Cutting the wood to length is not worth writing much about. The only hard part was finding a way to hold things stable while I cut. I'm just pleased that I didn't A) hurt myself, B) waste much wood, or C) cut my miter box in half.
The top frame is made with half-lap joints; basically cutting half the thickness out of each board where they meet at the corners, and using the increased surface area to glue them together more strongly. This is a nice, simple technique that's easy with the right tools; preferably a router or at least a circular saw. It is a huge pain in the butt without the right tools. I only had a hand saw for cutting, and a wobbly folding table for a work surface. I don't even have a vice. It's very awkward to cut near the end of a board if you can't secure it.
On TV, I've seen people make notches like this by cutting across the grain with a saw, then simply popping the wood out along the grain with a chisel. This did not work. Maybe I have the wrong kind of chisel (I think it's for cracking the shell of the World Turtle) or the people on TV were using softer wood. But I had to sweat for every bit of these cuts. This was definitely the hardest part of the project. And honestly, I wasn't very safe, holding the board and saw so a slip could have taken a chunk out of me.
The results (of cutting wood, not me) looked like this:
Some of the results also looked this like:
Remember where I said I forgot to geometrize the dimensions of the lumber itself? This is where it bit me. I cut too big a notch. If this blog were "Competent Homeowner" or even "Slightly Greater than Half Assed Homeowner" I'd have to throw that piece out. But the way I see it, I can still get a pretty strong connection. The board's cut in half, but that makes it basically a 2x2 on the end, which is still pretty darn strong. I decided to use screws in addition to glue on the corners, and use the botched piece anyway.
Maybe I should have stuffed something in that gap, like a shim or a biscuit, which is English for "cookie".