Re: What is the proper way to wrap 4x4 columns so they'll last?
We use 1" spanish cedar and a simple rabbet joint at the corners. Two of the boards get rabbets down both sides, and the other two boards have straight edges. Of course, they are different sizes so the end result is a square box. I like leaving a theoretical 1/4" gap inside for the 4x4 to do its own thing.
In my experience the fancy lock-type joints are not worth the aggravation. They may be great in a factory where you have setups and hydraulic presses to clamp everything together in an instant, but in the field where you're fighting gravity, clamps, and drying glue they are a needless hassle. A glued rabbet joint is amazingly sturdy, and provides he needed alignment aid.
Backprime everything especially the bottom end grain. Clamp and nail them together with glue. Then sand or plane the joints until smooth. You plumb them up and tack nail the wraps in from all sides. Once it's all plumb, anchor with some screws. Do yourself a favor and use all stainless fasteners.
Remove not the ancient landmark, which your fathers have set.