Cut as you Build or Cut first THEN Build?

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Forum topic by TwistedRedneck posted 04-09-2010 03:09 PM 1792 views 0 times favorited 20 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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41 posts in 3548 days

04-09-2010 03:09 PM

Topic tags/keywords: resource tip question trick

I am a self taught artisan, every day is a new learning day.

I recently purchased a woodworking plan for a wishing well that my wife wanted and as I did my initial look at the plan, it said to cut all pieces per the cut schedule and lay them out. First step in the building process.

I just read a blog post by another LJ member that stated they cut all the pieces of their project before they started building it.

Typically I will cut what I need as I build whatever project I am working on. Partly because I like to make sure that when I get to whatever stage I am at that the next piece I need will be exactly the size I want and need it to be to fit properly.

I am curious as to what other folks are doing. Are you cutting everything first then assembling your project or do you cut the pieces as you go?

I can see maybe cutting all the pieces first if you are creating a batch of the same items like maybe building 50 birdhouses that are the same. I may do that from time to time if I am making something that requires more than one piece of the exact same size but then I am still only making them as I need them.

WDYD – What Do You Do?

-- Nails are better wood fasteners than screws, if both are applied using a hammer.

20 replies so far

View SnowyRiver's profile


51457 posts in 3537 days

#1 posted 04-09-2010 03:19 PM

What I do is cut all like pieces at one time. I do this because once I set up a jig, or the table saw I want to be sure all like pieces are exactly the same width and length. So typically I will start out and when I come to a point where there are duplicate pieces, I cut all of those at once, then I start assembly until I get to another point where there are more duplicate pieces then cut those all together. I dont like to cut all plan pieces at once before assembly because sometimes there are slight variations in length/width from the plan so I want to verify those pieces with the assembled pieces to be sure I have the correct size before I cut them.

-- Wayne - Plymouth MN

View skeeter's profile


233 posts in 3398 days

#2 posted 04-09-2010 03:24 PM

Whats a plan?

-- My philosophy: Somewhere between Norm and Roy

View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 3131 days

#3 posted 04-09-2010 03:25 PM

I don’t think there is a simple answer to this question. For me it really depends on the nature of the project.

I like to cut everything that requires the same saw setting at one time but I don’t want to get to far ahead of myself. I could envision cutting all the pieces for the base of the wishing well at one time and then assembling the base. Then move ahead and cut the pieces for the next phase.

FYI – sometimes its a good idea to sand and finish as you go because early in the assembly process you may have easier access to these portions of the project.

-- Rich, Cedar Rapids, IA - I'm a woodworker. I don't create beauty, I reveal it.

View TwistedRedneck's profile


41 posts in 3548 days

#4 posted 04-09-2010 03:41 PM

Thats basically the same Idea I have or do. My primary machine in my shop is my RAS and I tend to set it up and make multiple pieces at the same size when I need them. I like the accuracy it has. However sometimes you can get a little over confident and miss that little wood sliver that has come off and lodged itself between your next piece and the fence or stop and boom, you are not cutting pieces that are not long enough or no longer straight.

I was just curious if I have taught myself wrong or if it is the norm to cut as you go. So only a few responses but I think I am on the right track. Thanks.

-- Nails are better wood fasteners than screws, if both are applied using a hammer.

View Derek Lyons's profile

Derek Lyons

584 posts in 3625 days

#5 posted 04-09-2010 03:47 PM

I’m with richg, it depends on what I’m building. Some time’s it’s crucial to cut all the pieces at once to make sure they are identical (cut on the same setup), other times you want to custom cut as you go. Sometimes, its both in the same project – I’ve fiddled with box making and found it best to cut the side in matching pairs, and then cut the top and bottom to fit the sides.

One caveat though – if I’m milling my material, it’s all milled before hand.

-- Derek, Bremerton WA --

View buffalo689's profile


175 posts in 3064 days

#6 posted 04-09-2010 06:53 PM

I’m with skeeter..

-- bill

View Moron's profile


5032 posts in 3950 days

#7 posted 04-09-2010 07:04 PM

with few exceptions. I cut every single, machine every single part, sand every part and then assemble. Sometimes the parts list is in the thousands.

