You Are the Jury – Cutlists: Yes or No?

The prosecution asserts that woodworkers shouldn’t use cutlists, because it’s virtually impossible to cut all pieces for a project to size, then assemble it and have everything fit perfectly. Woodworkers would be better served to study the drawings for a project and figure out the sizes, as well as how everything goes together – then cut the pieces as they are needed, working from measurements pulled from the workpiece in progress. Further, the cutlist for a substantial project takes up a lot of valuable space on the page – space that could perhaps be better used to provide more/larger pictures.

The defense asserts that a cutlist helps woodworkers estimate the amount of wood needed for a given project – and that PWM readers are savvy enough to know that one shouldn’t cut all pieces to size working only from the cutlist (and the defense does not appreciate the implied insult to the readers). Further, the cutlist provides an interesting visual element on the page.

You are the jury. Please cast your vote:

135 thoughts on “You Are the Jury – Cutlists: Yes or No?

  1. omaskog

    I need the cutlists, I am new to woodworking and the cutlists make it a lot easier to get projects done. I don’t have a problem is the cutlists are only available on line as PDF’s, as long as they are easy to find.

  2. JackW

    I’d like to have you keep cutlists but online would be OK if they stay there for a long time and are easy to find.

  3. LKWangerin

    I like the idea of an on-line cut list because it can be printed and used for markup. Also, liked the suggestion of building a computer generated drawing that tracks parts and material requirements. The trick is to factor in a little extra for that knot or split that you won’t see and some extra for molding plane landings and takeoffs. I do like the cut list in the magazine though, it’s good for a quick look and you don’t need a computer nearby.

  4. wbsail

    Hello everyone. If possible it would be nice if you just noted on your article where you can find the cutlist.

    It would really be nice if you could create Sketchup models for each project with the cutlist automatically calculated in the program.

    Thanks for asking for my input.


  5. Eddie-Dean

    I think the cut list is a great tool to help when you start a project. I just like to know what the cut list is to be when you are finished with it.
    I think it is a good idea to put in PDF format with the finished project. What it looks like. Thanks

  6. almartin

    As an Anarchist-in-Training, I suppose all I need is a vague suggestion of what the piece is supposed to be, then draw my own plan and materials list based on my own needs for the project. Or something like that.

  7. hmann

    I think there should be a third option for voting, perhaps too late now, but something like “yes, but available online only” Because like many others I use the cut list for additional information or to help visualize how a piece goes together so I voted yes to keep it. However, I would rather have more content in the printed articles and a cut list available only online if I needed it.

  8. jammer

    Save the space for more important information. Post the cut lists on the web site. Nearly everyone has Internet access if only through their local library.

  9. franco88

    I’m Surprised by the vast majority who prefer to keep cutlists. I have almost always viewed myself and many of the woodworkers, that I know, to be American rugged individualists who forge their own way forward and do not follow along like good little soldiers….. is everybody that lazy or inexperienced that they need someone else to figure out what it takes to build a modified box?
    Sorry if that sounds harsh….but really guys, come on man!

  10. just me

    I said no to the cut lists because I seldom build a project exactly as it is presented. Something changes to make it work for me, which of course changes the cut list.

    On the other hand, if you don’t have them, I want them replaced with content, not just to make the magazine a few pages smaller.

    One more thing, now that I think about it. There should probably be one simple project in the magazine the has the cut lists included for those that are just starting out and need that kind of confidence. So maybe my vote is really a 3/4 no.

    Tough decision.

  11. dreamcatcher

    I voted to get rid of the “cutlist” but I think it should be replaced by a condensed “materials list” or “bill of materials”. Just something to let me know the ballpark price for starting a project.

    Instead of a complete schedule of each length of wood why not simply provide the lineal feet of similar wood required or the board feet of wood? Then I can call my miller and say “I need N bdft of X wood… how much?” If you use a certain hinge gimme the P/N and where to buy it online or just tell me what you paid for it.

  12. tdazzo27

    I voted to keep the cutlists but I don’t necessarily feel they need to be kept in the print magazine. I find the cutlists to be valuable… to a certain point. On every project there are inevitably pieces that will need to be “modified” to account for dimensional errors on dependent pieces. More importantly, I find myself making one modification or another to just about every project and thus deviate from the cutlist in one way or another.

    I find the cutlist to be a good resource to familiarize myself with the project before I start cutting. It’s also an invaluable resource during the project as a quick reference/sanity check.

    I would gladly give this up in the magazine in favor of additional content though. Instead, I think it would be great to provide the cutlist online. a Soft Copy cutlist could be printed out by those who care to, downloaded to PDF and viewed on a smartphone while in the shop (I doubt I’m the only one who does this). And to enhance usability, you could provide an editable version of the cutlist online where one could make modifications to the part dimensions before downloading/printing etc.

    Just a thought.

  13. tecolote70

    even though i don’t use cutlists for my personal projects it is nice to see the cutlist when i’m not the one that came up with the design of the project at hand. it gives me insight of what the designer was thinking and helps pull the piece together visually and emotionally. ~¿~

  14. Sawtooth

    I appreciate the cutlists because the text and drawings are not always clear about measurements or numbers of duplicate parts. I can figure it out, and sometimes make my own alterations, but the cutlist is additional information about the plan. I like having it in the magazine — I don’t want to have to run to the computer to look something up.

