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Cut Calculator Lets You Rip Away Without Sweating Bullets

Cut Calculator Lets You Rip Away Without Sweating Bullets

"Measure twice, cut once" is a good maxim to follow -- but it has its limitations. Bugfoot's Cut Calculator app goes way beyond helping DIY carpenters measure correctly. It offers suggestions on how to economize when purchasing materials and how to best utilize every board or piece of sheetrock. It even considers the width of your saw blade for those situations when every millimeter counts.

By Chris Maxcer MacNewsWorld ECT News Network
06/24/13 5:00 AM PT

Cut Calculator by Bugfoot Studios is available in the iTunes App Store for US$4.99.

Cut Calculator

Back when I was paying for ramen noodles and graduate school by working as a framer for a small construction outfit, the most stressful event I faced was when I had to cut the support beams for a set of stairs going into a new restaurant. One wrong cut and I would have wasted hundreds of dollars on a suddenly useless beam. In addition, other crews needed those stairs, and they had to be in place before a concrete floor could be poured.

Most framing situations aren't particularly intense, and most construction guys get a sense for how to maximize either the available lumber for a project -- or waste a bit of wood in favor of a more efficient day. Home owners run into situations that can be even more intense than cutting stairs, though. They almost always have limited budgets and limited time, and if they screw up, they have disappointed and angry spouses to appease.

Everyone I know who has tried their own home improvement project has miscalculated the amount of lumber, sheetrock, concrete board, or pipe they've needed to get the job done. Even when they calculated correctly, they -- or their buddies -- have accidentally cut a long board when they should have used a short board. That usually results in a new trip to the store, extra costs and lost time.

Cut Calculator seeks to reduce this sort of waste.

For newbies trying to resurface a deck, Cut Calculator can help determine how many boards are needed at the right lengths. For instance, if a porch needs 6-foot boards, some people buy a lot of 8-foot boards and trim them down to 6 feet, wasting 2 feet of board. Cut Calculator can help you realize that you could buy fewer 12 foot boards and simply cut them in half, resulting in no waste. And since lumber cost is related to linear board feet, each chunk of extra board costs real money.

Some people have a hard time visualizing the best way to utilize materials, and Cut Calculator creates a picture illustration of your materials and your cuts to help you best utilize what you have.

1 Sheet Left

Here's another situation most any home improvement pro (or chump) has experienced: You've got one sheet of sheetrock or one sheet of plywood left, and you have several spots that need to be covered, cut from your single sheet. One mistake and uh oh, you've got a useless chunk of material that's just 1-inch short.

Cut Calculator lets you enter in your material size, as well as the sizes of the pieces you need, and then it renders a picture of the cuts you should make to help you make the best use of your materials -- as well as reduce the number of cuts you have to make to create all the pieces. For instance, a cut on one side can end up being the cut that creates the side of another piece. Sounds simple, but newbies miss this all the time.

And here's another handy feature: A saw blade has a width, and if you need exact sizes, the saw blade chips up and removes material, making your board essentially shorter than you imagine. For example, if you need two boards that are exactly 4-feet long and you have an 8-foot board, if you cut it in half, each piece will be a tiny bit shorter than 4-feet long. Not a big deal in most situations, but when you're cutting multiple pieces and when it does matter, Cut Calculator lets you enter in the width of your saw blade, too.

How Does It Work?

The app is super simple. You enter the measurements of the pieces you need -- all the rectangles or squares or lengths. Then you enter the size of the material -- the sheet of plywood or board lengths that you have on hand or plan to use. Tap the reload button, and boom -- you'll get a visual representation of your pieces and parts.

You can use measurements in inches, feet or centimeters, and you can even mix them up -- 18-inches by 4 feet -- and the app understands.

The only missing element to this app is the ability to draw or a create a weirdly shaped board -- say, a trapezoid piece that needs to fit in some odd corner of your project. At the same time, people who are tackling complicated projects should really be able to handle the odd triangle every now and then, so I can't hold this missing feature against the developers of Cut Calculator.

Handy Features

Beyond packing your iPad around the job site, you can view and print a .pdf of your plan design, as well as export a shopping list to email, iMessage, or simply copy it into other apps. Plus, you can save your plans and come back to them as you work through materials and cost. Sometimes, it turns out, a 16-foot board is less expensive than two 8-foot boards -- and vice versa.

All-in-all, if Cut Calculator helps you avoid even one little mistake, it'll pay for itself.

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MacNewsWorld columnist Chris Maxcer has been writing about the tech industry since the birth of the email newsletter, and he still remembers the clacking Mac keyboards from high school -- Apple's seed-planting strategy at work. While he enjoys elegant gear and sublime tech, there's something to be said for turning it all off -- or most of it -- to go outside. To catch him, take a "firstnamelastname" guess at WickedCoolBite.com.


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