-- "Good artists borrow, great artists steal”…..Picasso

View Kent Shepherd's profile

Kent Shepherd

2718 posts in 3343 days

#8 posted 04-09-2010 07:25 PM

Depends. In my door shop—-high production, we cut everything from a computer generated list, and then machine parts. However, at home for personal projects, I usually cut as needed. Here I’m usually making things up as I go, so I fit each part individually.


View Cozmo35's profile


2200 posts in 3093 days

#9 posted 04-09-2010 07:34 PM

I can tell you from experience,....PATTERNS ARE NOT ALWAYS RIGHT! I cut a lot on the scroll saw and with patterns such as this, it is not uncommon to have several cuts, some as many as 300+ in one piece. I recently had an experience with a piece with 279 cuts that I found out AFTER the fact was sized incorrectly on the “plans”. CUT AS YOU GO!!! JMO

-- If you don't work, you don't eat!.....Garland, TX

View Gregn's profile


1642 posts in 3040 days

#10 posted 04-09-2010 07:36 PM

Which plan? I sometimes might use 3 or 4 plans on a project I want to build, if I use a plan at all. The only thing I might use a cut list for is in lieu of a material list. I do tend to create my own cut list for pieces that are the same dimensions to ensure accuracy in my cuts, and to avoid constant setting changes. Like you said being self taught everyday is a learning lesson. In my self taught philosophy, I have learned if it works good, if not find another way.

-- I don't make mistakes, I have great learning lessons, Greg

View TwistedRedneck's profile


41 posts in 3548 days

#11 posted 04-09-2010 09:19 PM

One thing I have found that does work for me if I decide to cut first is to make sure they are rough cut (oversize). Example would be ripping plywood down to a manageable size that can be re-cut on the table saw for a more accurate dimension.

Now I can see if I was doing this for a living, creating the same thing in a production atmosphere as Kent Shepherd mentioned.

Derek Lyons I see your point and that makes sense as well. You want to make sure that the front back or sides match when making a box or cabinet.

Looking at some other plans I see around my shop and wood working magazines, they all say the same thing, cut all pieces to length or something to that effect. A little common sense to me is that you cut as you go because like Cozmo35 mentioned, the “patterns,” or plans are not always correct.

I did run into an issue with cutting a hexagon pattern in the past that would have taken the same width, length and thickness of boards all around it but after careful setup and cutting I found out that I ended up with a hexagon that had uneven edges. Some at 5-1/2” some at 5-1/4” and some at 6”. Apparently I did not have things set up properly on that one. But if I had followed the plan, I would have cut the boards for the sides and they would have been wasted as far as the width was concerned.

-- Nails are better wood fasteners than screws, if both are applied using a hammer.

View live4ever's profile


983 posts in 3067 days

#12 posted 04-09-2010 09:43 PM

relative dimensioning

First I cut all parts to rough size (~1/2-1” oversize). Then measure off the project itself and nibble as I go. Takes a lot of more cuts this way, but the reward is a tighter fit and more room for error.

-- Optimists are usually disappointed. Pessimists are either right or pleasantly surprised. I tend to be a disappointed pessimist.

View rhett's profile


742 posts in 3724 days

#13 posted 04-10-2010 01:14 AM

For cabinetry I rip everything to width, stack it and then crosscut to length as needed. For most everything else I think in terms of groups. Legs, aprons, drawer sides etc. One of the best ways to ensure success is cutting all like items at the same time. Tiny deviations add up quick.

-- Doubt kills more dreams than failure.

View cstrang's profile


1832 posts in 3225 days

#14 posted 04-10-2010 01:22 AM

I usually make a cut list for my projects and break out the sheet stock to exact dimensions, but I cut solid to rough dimensions first and later cut it to the exact size I need.

-- A hammer dangling from a wall will bang and sound like work when the wind blows the right way.

View ToddTurner's profile


144 posts in 3380 days

#15 posted 04-10-2010 02:00 AM

Do whatever works for you.

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