  15. rrich

    For every project that I build, I generate a cut list. It is a valuable tool in any project.

    Should the cut list be published in the print edition? Absolutely not. HOWEVER a unique URL could be published and would direct the reader to a cut list for the specific project.


  16. Cribbin

    Please do NOT include cutlists in the print version of the magazine.

    It’s a waste of valuable space for many of us who are not new to woodworking. I don’t buy the minimum amount of wood necessary for a project — I overbuy and cut judiciously for grain and color. This is something I learned from the creators of a really good magazine which is now out of print. You might’ve heard of it… Woodworking Magazine.

    It would be a shame for Popular Woodworking to take such a step. A step which could create a qualitative downward slide towards the hum-drum woodworking magazines with Fine names and Shop orientation.

  17. chandero

    The cut-lists are valuable for planning how much wood is needed. It makes it easier than deriving a bill or materials from the plans.
    However, DO NOT print it in the magazine. Make it available on line as a special for subscribers. Then if someone wants the cut list they log in and get it. If they do not want it they don’t.
    More space in the magazine for editorial content.

    Bob Blaney


    Cut lists are important, yet they are useless if not checked against the plan, and if the plan and cutlist are not adequately proofread. Publishing as a whole is suffering because of inept copyediting. Please lead by doing that right.

  19. reastman

    I am new to PW, but like the idea of a cutlist.
    That is a vote Yes.

    I also like having a diagram (Woodsmith) that shows the pieces organized on blank stock to guide in determining how much blank stock and what size(s) is needed.

    Both could be online to save space in print.

    I have not received my first magazine yet, but I am pleased with the “I Can Do That” Manual.
    Well written.

  20. Farkled

    I believe you should continue to calculate cutlists. However, I believe they should be published as an on-line extra and not printed in the magazine. This will pull traffic to the site and save room for more editorial content.

  21. roofighter83

    I like seeing the cutlists, online. They, combined with the schematics, give a good over-all sense of what is needed. Customization to one’s own particular needs are easy enough. And, as previously stated, your readers probably know enough to not cut everything directly from the list. Save the magazine space, however, for other articles or photos.

  22. GordonC

    I prefer to have cut lists either in an article or available on line. What I am concerned about is if they are available only on line, how long will it be before they require $$ to get them. Then you will be like other magazines that just list general dimensions. This may drive those not experienced enough or not sure of themselves to subscribe to another publication that provides cut lists. PW has always met the needs of the experienced and the novice woodworker. Why stop now.

  23. comotion59

    It is hard to vote yes and no. Ther are some projects that I need too modify to fit my needs but there are some I will build to spec or size.

  24. Gpops

    I too enjoy the cut lists but could be served just as well with a URL so I could print it out as needed. I particularly like the source list as sometimes locating those little dodads that just make a project irresistible is difficult.

  25. Dausien

    Of course Yes!
    But I like it online so its easer to customize to my need and recalculate it to the metric system.

  26. Elaine

    I agree with all of the above – cut lists available on line. A cut list is like a ballpark cheat sheet. Sometimes projects with cut lists are incorrect, or perhaps I’ve read my ruler incorrectly. I like the reference but refer to the project itself. And as I enjoy books that are often available on project Gutenburg – they rarely, if ever, have a cut list. Which, of course, takes me back to mathematical word problems.

  27. WayneM

    I agree a link to URL would be nice leaving the space for other things. Tips, help or side notes. Cut lists are something I use to estimate the lumber for a job.

  28. lynxsg

    link to a URL where we can find the cut list, and save the considerable space for woodworking tips and techniques


  29. Wayne Eller

    The cut list is interesting and helps to give an idea of how much wood it would take to make. It could be handled with a link printed in the magazine where someone could search to get the list, and still be able to use the majority of the extra space for additional photos or helps.

    1. grecy55

      I agree Wayne that the more information the better. A link would be a great idea and if hard copy needed I can print. I can make enough mistakes on my own; so any details are helpful.

  30. tennispaul

    I find the cut lists handy for reference purposes, but could see them being put online to save space for other articles in the magazine, preferably not more advertising.

  31. tpobrienjr

    The cutlist gives me a quick indication whether I need to do any special setup, make an accessory, or (!) buy a new tool.

  32. AndyGump

    Cut list can act as a check list for missing dimensions on the drawings. In addition, a cut list can be a aid when the dimension on the drawing is different.
    Then again, even if if you don’t follow the cut list to the letter, (I don’t) it still gives an idea of what to expect in planning the project.

  33. mtnjak

    I would say it depends on the woodworker. Some might build a project precisely the way the PW author does and use the cut list. Personally, I get ideas from PW and then design my own project with my own BOM so I don’t really see a need for the cutlist myself. However, the one thing I find myself focusing on whenever I look at those cut lists is the species of wood used.

  34. fergy1939

    I like seeing the cutting list and especially the material layout for a project but they do take up a lot of real estate in the publication. If that space was used for another project, I might find more projects I would like to build (if that space is not filled with ads). The short story is: I don’t build every project published and I would rather have the option to find the cutlist and layout online for the projects I would like to build. Some additional information and photos could also be included when you download the cutlist.

