then measure again to be sure. Position the blade (whether you're using a circular or miter saw) to cut on the "waste" rather than the "keep" side of the line. If the tool is a circular saw, employ a square as a guide.
Wood Rack Building Tips
 Build the box, or base, first. Apply the long outside rails over the end-pieces. Preset 3-in. deck screws in the outside edge before applying exterior-grade construction adhesive and assembling the pieces. Use a thin bead of glue to minimize squeeze-out and keep everything neat.
 Send the screws home. Use three screws in each piece to prevent cupping and to support the weight of the logs. If any excess glue is forced out of the joint, you can use a painter's five-in-one tool to scrape it away.
 Install uprights. This step is best done on a flat surface such as a garage floor or a sheet of plywood. Gather a couple of 2x scraps. Flip the box onto one side. Mark the position for the box on two uprights, then place them inside, supporting their ends with the 2x scraps, laid flat. Use a square to align the upright with the box's edge in case the corner isn't perfectly square. Preglue the upright and fasten with four screws. Note: Dry-fit the pieces. If your drill doesn't fit between the outside rails, drill pilot holes, then drive the screws in at an angle. Flip the box onto its other side and repeat for the last two uprights.
 Use diagonal braces for stability and longevity. Install them with a fastening technique called pocket-screwing. First, predrill a hole through the angle brace into the upright at an angle, following the grain direction of the brace. Use a countersink bit, which will simultaneously drill a pilot hole and auger a pocket for the screw-head. This will help keep the wood from splitting.
 Finish by adding the top. Install the two top pieces so they overhang the uprights equally. (This may require a little muscling of the uprights, if they're not perfectly square.)
 Hit the wood with a shot of sealer, stain or another finish. If you're building with hem-fir, soak the uprights' endgrains. I like oil-based products because they soak into the wood, rather than merely coating it.