Using Spreadsheets to Standardize Cabinet Part Specification

You can make an Excel spreadsheet to automate and standardize your process of specifying cabinet part dimensions. August 5, 2010

I am looking for ways others convert a new project into useable information, beyond hand written cutlists, manual CAD drawings (TurboCAD), lots of experience and patience.

I realize each shop does different work, and lots are custom shops, as we are, but I believe the concept for handling an order should still be the same, as long as the order resembles previous projects.

I do not understand why we should repeatedly list obvious parts (like our standard door always has 2 stiles, they are always the length of the door, they are always the thickness of the door, they always consist of the same components - core staves, 2 veneers, etc.). To me, this could all be controlled with some parameters (such as stile width, wood species).

Our company is willing to invest in software, but I have little sense of direction in this. If you have been there, and found a better way (or not), your input will be very beneficial.

Forum Responses
(Architectural Woodworking Forum)
From contributor K:
I use simple Excel spreadsheets. I have it set up so that you just enter the width and height of the door and it calculates the sizes of each part. Build a different spread sheet for each style you make.

From contributor S:
I also use Excel for just about every project I do. What the program lacks in project specific functions it makes up for by being able to be customized to adapt to that type of project. Once you learn what Excel is capable of doing, you probably won't need to look any further for a basic program.

One function that I use frequently is what I call the "standard deduction" function. Each part can be solved for by using a standard deduction. You basically start with the overall dimension and subtract a predetermined measurement to arrive at a specific part measurement. For example, when building cabinets, I use the outside width as a starting point, and since no other part will be wider than that, it's all subtraction from there.

Here is an example. For the bottom piece and top stretcher, I have the auto sum function set to subtract 1.5" from the overall width to arrive at the part size (.75" per side x 2). For the drawer front and back, it subtracts 4" (.75" per side panel, .5" per drawer slide, and .75" per drawer side, x 2 for each side).

The program is set up so that all I enter is the outside width dimension and it spits out a half dozen dimensions for all the pieces. If I ever add anything new to my cabinets, all I need to do is add another function to figure for the measurement.

From contributor K:
One other thing I have Excel do is give me a board feet amount to order for the project. It's not hard to make it do whatever you wish.

From contributor O:
I have done the same thing with Excel. If you don't know how to do it, don't be intimidated by the computer thing. Write out how you manually do your figuring to plan out a project. Then mull it over repeatedly for a week or so, tweaking and fine tuning the process. When it looks smooth, find someone who knows Excel and have them set up the spreadsheet for you (be sure they protect the calculation cells so someone can't accidentally erase the formulas). A local college or Voc-Tech Center would probably have an instructor that could do it on the side.

From contributor T:
Our [Safe Passage Consulting's] custom door and window software does all this automatically and can also be easily customized. If you wish to invest in CNC in the future, it drives the machine automatically as well. It does door design, drawings, cut lists, glass sizes, panel sizes and much more.