  35. spllbnd2

    I always like seeing the cut lists in magazines. Find them very helpful for an average hobbyist woodworker, such as myself. I have done without cut lists in my beginning days of woodworking, but of course I was always left with excess scraps and cut offs. Having a cut list makes for a nicer woodworking experience for those of us who are still new to woodworking and trying our hands at the great magazine woodworking builds.

  36. JohnD

    I don’t like cults of any kind. People should be free to follow their own thoughts and ideas – even in woodworking.

  37. able339

    The cut lists are handy and also the “layouts” re boards and plywood sheets as to getting the most out of them.

  38. Robie2

    clear measurements are enough…cut lists should then be redundant. However, it would be helpful to have a “common lumber list” which describes the project in relation to common lumber purchases such as: (2) 1x6x8′ white oak; (2) 1x8x8′ white oak; (1) 4’x8′ oak plywood…etc. Such a list would describe the illustrated project in lumber purchase terms (lineal feet) rather than board feet terms. Thus, cutting diagrams are more useful than cutting lists.

    1. mtnjak

      This is precisely what I do when I head out to the lumber yard. I just need to know how many of what size. All the other design details are taken care of one step at a time once I know the bulk of materials that I’ll be using. I design my own stuff on my home computer so when I need to work on a certain aspect of the project I just head to the computer (if not already done) finish dimensioning the part or parts I’m working on then print out the page and head back out to the shop.

  39. thomasreno

    I can see leaving them out of a hardcopy publication. But please do at least make them available on line.

  40. zepe

    First, with magazines, more space means more ads and I understand the reason. I’m a retired international sales manager and trainer.

    In my case the more information on a project the better. Many times the author doesn’t do the best job of explaining his or her project. The extra information sometimes helps explain for the absence of clarity in the description. I like having the data there even if I’m going to modify things for my own use.

    There are others who will want to follow instructions to the letter.

    My simple, humble opinion

  41. akwoodworker

    I teach a small school and one of the projects in my fundamentals class is practicing a cut list on the premise that the wood being used is $24/bf. I recommend your magazine for good examples.

  42. CarlosJD

    One of my biggest complaints is that a lot of times the type of wood used is not mentioned anywhere except in the cut list. For that reason I would keep the cut list. But for dimensions I normally look at the exploded view to determine my initial cuts. And I never make all of the cuts at once.

  43. Chas2K

    The cutlists are a great starting point for estimating a project. Measure twice, cut once or make sure you have a board stretcher on hand.

  44. Chuck

    I prefer to design all my own furniture, rather than working off a plan (that’s the most creative part to me), so I never use the cutlist as a list of things to cut. However, I find it invaluable as a quick reference. It has the rough dimensions of all the parts, which is really handy when you’re trying to do something similar.

  45. Katoom

    Definitely leave the cutlists in the printed magazine. If not, then at least post them on the web. I think they are essential.

  46. cebuchan

    I like cutlists. I don’t use them to actually cut parts but they enable me to quickly find out the amount of lumber needed for a project and the cost. I have a home-made spread sheet where I enter “cut” sizes for each piece. It converts everything to rough lumber volume needed, adds a percentage of waste, and tells me the number of board feet I will need to buy.
    I can then enter appropriate prices from my lumber dealer depending on whether I need wide boards, figured stock, etc.
    I do this the first time I build a piece whether it is from a plan or my own design. It saves trips to the lumber dealer and gives me lumber cost up front.

    1. Robie2

      Any chance you would be willing to share this wonderful sounding spreadsheet? I read your post and immediately started building such a spreadsheet. I spend considerable time and money estimating lumber needs and costs for projects. This will help me greatly.

  47. rnease

    I agree the cultists should remain. Skill sets vary from person to person, and I agree with raider511 in that I frequently peruse back issues of the mag for ideas, something forgotten, etc. They are very handy. I don’t always use them, but I would miss them if they weren’t there. Somewhat like an old planer blade from my Newman 500 planer, which I have had for the last 40 or so years. I dig it out from time to time when nothing else will work for the purpose.

  48. dpl1956

    Please keep on including the cutlist. True you can’t always use it for each piece but is a great guideline. It is not the great amount of space. For me and others I have talked with would mean loosing subscriptions to another magazine that includes them. Thank you.

  49. raider511

    I have been a subscriber since 1989 and i go back to old issues to build your projects. If these CUTLISTS wheren’t left in these older issues I don’t think I build them. I think that the CUTLIST should be left in the Magazine that way, later down the road, sorta speak, the CUTLIST will be there when you decide to do the project. If it is left as a PDF online it might not be there when you decide to build. KEEP IT IN THE MAGAZINE. Long time subscriber.

  50. Monte

    Would you consider replacing cut lists with a sidebar suggesting alternative hand tool methods to cut the joinery in the feature article where power tools were used to cut the joinery?


  51. FiatBen

    I think we all agree that cultists are valuable and should stay, but the question remains of where they should be kept. In my opinion, on smaller projects keep the cutlist in the article. On a more complicated piece, then a PDF online should be fine. Admittedly, some (few) woodworkers are not adept at online usage, but the very fact that this poll is being done online should be a clue as to the direction things are moving. Keep in mind that not everyone builds every project, and the more complex projects will have a proportionally smaller set of subscribers who attempt them. I find a layout sketch, showing how to optimize the wood usage to be very useful; along with an estimated cost of materials, estimated time for completion, and a suggested buy list (how many boards of what standard sizes) would be nice. Also, many woodworkers these days are becoming very proficient with Sketchup, and being able to download and modify a project (and generate a cutlist) would be a real value with a subscription.

