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This might be a stupid question on measuring and cutting but I will ask anyway. Many, many years ago, when I was only elbow height to my own father, he showed me that you measure at least twice and THEN you cut. He also told me that when you draw the 'cut line', that the line 'ends' the piece that you want, so you should always cut just past the line. Made sense so I have always followed that. I recently had a conversation with a neighbor (woodworker) who said he always cuts 'on the line'?? When I asked him why, he answered that with a thin kerf blade it doesn't really matter. He went further to say that he sets his stop blocks up to cut that way as well. Thoughts??
 

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No, with me, it’s measure, take to saw, check again, go check the cut list, check it again, cut, then realize you burned an inch on the tape but still cut it an inch short, AND ITS THEN LAST PIECE OF WALNUT WITH THE NICE GRAIN , YOU IGNORAMOUS!!

Calmate, calmate (No KarriB I'm not drinking wine…..yet).

Seriously, this is far from a stupid question, @oldpops. Proper layout and dimensioning are the foundation of good craftsmanship.

There is a reason why a marking knife should be the #1 in a woodworker’s marking tools. A pencil is fine, use them all the time, but a pencil mark has a thickness. How do you make a mark? When you mark a measurement off a ruler, a lot of people make a tick mark. Watch a carpenter he makes a ”V” which is actually more accurate.

How do you strike a line? Many people line up a square to the pencil mark and strike the line. OK, but a more accurate way is put the point of the pencil on the mark, slide the square til it contacts the pencil, then strike the line.

Back to thickness. You always cut on the waste side of the line, but on the line you never leaving a space. Again, you’re leaving the thickness of the line. So what is the final dimension? What you measured + the thickness of the line. It may seem like splitting hairs, but in fine woodworking it matters, this is why a knife line is superior.

You mentioned stop blocks. That brings up another important fundamental - consistent dimensions is much more important than an exact numerical dimension. In furniiture making dimensions are really just suggestions - you get corresponding parts equal and then fit is all that matters. Newbies get themselves very frustrated and drive themselves crazy trying to cut every part to the exact dimension on a plan.

Stop blocks and gang cutting of parts achieve consistent dimensions. You never, ever cut like parts individually!

While I‘m at it, I’ll mention two other things, tape measures and story poles.

Always use the same tape throughout a project. When it gets down to the nitty gritty like marking out joinery never use a tape, use a ruler. Get some good easy to read hook rulers are really nice to have. Avoid machinist rulers totally.

Learn about story poles and use them. It takes a lot of error out of marking dimensions.

Hope this helps.
 

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Doesn’t matter. You can cut to the line, leave the line, or split the line. Just remember how you measured and cut accordingly.
Consistently doing the same procedure is the most important thing. Either procedure will work. You just do not want to start the cut and then wonder just what procedure you used.

George
 

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This might be a stupid question on measuring and cutting but I will ask anyway. Many, many years ago, when I was only elbow height to my own father, he showed me that you measure at least twice and THEN you cut. He also told me that when you draw the 'cut line', that the line 'ends' the piece that you want, so you should always cut just past the line. Made sense so I have always followed that. I recently had a conversation with a neighbor (woodworker) who said he always cuts 'on the line'?? When I asked him why, he answered that with a thin kerf blade it doesn't really matter. He went further to say that he sets his stop blocks up to cut that way as well. Thoughts??
It depends on what you're making.
Cabinets have several fixed dimensions and once you start with the base, everything must fit to that.
A jewelry box is different since there is no starting dimension that must be adhered to, but often it's based on the size of the material you have on hand..
But again, once you start, all the rest of the pieces must be "cut to fit"
By cut to fit I mean exactly that. Keep removing very small amounts until it fits precisely.
Measuring is an inexact science, fitting is more exact. It fits or it doesn't.
When a piece must fit exactly, take two strips of thin stock, place into the space with a snug fit, and tape them together, no measuring required.
Then place the "assembly" against the blade's teeth and bump the fence over to it. That should be your final setting.
 
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Cutting past the line allows you to shoot the end with a planer (chisel, sand paper, etc.) to get an exact distance. The only true problem with cutting past the line is the small amount of waste. If you're cutting several pieces from one piece of wood, that little bit of waste might prevent you from having enough for all the cuts.
If you're absolutely sure of your measurements, cutting ON the line means no further work to get exact lengths, no waste, etc.
 

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You do what works for you. Pop always said "split the line," which might work for some things, but hand saws rarely leave a finished edge so you end up shooting it and then it's too short. But in reality, most everything we make is some variation of a rectangle and it is more important that opposite sides be of consistent length than an exact length. When using power tools I always use a stop block to be sure all pieces are the same length. Hand sawing I cut slightly oversize and shoot them down.
 

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No, with me, it’s measure, take to saw, check again, go check the cut list, check it again, cut, then realize you burned an inch on the tape but still cut it an inch short, AND ITS THEN LAST PIECE OF WALNUT WITH THE NICE GRAIN , YOU IGNORAMOUS!!

Calmate, calmate (No KarriB I'm not drinking wine…..yet).

Seriously, this is far from a stupid question, @oldpops. Proper layout and dimensioning are the foundation of good craftsmanship.

