Small Dutch Tool Chest Cutting List


Like a sharp knife, cutting lists are helpful when used properly but downright dangerous in the wrong hands.

Case-in-point: In the 1990s I wrote an article on building a Limbert bookcase and had an error in my cutting list. I think I had the kick piece as the wrong width. Anyway, I soon got a phone call from an angry reader. He was making a run of these bookcases to sell and had cut out all the parts to the exact sizes in the cutting list. When it came time to assemble his bookcases, he discovered my error.

He demanded that I reimburse him for the wood he wasted because of the mistake.

When someone gives me a cutting list, I consider it as accurate as a map sketched on a napkin. It will probably get me where I’m going, but only with some interpretation, flexibility and wrong turns.

If I’m going to build a run of something, then I need to develop a cutting list that will account for small variations in the construction process. It needs to be a map that will get me to my destination every time.

That is the sort of cutting list that I design when teaching classes. The school needs a cutting list with finished sizes so their employees can cut everything before the class begins. Each student needs a pile of boards that will always create the desired object.

For example, here is the cutting list I’ve developed for the Dutch tool chest class. It is different than the cutting list I published in Popular Woodworking Magazine. If you cut all these parts to the exact sizes listed below, then you will be able to build the chest, even if you make a slight flub or two.

Item        T    W        L
2     Sides         .75”     11.25”        24”
1     Bottom     .75”    11.25”         27”
1     Shelf         .75”     11.25”         26.5”*
1     Front         .75”     7.5”         27.125”*
1     Bottom lip     .75”     1.5”        27.125”*
1     Lid         .75”     16”*         28”
2     Skids         .75”     1.25”         11”
4     Back boards     .75”     7.25”        27.125”*
1     Fall-front     .75”     9”*         27.125”*
2     Panel battens .5”    1.5”         8”
1     Catch         .75”    .75”        4”
1     Lock         .25”    2”         18”*

* This dimension is slightly oversized for trimming

Note that some pieces are marked as “oversized.” These oversized pieces accommodate the most common mistakes people make when building this chest:

1. The shelf is overlong in case you make the dados in the sides too deep.

2. The bottom lip and fall-front are over-long so you can trim them to the final size of your chest.

3. The backboards are (in aggregate) wider than necessary because some people mess up the tongue-and-groove joint and need the forgiveness.

4. The lid, fall-front and front pieces of the chest are over-wide because some students muck up the 30° angle on the case’s sides. If the angle is too steep or too shallow, then these dimensions need to change.

Bottom line: Never trust a cutting list. Or, as we were taught in journalism school: “If your mother says she loves you, verify it.”

— Christopher Schwarz

P.S. The photo above shows my small Dutch chest with its new lower case. You can read more about it on my blog at Popular Woodworking Magazine here.

About Lost Art Press

Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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14 Responses to Small Dutch Tool Chest Cutting List

  1. As someone who took the ATC class last year, I can attest to the importance of the extra room built into Chris’ cut lists. But beware – if you don’t flub the case (thereby necessitating cutting down and beginning the dovetails over), the oversizing will mean it won’t fit in the back seat of a full size sedan.


  2. toolnut says:

    Hmmm, I didn’t think you were allowed to take designs from the magazine (or any printed source) and reproduce them for profit unless you had permission of the author.

    Also, started reading By Hand and Eye and I’m really enjoying it. Highly recommend it to anyone on the fence. I mention it because I have a feeling that at the end of the book I will be saying “Cut lists? Cut list? I don’t need no stinking cut list.”


    • LostArtPress says:

      That is a somewhat tangled question.

      For my part, I consider every plan I publish to be able to be used without any restrictions.

      Stealing my words, photos and drawings for reproduction is another matter. But the design itself belongs to the public.


  3. Total noob question here: Aren’t 12″ nominal width boards (for the sides, bottom, and shelf) actually 11.25″ in width? Someday, I hope to build one of these fine looking tool chests. I’m very much looking forward to the Naked Woodworker DVD, to get started in the hobby.


    • Jeff Faulk says:

      They are, but don’t let that stop you. Just use the full width (assuming you don’t have to rip off any ugliness). Now if you want to go buy full-width 12″ boards, that won’t be found at the home center unfortunately… you’ll pay more for that. I made mine with D-grade “shelf stock” from Lowe’s. It’s got a bunch of knots, but it cost about 30-40% less than the #2 dimensional lumber. Worked perfectly fine.


    • LostArtPress says:

      That was a copy-and-paste error. Fixed. The sides, bottom and shelf should all be 1×12 material.

      See? Never trust a cutting list.


  4. danieltikhon says:

    I believe I detect some reinforcement on the bottom corners of the chest that weren’t originally there. What and why, please?


    • LostArtPress says:

      Those are steel corner guards from the home center. I put them on when I was asked to demonstrate installing corner guards.

      They are entirely superfluous to the integrity of the chest.

      Socks on a squirrel.


      • Jeff Faulk says:

        No reason not to if you think your chest is gonna get a bit knocked about in its life, though, IMO. Every little bit of robustness is a good thing…


  5. nateharold says:

    Paint is showing some love. Did you put a film finish over the milk paint?


  6. abtuser says:

    Ah, the venerable cut list…

    For me…
    -Cut lists reduce the number trips to the lumber yard helping make the project that much greener, one of the reasons I build myself instead of ‘Saudering’

    -Reduce waste, see first reason above.

    -Resultingly (I made that word up) kill fewer trees (Resulting in killing fewer trees).

    -Make an easy to store record of the project for later reuse

    -Help me customize a project to my tastes, especially as I get more experience

    -Very importantly – generally reflects the effort of a professional that has put in a lot time to get here, and models much of what I’m talking about above

    -Is an invaluable training tool saving lots of time to learn the craft

    -An exercise in humility. I have something to learn from someone else. True, you can get that from the plan, but the cut list is a clear example of part of that plan that demonstrates part of the execution of the plan.

    I may cut some of the initial support pieces directly from the cut list, but after that, the cut list is a guide, and I cut to final dimension as I build.


  7. I Take the cut list and combine into a board width and standard length buy. Add 30% for waste and short ends. Go from their by cutting out pieces as the project progresses. Never much issue with sometimes errors.


  8. I love this story because it reminds me of a hilarious phone call we got when I was working in the family glass shop. The irate caller was unhinged because he bought an entire house load of windows and none of them fit. It turned out that he took my uncle’s estimate sheet to the local home center and ordered the windows without double checking any of the measurements himself. If he had, he would’ve realized that my uncle rounded everything to the nearest foot for estimates.


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