  52. AJH

    I recommend providing cutlists online viewing only, not in the mag space. Viewing should be in an area available to all mag readers regardless if they register or not.

  53. daniel1738

    With Popular Woodworking becoming the leading magazine in the woodworking field and the fact it’s one begining woodworkers use I say keep the cutlists, but beginners need to understand that a cut list does not take the place of a measuring device, whether it be a tape measure or folding rule or whatever the person uses. I know I like cut lists for reference and to help to identify parts I may have missed, but everything gets measured as it is fitted to the project, my ruler may not be as percise as yours. 🙂

  54. pdkenned

    It is ok to stop putting the Cut List in the Magazine. But if you do that you should put it on your web page for download. It would cut your cost and still have it where some one can get it if needed.

  55. dstarr

    Keep the cutlists. Some times I have trouble reading the drawing, or cannot find some dimension on the drawing (must be my aging eyesight, draftsmen never make mistakes:=), and the needed dimension pops right up off the cutlist. Plus it makes estimating the amount of lumber needed easier.
    Print the cutlist in the magazine. I keep my magazines and sometimes go back and build a project from an issue of years ago. It’s nice to have the cutlist printed in the article, rather than searching the ‘net to find a pdf from years ago, which may no longer be there.

  56. Dan2049

    I find cutlist creation on projects of my own design to be a headache and a time consumer. And I usually get one of ’em wrong.

    I haven’t built one of the published projects in some time because my honeydew project list keeps growing, but when I DO build one of them, having a cutlist that someone else has vetted and vouches for is a big help. In print or offline is fine with me but I’d like to have access to it.

  57. eric71m

    I voted Yes, However, I could be convinced that they be removed from print, if they were still available for free online.

    I also would like to see a print only version of project plans available online too…

  58. broof

    I can understand why you would think about removing them, I have no problem with continuous improvements and new ideas. However, from the results of the survey, it seems like they will stay. I think the idea though of taking measurements in place is a fundamental technique that new wooodworkers struggle with. Maybe a compromise would be to think about this as you guys create articles/projects and in places where this should be done, try and incorporate that guidance in the article. I know you guys do this as I have seen it, but maybe it should be a guiding principle as you develop a project and should be formally documented in some way as you build so you can see exactly how many times you exercise this critical skill vs. batch cutting parts and add a column to the cut lit when this is necessary. I see it in the footnotes for the drawer fronts, but what about the rest of the parts? Anyways,just my two cents…..keep up the great work PWW.

  59. cubgrocer

    If everyone at the magazine accepts the premiss that their purpose is to provide the best service they can to the reader, then the question is moot. To provide a service that is incomplete or inaccurate is to provide a disservice. Too often we fall prey to the human condition and get lost in the minutia, and need to quit trying to think for your customer. Just give them all the information and let them decide.

  60. houldenback

    I always have a cutlist but with the limited space I have I work from a shopsmith and with shopsmiths you alweays have a cutlist, it also as mentioned helps me to get an idea of how much wood I will need. Ironically even with a list I seem to end up with extra wood, maybe I will use your cutlist and see if the same thing occurs.

  61. DH2351

    I agree that the cutlist is useful for the beginner. There should be no “implied insult” to the readers. Your magazine is read by all levels of woodworkers. As stated, we all measure twice, or at least if we don’t we learn to with experience. I also agree that a side note, or added as additional info would be helpful. I don’t know that I’d cancel my subscription if you dropped them, but even as an experienced woodworker, I do find the information helpful at times. It does offer some time saving.

  62. tweedjack

    another option of course, would be to include them, as some magazines do – as “online extras”. That would of course leave out those who don’t go online but they are getting fewer and fewer, no?

  63. BLZeebub

    I’m a graphic designer and writer and I would appreciate more insight or pics rather than the nuts-n-bolts of a cutlist. While I understand that they are invaluable to the beginner, at least until they screw up a couple of pieces due to the inevitable typo. OOPS! I’d prefer the cutlist as an online addendum. Certainly it would drive those to the website thereby increasing your hit count.

    What I’d rather see is a board foot approximation for the primary and secondary materials along with the caveats of how to choose the material at the lumber yard. Something that is almost nonexistent in all woodworking publications. Even FWW. Hmmmm….

  64. kenerv1

    I consider cultists so obviously valuable that I am amazed that the question came up. I am not a newbie, I believe an ACCURATE cultist is second only to accurate drawings in saving time in laying out parts on stock timber. Rough chalking parts to get the best visible color and grain match and figure exposure, is the difference between a good and a great project. If the plan does not present a cultist, I have to go through the irritating and error prone task of making one.

  65. karlpinturr

    As several others have done, I voted ‘Yes’ to keep cutlists, but would suggest they are made available on the website (as PDF’s, if necessary) – probably on their own page, with an archive of past cutlists.

    Not only are cutlists valuable (for beginners in particular) to better visualise a project’s ins-and-outs, but leaving them out and ‘forcing’ everyone to calculate from whatever information is still given allows a lot more room for human error.

