How accurate/precise do cuts have to be?

by David
(Colorado)

Q:

I am making my first project, and generally everything is going well, but I have made a few cuts that are about 1/16th to short. I was wondering if this is too far gone, or if it might work anyway.

A:
That is a great question and one that is impossible to answer because it depends on many factors. Generally, the finer the work, the closer the measurements must be. I also have found over the years that the earlier in the project the more accurate the work should be. Any mistakes in measuring / cutting tend to build up as the work progresses.

Much depends on the type of project you are working on. If you are doing rough construction 1/16 might well be irrelevant. I have seen construction workers cut wall studs 1/8" too short and get away with it (tut, tut). On the other hand, I was watching a crew put a modular home on it's base and I was astounded when one of the crew said that the house needed to go over about a quarter of an inch. Amazing.

But, more to the point, when I am making boxes, or furniture I try to get as exact as possible and there are times when 1/16" is to large an error. If your cut is on a joint of some sort it could be too much. On the other hand, if it is the top of a box that might just mean an extra bit of overhang, so it really depends.

My final advice - if you have enough material go ahead and fix your error. The fact that you caught it is great and gives you a chance to fix it before you go further. Having said that, keep in mind that this is your first project and it would be amazing if it was perfect.

Have fun and keep up the good work!

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