Using Up Waste Off-Cuts with Cutlist

The Cutlist optimizing software lets you organize the process of saving and using and scrap drops. Here's how one cabinetmaker takes advantage of that capability. June 3, 2013

I've always wondered how best to deal with drops and Cutlist or similar programs. It seems on every job I inadvertently cut something a little different than the generated layout, so I've never used the feature allowing to use waste on subsequent jobs. I tend to use the drops somewhere but it can often throw off an entire cutlist that follows.

How many of you have it work out exactly as the software lays out your parts, so you can go back and use all your drops? I'm not using a paid version of Cutlist and have never seen a way to adjust inventory of drops.

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor R:
I have the Gold version of Cutlist Plus and have been using it for about 5 years. Before I got it I stocked 2-3 units at a time, mostly white melamine. We only work with prefinished materials. With CLP I pretty much eliminated board inventory. Now I can offer any color my supplier stocks. And my supplier allows me to mix colors to make a unit of material. And it freed up a lot of space in my shop, creating much better flow.

I inventory my drops. In my raw materials list I note any quantity of full sheets on hand and mark that "can buy." Below that I input my drops by width and length, paying attention to grain for wood grain colors. I mark these as off-cut, assign a bin number to the drops, and indicate the number of pieces for each drop size. I mark each drop with the bin number and size. Marking "can buy" will generate cutlist layouts even if you do not have enough on hand.

Anytime you adjust the raw materials quantity and sizes, you need to remember to backup/copy raw materials. This is separate in CLP from the project file you save. In the optimization setting,s I check "use off-cuts first, even if cost is higher."

When I input the job parts, I enter primary material for material name. I have set up in my materials list with standard board types such as 4 X 8 solid, 4 X 8 woodgrain, 4 X 9 woodgrain, 5 X 8, 4 X 10, and so on, based on the sizes available. After I input the job, I can change the material to one of the above so the program can calculate the number of sheets to order. If a material is available in various sizes, you can change the material to see what size allows the best yield. Sometimes the supplier will be out of a size and you need to recalculate. You can even enter a different size available as an off-cut, say 5 sheets of 4 X 10, where you know that will really affect your yield or ease of cutting.

I started out printing the layouts and found it wasted a lot of paper. I now view the layouts on my laptop. I can check the layouts completed as I finish each one, so I don't lose track. If I make a mistake in cutting, I can make the appropriate changes and have the program re-layout the project. You have to remember to change quantities for parts and for raw materials you have already cut. Most of the time, the program will re-layout and not use any more material. Today I was cutting a job and realized I had the wrong width for 10 parts. Fortunately I caught it and it still all worked out using the same number of sheets.

Before I start cutting I will switch the material name to the specific material with the inventoried off-cuts. I cut the off-cut layouts first. I use up the off-cuts first so that the pile stays small. Today's job used 14 off-cuts. I meant to see how many sheets that equaled but could not since I changed the cutlist and layouts while cutting.

Occasionally, you will have jobs that use the same number of sheets whether you use off-cuts or not. Then I just use one of the standard material types and do not bother using the off-cuts.

I use only prefinished materials. I have set up CLP for shelving, backing, 4 widths of drawer sides, drawer bottoms, hanging rods, and even moldings. I also use it to calculate edgebanding needed for a job in 3 different thicknesses.

Another feature I use is components for common drawer configurations. I can select a drawer, put in the quantity of drawers, and it will add all the parts to the cutlist.

Finally, I have on occasion combined jobs for better yield. I only do this on smaller jobs where it is easy to separate and not disrupt normal workflow. I have done it on larger jobs but the excessive handling is not worth the gain.

For me, the best time to adjust the raw materials is usually right after I finish cutting completely each type of material. I will usually write down the bins I have used and adjust accordingly. Do not adjust while still cutting that specific material. Then I add the new off-cuts, usually adjusting a now zeroed quantity off-cut. CLP has an option to adjust inventory that is most valuable when you use only one or two different materials on a job.

You can easily get too detailed with this and spend more time than it is worth. You have to find a balance that works for you. One of our core philosophies is to absolutely minimize scrap going to the landfill, so we do carry this a bit too far.