    Admittedly, the more seasoned woodworker, in particular, will be more likely to build something adapted to their situation (smaller, larger, different angles to fit, etc.) and not use the cutlist’s actual measurements in the final project, but a good set of starting data minimizes the danger of inaccurate conversions – which is important if you’re only altering the original’s dimensions by a small amount.

    A second option would be the somewhat backwards step of having people write in for paper copies of whatever project(s) they need the list(s) for – but I doubt the wait would be acceptable anymore.

    Then, of course, there’s the possibility of you producing an ‘ordinary paper’ (ie, not a magazine-quality glossy paper) supplement. But that would cost money, which would have to be raised by either increasing the magazine’s cost, or replacing the currently-used (by the cutlist) page(s) with advertising (or maybe a combination of both) – neither of which is likely to be popular.

  66. tellmore

    If you use software to identify and optimize the use of materials, the cutlist is a very handy reference. If not available, I would have to tediously extract this information from sketches. Wood is much too expensive these days to waste.

  67. Kentuk55

    I think it’s ok to have a cutlist, but, is it actually needed? Well, as a rule of thumb, we all “measure twice, cut once”, right? That being said, if there is a cutlist or not, we still measure as we go, at least I do, ALL the time. I would think you would want to keep the cutlists for all the “new” woodworkers beginning this great hobby. For the “seasoned” workers/hobbyists, it’s always a nice reference. So, I guess I’m saying, to keep the cutlist, or, give a link for a PDF file with the cutlist that any or all could print themselves. Happy and safe woodworking to all, and to all a good night.

  68. hotlead

    As a beginner, cut lists are handy. But to have them in the Online Extras would be Most helpful. IF they were written such that, One, we could read them! (not so small that you have to be 19 to see them) Two, we could print them out. Three, also have board layout as well. All on line.
    Having a printed sheet which I could mark up and use in the shop, or lumber mill would be most helpful.

    A statement in the written article, such as. “This project requires 2 4’x8’x3/4” Plywood sheets, and 14 bd ft of 4/4 stock. Please see for complete layup” This would help plan and also give an idea of complexity and costs.

  69. Stephanie Susan Smith

    What I need is a supply list for the project. This helps me 1) decide if I can afford to buy the wood and fittings necessary to make the thing and 2)makes sure I don’t get home without some vital component and cannot finish what I just started without another trip to town. The cutlist is rather redundant if a supply list and good step-by-step instructions are supplied. However, putting the supply list and/or cut list on the web is a good compromise to eating printed page space and doing without.

  70. tnash1881

    Cut Lists are very useful for beginning woodworkers to get a “feel” for what is going on within a project and removing them or adding them to a web site will limit some readers from accessing them. I for one would cancel my subscription and not renew if they are removed.

  71. askanarchitect

    Cutlists are a valuable resource. So is space on the page of a magazine. Use the magazine to convey relevant information to the reader and use online space to convey information to the reader who chooses to pursue a project based on the presentation in the magazine. I voted yes to keep cultists but strongly feel that it should be an online resource and not take valuable magazine space!

  72. ktmoon

    I wish there had been a third option….link to the cutlist online. That’s the way to go. BUTTTT….make sure the link works, don’t make us jump through a bunch of hoops to go to a page to pick the cutlist we are looking for and make us spend time looking. Just a simple http://cutlist/maplewidget.html. Don’t get fancy, it never works with everyone.

  73. jtcweb

    As one who is getting back to woodworking after a long absence I want to see a cut list and a materials list. It drives me crazy when small projects are listed as “you can probably build this out of scrap you already have”, I don’t have any “scrap” laying around. Yes I can figure it out, but if I’m looking at a set of published plans I want to have the materials buy list figured out for me. I’m sure as I advance and build up my stockpile it will become less important, but I want to see it at this point in my woodworking.

  74. Moontoad

    Cutlists are useful. Why not make project cutlists available on-line to save magazine space. I certainly don’t need cutlists for every project in every issue, but it would be nice to be able to get one when it is needed.

  75. Recruiter

    I beleive that a cutlist is a helpful tool. It gives a visual guide of potential layouts. As I’ve said, its a tool. In almost all cases, when I setup a cutlist for a project, then go to the lumber yard, especially if buying hardwoods, you almost never find the actual dimension you have listed. From there, as long as you have an understanding of the cutting order, you can make substitutions. Whether it be figuring for a glue up not in the original plan, or buying wider stock, to take advantage of grain patterns.

  76. MarkBrooks

    Yes! But, I agree with others that it is best served as a guide rather than something that should be adhered to strictly. I am a beginner, and the dimensions are a must have, even if I don’t use the exact numbers. I also feel it gives me a better idea of the scope of the work involved prior to beginning a project.

  77. GrumpyGator

    There’s knowing what to buy, and there’s knowing how to cut it into components. There needs to be a better way to fill these two needs, because a cutlist really doesn’t do either very well. Information on both of these things are more helpful for less-confident woodworkers than for old hands who are going to do things according to techniques they’ve worked out for themselves.

    Maybe, to make space in the magazine, a website resource discussing the material for a project would be helpful. First, a description of things like species and grain and a cutting diagram suggesting the pieces to be bought and how to use them. Second, for when you get it home, suggestions for cutting and fitting, for which pieces to cut and assemble first and which should then be cut to fit would be helpful.

    You wanted extra work, right?

