As a woodworker, I enjoy the time spent in my workshop building furniture and other challenging woodworking projects. Because I'm not working with an unlimited budget, I need to keep my eyes on the bottom line throughout the entire project to make sure I don't underestimate it. This task is unfortunately the least enjoyable because it's mostly done out of the shop with a piece of paper, a calculator, and messy sketches.
But I now have a new tool as useful as my table saw to help me out with this chore and it's not what you thinkâ€¦ It's a software called CutList Plus developed by Bridgewood Design (http://www.cutlistplus.com). This product serves two main purposes: powerful estimating and sheet layout optimization. As for the estimating part, everything use in your project from the wood, the hardware, the finishing products, and the labor can be calculated to generate accurate estimates for yourself or your clients. There's no important learning curve issue involved here because the user interface is very similar to a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet which uses tabs, columns and rows. You simply enter your list of parts of rough lumber, dimensioned lumber or sheet goods and CutList Plus does all the work for you to figure out the amount of wood you will need and how much it will cost.
Getting all that information is worthless if you have no clue how the software has laid out your parts on the material. Here comes the powerful layout optimization to tell you graphically what will be the best fit. You can print out those layouts for yourself or those in charge of cutting the parts. The gem of this product lies in the variety of optimization patterns available individually for each sheet good. You don't have to accept blindly what the software gives you in the first place. It's all up to you to pick other choices that may suit your work habits better. Speaking of optimization, you can also tell CutList Plus to optimize the layouts by using your off-cuts first, minimize the overall cost, or minimize the waste, etc. You can also specify individually for each thicknesses of sheet good your preferred first cut direction (with the grain or across the grain). Playing with all those variables will produce a wide array of possible layouts to choose from.
If CutList Plus was only that, it would be a great tool already but it has a lot more to offer. You can manage your inventory of material by increasing or decreasing your inventory levels based on your cut list as well as entering your own wood species or sheet goods dimensions. CutList Plus works in metric and imperial.
I've used CutList Plus for the first time about 1.5 years ago for a big furniture project which had a lot of MDF sheet goods in it. I had to go through several design changes throughout the project and I was getting up to date estimates in a manner of a few minutes of work with the software. CutList Plus is now offered in a French version at: http://www.cutlistplus.ca.
Get some workshop time back for yourself and leave your calculations and layouts design worries to CutList Plus.
Copyright Colin Knecht