This is my first post of this kind so sorry for the rambling that is to follow.
I made homemade bread about every other week. I use a "recipe" my grandfather gave me that he came up with on his own. I would ask him these questions but he is no longer arround. I use quotes on the word recipe because there really is no measuring. He just used his hands and his best judgment. I use one of two methods depending on how much bread i plan to make. The only time I really measure is when I make a large batch I usually use roughly 15 cups of flour. It is very hard to knead and achieve a "bakers window" so I just do it until I can't any more. I use bread flour, salt, yeast, water, and shortening. I do not know what the point of the shortening is, or how much to add. My bread is usually on the dryer side, which I don't like, and although I do butter the top when it comes out of the over, it is not always quite as crusty as I would like.
Also, for split top bread should I split it right before putting it in the oven, or just as I put it in pans for a second rise?