  78. tombuhl

    I believe cut lists are appropriate part of the presentation. On a number of occasions I’ve not felt clear about some aspect of the project from the diagram, illustrations and story, so the cut list gives one my view on the matter to clear up or confirm the build.

    Even when i’ve essentially built a magazine project it seems there are always a few dimensional changes to suit my needs or material at hand.

    On my own designs I will prepare a but list which in that case has two (at least) columns: one for theoretical design and one for buying and initial milling/prep. Don’t generally bother with minor components as I overbuy and have plenty of off cuts for smaller components.

    Good question and thanks for bringing readers into the discussion.

  79. Marlon1

    Yes, but with a standard disclaimer to use it only as a general guide to material buying. OR you could just make them available only online to make room for other articles.

    1. JohnC

      Online works for me. No one builds every item, but if you get serious about one, it is not much problem to jump on line. I like that idea too so that you could print it out and have it with you when you buy or start doing the cutting.

  80. B Jackson

    To get some idea of how much of what kind of materials I need, I sometimes fashion cut diagrams rather than cut lists. What I find equally helpful, depending on the project, is to build the face frame first so that I have some reference from which to build the rest of the project. At least I try to find something to build first as a reference for the rest of the project.

    I really think it would be helpful for the editors to put their heads together and write an article (or series of articles) on building strategy. I know that Chris mentioned building a face frame for a hanging corner cabinet as a way to properly size the inset door, also frame and panel (if memory serves me right). Gary Rogowski, of “that other woodworking magazine” many have left, also mentioned building the face frame first. That is one tip I found so helpful, much more than a cut list. This strategy allowed me to vote “no” on cut lists.

    1. Megan FitzpatrickMegan Fitzpatrick Post author

      Gary has a story in our next issue – just sayin’.

      If there’s a face frame involved, I too build that first — and all other measurements are pulled directly from it.

        1. Megan FitzpatrickMegan Fitzpatrick Post author

          It starts mailing “the week of the 15th” — and that’s as close a date as production will give us. (Digital subscribers should get an e-mail link to download the issue on the 15th or 16th.)

            1. Megan FitzpatrickMegan Fitzpatrick Post author

              Oh – sorry! This week. The week of Nov. 15th. (I should drink my coffee before getting online, eh?)

  81. adams.rt

    I’ll throw in my opinion since I haven’t heard many who favor them. I began woodworking in earnest about 12 months ago and have gradually begun to design and build my own furniture. I found cutlists very useful when I first started just as I found recipes in cookbooks extremely helpful in learning to cook. I am a far more accomplished cook than woodworker and I use recipes as starting points and modify and shape them to my own devices now, but this is only after thousands of meals and tens of thousands of dishes.

    A person coming to woodworking will find cutlists extremely helpful because the don’t have a full understanding of the basics of stock selection, dimensional lumber, etc. Popular Woodworking can do a lot to help remove the mystery of furniture construction by including these for novices (like me). Everyone has their own method of building and if you don’t like them, great, but it doesn’t mean others wouldn’t benefit from them.

    I do like the concept of perhaps using the space in the magazine for more build photos, descriptions, etc., and simply making the cutlists available online via a link provided at the end of the article. It would be a great addition for those who would like to use them (like myself).

  82. bruce272

    I voted yes, although I rarely use them. For whatever reason, I’ve always related cutlists to “sheet goods”, something I almost us. I make jewelry boxes and all the wood is dimensional lumber, and the stock I use is almost always different lengths and widths. Along with the fact I usually re-saw my stock to get the most out of it, and the thicknesses are always thinner than the stock I buy.

    But for those of us constructing cabinets and furniture requiring sheet goods, they are, at least to me, an important process of the design and production of those kind of pieces.

    In addition, they’re a great gauge for beginners and us old hands to get an idea of what the project requires.
    I shop for that rare usage of sheet goods from a yard that keeps veneer ply in the order they were produced, so that matching grain and color are as consistent as possible. Which replaced the “rush trip to the yard when you realize you’re short and end up worth a sheet that doesn’t match, even in the dark. I always use a 20% or more spoilage rate in most of my projects.

    So, cut lists do serve a function, no matter what you’re making and your skill level.
    I may not ever use them, but I would miss them greatly.

    1. B Jackson

      Hey, Bruce, I gotta ask (sorry, off-topic) – where in hell are you that you get primo materials like that? Or, who is your purveyor? Please share if it’s not so secret that it kills your business to share with us. Thanks!

  83. bubbainmiss

    I voted “yes.” I don’t rely on the cutlist to figure out what to do, but there are a good many times when it’s a real help in clarifying how a project goes together or in resolving a discrepancy in dimensions. The fact that some people think a cutlist is a bible shouldn’t compel you to print less complete articles.


    I voted No, but would qualify that as No to printed in the magazine. I agree that the space there could be better used. I do find the information very useful when estimating cost and going to the lumber yard to pick out boards. I agree with the comment on grain direction or other specific notes on specific parts. I like the idea of having the list online as an extra item with more notes about the parts.

    One thing I do is use SketchUp to create a design, then use the link to Cutlist Plus to generate a cutlist. I take that with me when looking at lumber and layout pieces on the boards either lightly with chalk or mentally. I find them very helpful, but have learned the hard way (along with many others) not to rely on them to cut things to length before building.

