The How & Why of Cutlists

Why you’re better off to look this gift horse in the mouth.

by Robert W. Lang
Pages 34-37

From the April 2012 issue, #196

There is a trap lurking within the pages of this magazine. It is also in most woodworking magazines, and many books. It is called the cutlist, and while it poses as your helpful friend, you’re better off to ignore it and make your own. A published cutlist can keep you from learning some of the most important skills in woodworking – and if you’re convinced that you can’t make your own, you can and you should.

Making a cutlist may not be the most enjoyable part of building, but it is a critical step and a fundamental skill. The good news is, it isn’t difficult. The bad news is, it can be tedious and it involves arithmetic.

In theory, a cutlist speeds the building process. You cut all the parts for your project to size in one step and put them together in the next. What could be more straightforward than that? For that theory to work, you must cut all the parts exactly. That means right on the money for every dimension, each piece perfectly straight and absolutely square.

In our store: Robert W. Lang’s book, “Drafting & Design for Woodworkers.”
Editors’ Blog: Read our blog posts about the process of building and other woodworking topics.
Video: Find out more about buying lumber and lumber terminology.
Video: Find out more about choosing lumber.

From the April 2012 issue #196.
Buy the issue now.