Thickness,Width,Length or L,W,T?

As the internet has brought the world closer, we’re realising that we have not-so-subtle differences after all. We may speak the same language but we don’t spell exactly the same. We don’t use the same terminology of certain words, nor the same measurements, nor even how we write it down in our cut lists. It is as if we are an entirely different race that has no brethren bloodline at all.
Let me give you one example. Lumber in the US means milled timber and timber in England and its conquered nations referred to as the commonwealth refer to timber as milled timber, in fact Lumber is seldom used in England or any commonwealth nation except for Canada. Let me give you one more; in the US you would say 2×4 but in Australia you would reverse it and say 4×2.
I can live with all of that but what I find difficult to live with is the reading order of the US version T,W,L (Thickness, Width, Length). I don’t know about Europe as I have no cut lists from there but I know here in Australia and I suspect England to be the same we write L,W,T.  Now that makes sense.

American Version

46-49_ToolCabinet.indd

Australian Version

oz_cut-list
I’ve tried doing research on the topic to find out the history of why and came up empty. So my take on it is this and correct me if I am wrong. The timber/lumber yards felt they did not need to read to L,W,T because that was not the order they were working in. All they needed to know was the thickness and its width, the length was the least of their concern.  So I believe somewhere along the line some dumb arse followed the timber yards and changed what was unnatural for cabinetmakers to adopt but adopt they did.  I have tried adopting the US method and I seem to get confused every time because in my mind I’m reading it backwards.  Think about it; Do we ever thickness first? No, it’s always the length, then width. Maybe in the machine world they thickness their timber first, but in the hand tool world unless your a gym junkie you wouldn’t.
This has become an issue for me since I’ve written this software called Project Price Estimator. I started this at the beginning of last year and got side tracked and have just returned to it. I was looking at the cut list and ordered it as L,W,T but I thought the US would struggle with it written like as I struggle to read their way of writing it. The thing is I don’t know if I will ever release it to the public but it’s so cool and I know you would love it and use it everyday.  This software is the most honest bloody software on the market. I’ll give you one example, it doesn’t calculate you buying a gallon of finish, it calculates on the amount of finish used on the project at hand and the same is applied to glue, screws, nails and other fixtures including your workshop expenses like electricity, phone, rent etc, and at the very end of it all it tells you how much your build is worth.  How many times have you asked yourself and your partner what’s it worth? Well now you’ll know.
Let me know what you think of my theory.  There has to be a reason why they changed the order around.

P.S. Issue IV is currently WIP (Work in Progress) I’m not sure of it’s release date due to work commitments.  More on it closer to it’s release.

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3 thoughts on “Thickness,Width,Length or L,W,T?

  1. Wouldn’t it be easier to just have the rest of the world convert to T.W.L?   🙂 I always look at the thickness and width first, then check length to ensure I have enough.  But, I live in Canada, where we are still using imperial measurements for wood because of our close ties to our brain dead neighbours to the south. As to the software – use a config or ini file, and have it present either LWT OR TWL.  These need to be independent variables internally, so you are only altering the presentation layer.

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  2. I’ve written several of my own cut lists, but I don’t know if I’ve been consistent in the order I list length, width and thickness. It’s something I have thought about, but I never thought there was any standard. I just looked at an old list and I listed thickness first, then width, then length. I might have had a reason for doing it that way, but who knows? I would think people could understand any order as long as the columns were titled clearly.

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    1. I think it comes down to what you were taught at school and used throughout your life. We were taught to list it reverse and that’s how I’ve ever read it till I came across the US version.

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