  85. Elliot

    I think what would be actually useful is a recommended rough cut list with suggestions on what should ideally be cut from the same board. That would strike the balance between the realities of having to adjust on the fly and the good intentions of the cutlist (giving guidance on what lumber readers should be buying and preparing.)

  86. mvflaim

    Instead of having a poll on whether cutlists should be added to projects, maybe you should write an article about why woodworkers shouldn’t use them in the first place. When I used them in the past, they were of little to no help because the wood I bought at the lumber yard wasn’t even close to the size of wood they used on the cutlist. The only exception to the rule is a cultist for plywood.

  87. iwigle

    I have voted YES, but it is a qualified yes. As many have suggested, a cutlist could be made available for those who want one as an online extra for construction articles.

    However, I would like to see a cutlist included in the magazine for the I Can Do That articles. In the context of I Can Do That, a brief, standard explanation of the main purposes of a cutlist (confirming one’s understanding of the drawings, estimation, etc.) could be included, along with the admonition to always measure from the actual workpiece, so that parts fit correctly.

  88. mbholden

    Ummm…cast your vote where? The twiigs poll just shows some inane poll results – american idol, DWTS, etc.

    Cutlist – NO
    Approximate board feet – useful
    Some recommendations on grain patterns for various parts – very helpful

  89. David Keller

    Providing cutlists is bad for an entirely different reason than argued in the primary blog post. The reason is (drumroll…) because they can easily be used as a crutch that prevents skill-building by the neophyte woodworker. There are plenty of folks out there that get the strong impression that they’re supposed to cut everything to the cut-list specified size because, after all, “the mgazine wouldn’t have provided one if that’s not what one’s supposed to do”.

    This may seem far-fetched, but I’ve actually had this discussion with WWs that were absolutely CONVINCED that was “the way things are done”.

    And their furniture reflected their confusion – lots of gappy joints.

  90. bbrown

    BF is what we need to immediately get an idea of the amount of lumber we’ll need. It’s the practical number we need when we go to the lumberyard.

    A cut-list should also be provided, but BF is what I want to see first.

  91. Galoot

    Theoretically, one could get through any project with only a detailed measured drawing. Who needs articles, then?

    Some people think visually, others think verbally/textually. Why not cater to both styles?

    (I note nobody has suggested printing the cutlists and relegating the drawings to the web…)

  92. xMike

    I always make up a cut list ’cause it helps me understand just how much of what I need when I go to the lumberyard. I ALWAYS figure 50% more than the theoretical number from the cut list, and that’s almost always just right. I typically have 10 board feet left over for another project – and I don’t have to go back to the lumberyard looking for matching wood for the current project.

    I find a cut list and layout especially useful for figuring out how many 4×8’s I will need and exactly how to cut panel components so that the grain runs the right way in the finished piece. Panels? Gasp! Yep, there is a place for plywood in real furniture.


  93. Gary Roberts

    Here’s the thing. If you need a cut list to figure out board feet to buy, you’re in trouble. Cut lists don’t account for the quality of the lumber, mistakes, changes of mind and all that good stuff. So if anything, what people seem to be asking for is a board foot or lumber figure more than a cut list. For a simple project, I can see that. For a complex project, best of luck. Plan on buying 50% more to allow for all of the above unless you’re working in furniture grade ply.

    Total BF plus a warning to buy a percentage over seems sensible to me.

  94. miathet

    Please leave them some where. The website would be fine if it allows more content. I usually use them to determine the maximum length to see if I have enough or buy enough. The other thing they are good for the projects where you use multiple widths. 1/4, 3/8, 1/2 are hard to tell apart and since I frequently have to reduce the width for the small projects they can determine construction time. Total BF would be nice. I don’t really want to have to down load a sketchup project when I am just thinking about a project.

  95. Bill Lattanzio

    I can’t ever recall using a cut list, though I very rarely build anything using plans. The only purpose a cut list has at best in my opinion is to give a rough idea of the amount of stock needed. I would rather get that info from the drawings..

  96. tsangelltsangell

    Yes, please. Also, include net board-feet of lumber for quick cost estimation.

    423 board feet of quartersawn claro walnut and 2.3 board feet of waterfall bubinga.

    1. Megan FitzpatrickMegan Fitzpatrick Post author

      uh…yeah…we’ll get right on that 😉
      (I think that might scare newer woodworkers away from the craft…especially for Glen’s amazing tiger maple!)

  97. rlevister

    I don’t believe in cut lists. If used, nothing ever fits, and as such they cause waste of materials.

    I also believe that there is something to be gained if one studies the piece to be made and derives what is needed on his or her own. But then I also believe that one should also make full size drawings and story sticks for a piece, especially ones with any complexity. While this may seem a bit rigorous, I think it helps one get into the piece and helps to see problems and resolve them before materials are committed. I am sure that many would disagree, but this is simply my two cents.

  98. nroulleau

    Everyone here has great points: I think it’s valuable to MAKE your own cut list, rather than be provided one, not only for the mental exercise, but so you can think ahead about joinery, selecting grain patterns, etc. Mine are always rough cut lists so I can quickly select and mill stock to rough dimensions, let it equilibrate, then cut to final dimensions as the build dictates, (i.e., not all final cuts at once, but cut to fit).