There is a reason why a marking knife should be the #1 in a woodworker’s marking tools. A pencil is fine, use them all the time, but a pencil mark has a thickness. How do you make a mark? When you mark a measurement off a ruler, a lot of people make a tick mark. Watch a carpenter he makes a ”V” which is actually more accurate.

How do you strike a line? Many people line up a square to the pencil mark and strike the line. OK, but a more accurate way is put the point of the pencil on the mark, slide the square til it contacts the pencil, then strike the line.

Back to thickness. You always cut on the waste side of the line, but on the line you never leaving a space. Again, you’re leaving the thickness of the line. So what is the final dimension? What you measured + the thickness of the line. It may seem like splitting hairs, but in fine woodworking it matters, this is why a knife line is superior.

You mentioned stop blocks. That brings up another important fundamental - consistent dimensions is much more important than an exact numerical dimension. In furniiture making dimensions are really just suggestions - you get corresponding parts equal and then fit is all that matters. Newbies get themselves very frustrated and drive themselves crazy trying to cut every part to the exact dimension on a plan.

Stop blocks and gang cutting of parts achieve consistent dimensions. You never, ever cut like parts individually!

While I‘m at it, I’ll mention two other things, tape measures and story poles.

Always use the same tape throughout a project. When it gets down to the nitty gritty like marking out joinery never use a tape, use a ruler. Get some good easy to read hook rulers are really nice to have. Avoid machinist rulers totally.

Learn about story poles and use them. It takes a lot of error out of marking dimensions.

Hope this helps.
We hit a nerve here...
 

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This might be a stupid question on measuring and cutting but I will ask anyway. Many, many years ago, when I was only elbow height to my own father, he showed me that you measure at least twice and THEN you cut. He also told me that when you draw the 'cut line', that the line 'ends' the piece that you want, so you should always cut just past the line. Made sense so I have always followed that. I recently had a conversation with a neighbor (woodworker) who said he always cuts 'on the line'?? When I asked him why, he answered that with a thin kerf blade it doesn't really matter. He went further to say that he sets his stop blocks up to cut that way as well. Thoughts??
As long as you are consistent, it really does not matter. That said, one of the most inconsistent tools in any workshop is a tape measure. Stick rulers are better, but even they bend and flex. I do use tape measures for framing and other projects where measuring is important, but not critical. When doing furniture and cabinetry I use a story pole. I lay out my entire project, to the best of my ability, on a piece of straight stock. Other pieces, of course, simply get fit, not measured. I have never found a measuring system more accurate than a story pole.
 

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I have never found a measuring system more accurate than a story pole.
We are usually striving for the length required, not what the markings on a ruler tell us. I recently had to cut a 6x6 that had to support a beam that went between it and the ceiling joists. My two helpers were arguing about the numbers they were getting on their tape measures, they were a bit surprised when I stood a 1x4 up and clamped a shorter length to it that touched the ceiling joist, subtracted the height of the beam and marked the cut, perfect fit. I basically have no idea how long the post was, it didn't matter.
 

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This might be a stupid question on measuring and cutting but I will ask anyway. Many, many years ago, when I was only elbow height to my own father, he showed me that you measure at least twice and THEN you cut. He also told me that when you draw the 'cut line', that the line 'ends' the piece that you want, so you should always cut just past the line. Made sense so I have always followed that. I recently had a conversation with a neighbor (woodworker) who said he always cuts 'on the line'?? When I asked him why, he answered that with a thin kerf blade it doesn't really matter. He went further to say that he sets his stop blocks up to cut that way as well. Thoughts??
You can spend a lot of time measuring doing that. I measure once and cut once. Occasionally I will measure something wrong and have to replace the part but that is less time consuming than to measure twice. My dad taught me to cut on the line however he only used a hand saw and wasn't doing the finish work a cabinet maker does. Using a power saw of any kind including a thin kerf I would cut on the outside up next to the line. The width of the blade can make a profound difference when doing cabinet work.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
This has all been great! I was thinking I was going to be hammered by everyone for a dumb question but I can see there are 2 basic schools of thought: on the line or past the line. Then it matters whether its for rough construction or finish carpentry. It also matters what type of measuring device is used. Incidentally, I haven't heard the phrase "story pole" since I was a kid (also from my dad). I had completely forgotten. My dad never really explained how they work but i remember he used something he called a story pole when he did cabinets around our house. My recollection was it was some kind of stick but that's all I remember. Anyone here have a good explanation of what they are, how to make them and how to use them?
 

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This has all been great! I was thinking I was going to be hammered by everyone for a dumb question but I can see there are 2 basic schools of thought: on the line or past the line. Then it matters whether its for rough construction or finish carpentry. It also matters what type of measuring device is used. Incidentally, I haven't heard the phrase "story pole" since I was a kid (also from my dad). I had completely forgotten. My dad never really explained how they work but i remember he used something he called a story pole when he did cabinets around our house. My recollection was it was some kind of stick but that's all I remember. Anyone here have a good explanation of what they are, how to make them and how to use them?
Its a stick with a bunch of lines on it that correspond to measurements on a project. If you were making a few different cabinets, for example, you could mark off the stick with indicators at the length, width, and height of the cabinet, and use that to measure out all of the cabinets. Its pretty much a measuring stick, but you decide how long an inch is
 

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When I was a teenager, I worked a day here and there with a carpenter. I did most if the cutting. He call out a measurement, say 44-1/4" and then he'd say "eat the line" or "fat". One of the other guys wasn't so good with fractions. He call that 44 and 4 lines. That was fine as long as everyone had the same graduation/scale on their tape measure (1/16, 1/8, etc).