    To Paul’s point: I think it should not be provided for the reader, but left to the reader to create, so the reader must decide how to build it before deciding what to buy at the timber yard, here’s an example of why: Suppose you have a simple case piece with a top of say, 3/4″ x 16″ x 48″. Will it be 1 wide 17″ rough 5/4, or perhaps two 8 1/2″ 4/4? what about one 8 1/2″ 8/4 re-sawn to book-match, or a whole bunch of 1×4’s to glue up. If the list is given to the reader, the forethought that should be invested into a project is bypassed.

    That said, I second bluejazz’s suggestion of keeping it as online extra content, if the reader feels the need. Use the space for more images or content. The only thing I’ve used the cut-lists for are to see the materials that were used when it’s not explicitly stated in the content or image captions. Use the space for measured drawings with discussion of material selection if needed, but exile the cut list to the web.

    can’t believe the poll results so far, hope its just too early to put stock into! Vote NO on question 1.

  99. metalworkingdude

    Printed in the magazine? That seems like a waste of space. I’d rather have more pictures of work or instructions on construction.

    As part of a Sketchup model? Sure, no harm in that. If it’s useful to you, great, if not just ignore it.

  100. rdruillet

    NO, give a total estimate of the BF needed for the project, and let each person create his or hers cut list. Cut list are for proffesional work (Industrial cabinet shops), and I really know that, that is what I do all day long. (i’m a layout person @ a cabinet shop)

  101. jasongpz

    I love having the cutlist. When I design my own projects I make one. I just wait to cut the part to exact size until I am actually fitting it to the project.

  102. John Griffin-Wiesner

    I’m split on this one. I find the cut lists useful as an index into the piece whether I’m building the piece or just reading the article. While I’m reading about or working on a certain part of the build I might wonder, “how thick is that piece again?” or “what material did they use for that?” and can quickly find my answer in the cut list.

    From the other comments here it looks like many might think I should just use the drawings instead. Call me slow if you like, but not all the information is redundant.

    On the other hand I sure like bigger and more pictures!

  103. tails1st

    The question would be better stated as: “Should Popular Woodworking print cutlists?” The answer to that question is No. If the question is “Are cutlists useful?” the answer is Maybe. It all depends on the complexity of the project, the skill of the woodworker, and if any modifications to the plan are to be made. The decision is best made by the woodworker when he or she decides to take on the project.

  104. bluejazz

    It seems perhaps everybody could be served by providing the cut-lists on-line rather than in the paper article; as in ‘Go to for a cut-list’.

    No wasted space, people are likelier to first study the drawings and for those who have a need of a cut-list can get it easily. I’d submit its better to print it from the web anyway; then you can leave the magazine on the coffee table.

    1. bobbollin

      I support bluejazz’s idea here.

      There seem to be a lot of impassioned responses from the purists among us:

      Work from the drawings…

      True woodworkers don’t need cutlists…

      Develop skill instead of relying on cutlists..


      I, for one, am getting older and I have better uses for my time than sitting at a desk adding columns of fractions before I head out to the lumber yard, skill builder or no. But I do agree with saving the space in the magazine for better uses (like photos or detailed drawing) and adding a note for a link to the cutlist online.

      Just my opinion.

      Love the magazine, by the way. Great job!!

  105. Paul

    What I would like to see is a list to take to the timber yard, that lists the total lengths of each size to be bought.

    1. esincox

      That’s what I was thinking, Paul. Maybe not a specific cut list, but a general idea of how many board feet are required for the project.

      I can get thicknesses (or at least thickness relationships) and such from the drawing.

      And I’m just as likely to change one or more aspects of the design, anyway, so a specific cut list isn’t as helpful.

      That said, the cut list is useful for a quick glance at what species and thicknesses of wood are being used.

      But I don’t ever use it as holy writ for a project.

      1. Robert W. Lang

        The number of board feet in the finished pieces is an easy number to get, but not at all useful unless you can find a lumber yard that will cut all the pieces to perfect size and not charge you for the lumber the pieces came from.

        You might get lucky and find pieces just over the finished width you need and in lengths that give you a good yield, but you’re at the mercy of what widths and lengths the guy you buy lumber from has in stock the day you buy it.

        Here are a couple of older blog posts on strategy:

        Bob Lang

  106. mlingenfelter

    I said no. I also think a builder is better served studying a measured drawing, and making up their own parts list (see I didn’t call it a cutlist). My parts list generally have over sized measurements anyway. I don’t need exact measurements when I’m at the lumber yard.


  107. Clay Dowling

    They are definitely useful for estimating a lumber buy, but since it’s pretty rare for me to build something exactly to plan, I’ll be making my own materials list anyway. Much more likely to use the plan as inspiration and modify to suit my own situation.

    And I would never consider cutting exactly to cutlist measurements. In my hand-powered shop, fitting to the work is the only sensible solution.

  108. Gary Roberts

    Oh Oh Oh Me Me Me!

    I’ll refer to earlier measured drawing books if I may. No cut lists. The occasional grade school book had cut lists for very simple projects, no slight intended. Thing is, woodworkers were expected to have learned or to learn how to read a drawing and how to create segments on their own from which to produce their own cut lists. By doing so, they learned about the piece to be made, simple or complex.

    So how about a step back in time and feature a series on how to read measured drawings, how to break a measured drawing into it’s composite parts and then produce your own cut list or adapted cut list?

Comments are closed.