I was putting up a fence today. I kept thinking of this thread as I cut the boards.
 

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This has all been great! I was thinking I was going to be hammered by everyone for a dumb question but I can see there are 2 basic schools of thought: on the line or past the line. Then it matters whether its for rough construction or finish carpentry. It also matters what type of measuring device is used. Incidentally, I haven't heard the phrase "story pole" since I was a kid (also from my dad). I had completely forgotten. My dad never really explained how they work but i remember he used something he called a story pole when he did cabinets around our house. My recollection was it was some kind of stick but that's all I remember. Anyone here have a good explanation of what they are, how to make them and how to use them?
My grandfather taught me, it is really quite simple. I am sure there are many ways of doing a story pole, but this is how I was taught. I usually start with a straight piece of stock. For cabinets that would fit in a nook I make it the exact size of the opening, other than that, it does not matter. The theory is if the story pole fits perfectly in the opening, then the cabinet will. On one face of the story pole I lay out all the horizontal measurements necessary such as cabinet start/stop, face frames. I turn the piece over and mark out all the vertical measurements. Toe kick, face frame, countertop, bottom of upper cab, face frame, etc. I use these to set up machines and check my cuts against the story pole to make sure that I am staying on mark. You can be as simple, or get as elaborate as you want with them. Even though I usually work off CAD drawings, I still transfer the information to a story pole. Has served me well over the years. Like I said it is the way my grandfather taught me, was never broken, so I never fixed it.
 

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No, with me, it’s measure, take to saw, check again, go check the cut list, check it again, cut, then realize you burned an inch on the tape but still cut it an inch short, AND ITS THEN LAST PIECE OF WALNUT WITH THE NICE GRAIN , YOU IGNORAMOUS!!

Calmate, calmate (No KarriB I'm not drinking wine…..yet).

Seriously, this is far from a stupid question, @oldpops. Proper layout and dimensioning are the foundation of good craftsmanship.

There is a reason why a marking knife should be the #1 in a woodworker’s marking tools. A pencil is fine, use them all the time, but a pencil mark has a thickness. How do you make a mark? When you mark a measurement off a ruler, a lot of people make a tick mark. Watch a carpenter he makes a ”V” which is actually more accurate.

How do you strike a line? Many people line up a square to the pencil mark and strike the line. OK, but a more accurate way is put the point of the pencil on the mark, slide the square til it contacts the pencil, then strike the line.

Back to thickness. You always cut on the waste side of the line, but on the line you never leaving a space. Again, you’re leaving the thickness of the line. So what is the final dimension? What you measured + the thickness of the line. It may seem like splitting hairs, but in fine woodworking it matters, this is why a knife line is superior.

You mentioned stop blocks. That brings up another important fundamental - consistent dimensions is much more important than an exact numerical dimension. In furniiture making dimensions are really just suggestions - you get corresponding parts equal and then fit is all that matters. Newbies get themselves very frustrated and drive themselves crazy trying to cut every part to the exact dimension on a plan.

Stop blocks and gang cutting of parts achieve consistent dimensions. You never, ever cut like parts individually!

While I‘m at it, I’ll mention two other things, tape measures and story poles.

Always use the same tape throughout a project. When it gets down to the nitty gritty like marking out joinery never use a tape, use a ruler. Get some good easy to read hook rulers are really nice to have. Avoid machinist rulers totally.

Learn about story poles and use them. It takes a lot of error out of marking dimensions.

Hope this helps.
How is a V more accurate than a line? You are still eyeballing the position of the blade to the mark and you are at the mercy of the precision of your hand while drawing the V. Also, there is no guarantee of aligning the exact point of the V to the blade.
 

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How is a V more accurate than a line? You are still eyeballing the position of the blade to the mark and you are at the mercy of the precision of your hand while drawing the V. Also, there is no guarantee of aligning the exact point of the V to the blade.
I was making a point that marking is also important. I use a small tick mark like most people.

The other point I would make is learn to put the ruler down and mark from reality, for example size a drawer front to an opening, fit a moulding, cut the haunches off a tenon.

A knife is more accurate than a pencil. There are times when this degree of accuracy is needed such as laying out a mortise and marking shoulder cuts, marking something for an exact fit, like the drawer ans moulding.

All that said, I’ve built furniture without measuring anything.
 

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Me also. I used the "cut to fit" method I described above. However, it depends on what you're making.
Wood working can require very precise cuts, which in turn may require very precise measurements.
By cutting to fit you are removing shaving thickness amounts sometimes for that precise fit by trial and error.
No amount of measuring then cutting to the "line" would work as well, at least for me.
 
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