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My woodworing ideas and tips #5: Measuring thoughts

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Blog entry by Betsy posted 07-02-2008 02:32 AM 1340 reads 1 time favorited 14 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 4: Plywood thoughts Part 5 of My woodworing ideas and tips series Part 6: Marking and cutting »

Tonight’s tip runs along to something we all do, no matter if we are hand tools nuts, power tools maniacs or a combination of both. We measure, mark and cut. How we do that is important. One of the most important things in measuring, marking and cutting is consistency. Lack of consistency can lead to multiplication of errors along the way.

If you learn nothing else, and you should something else, learn this——use the same measuring tool throughout your project. When you are rough cutting this is not such a big deal. But when you get to the “this is where I want it to be” cutting, if you start with one ruler and end with a different, the chances are good that you will have different sized pieces. To check this—go to your shop and pick up two or three tapes, rulers, etc. and compare them side by side, chances are they are different. This difference goes to quality of what you buy. Rules with painted-on numbers are generally going to be less accurate than stamped numbers. A $2 tape will be less accurate, generally, than a $20 tape.

While we are on tapes, you know that little metal tip – you know the one—its the one that moves in an out and you are convinced that can’t be right. Well think again. The tip is supposed to move, the movement helps to compensate for the thickness of the tip itself.

The tip is designed to pull out away from the tape for outside measurements and in toward the tape for inside measurements – such as the inside of a case.

The inherent problem with the tip on these tapes is that they get loose over time. Generally because we are abusing our tapes. Would you do that???? Me neither. The more they loosen the less accurate your measurements. If you use that loose-tipped tape to measure an opening and then use a tight-tipped tape to measure your stock—- you are going to be unhappy with the result.

To compensate for the loose-tip/tight-tipped issue I was taught to start my measurements at the one inch line then add an inch to whatever I finish with. I don’t know about you, but I hate that tip. I always have a hard time remembering to add an inch. It’s not a hard concept, but sometimes it can be a hard concept to put into practice. Additionally, sometimes you have to stretch the tape beyond your arm’s length, then what? How do you keep that tape at the one inch line and still stretch yourself to the point you need to measure to? You can do what I do with the steel rule (keep reading) :-) It’s still not my favorite way to measure anything.

Think about this to, if that tip were not there you could not hook it on the end of a board and keep it there while you are stretching it out to make a measurement.

I prefer to have a longer steel rule for most of the larger jobs. This accomplishes a couple of things. First, I’m not wrestling with a tape – keeping it hooked on the end of the board, while stretching it and then marking my line. Secondly, I don’t have to flatten the curved tape to get an accurate measurement. The steel rule is always flat.

Now you say, but I like that hook because a steel rule can slip off the end or slide in on the board and then I’m off again. I solve this generally by using a small clamp to hold the steel rule in place. Takes about 10 seconds to clamp it and I’m assured that the rule will not move. Yep you can do this with the steel tape when you want to use the “start at the one inch line.”

Now that you have the measuring worked out——how about the marking your measurements?

I can’t run out of tips,,,, so that’s tomorrow!

Thanks for reading. As always, your additional tips and suggestions are welcomed to be posted here. I’m doing this blog for fun and to keep my mind in the game while I’m healing up. So anything you can do to aide and abet my endeavors is always welcomed.

Oh – I also welcome controversy—- if you don’t agree with me, please say so. Really. :-)

-- "Our past judges our present." JFK - 1962; American Heritage Magazine



14 comments so far

View teenagewoodworker's profile

teenagewoodworker

2727 posts in 3235 days


#1 posted 07-02-2008 02:45 AM

thanks for the post betsy!

View Roper's profile

Roper

1370 posts in 3180 days


#2 posted 07-02-2008 03:50 AM

hey betsy the best way i have found to keep my measurements on track is to us a story stick. i mark all the pieces i neeed on the story stick then make all my marks and cuts from it. they all turn out the same because i don’t have to pick up a tape at all. i don’t really like the floating tip on tape measures so i use a folding ruler if i have to mark things with a rule.

-- Roper - Master of sawdust- www.roperwoodturning.com

View Betsy's profile

Betsy

3338 posts in 3363 days


#3 posted 07-02-2008 03:58 AM

hey Roper—- yep the story sticks are great. I did not think I could explain how to make and use them though. I’ve only used one a couple of times. I watched a video of Frank Klaus using one and he explained it a little bit but not enough that I could turn around and explain it again. The stick can get confusing for me when I try to put too much on it. I’ve had pretty good success using them to mark hinge positions and/or key positions. But that’s only a couple of marks – nothing to complicated.

As far as the tapes go——it’s a love hate relationship for me. I like them a lot for roughing out my cuts, but I don’t use them at all when it comes to final cutting. I use the the folding rule same as you. I have the same rule my Dad gave me years and years ago. I broke off one end recently and almost cried (I know that’s very womanly of me—- you would never cry about that would you????).

Thanks for the post. Maybe you can post a bit more on the story sticks. I am quite sure I can’t explain them very well.

-- "Our past judges our present." JFK - 1962; American Heritage Magazine

View Roper's profile

Roper

1370 posts in 3180 days


#4 posted 07-02-2008 04:07 AM

yes betsy i would cry because mine was my grandfathers and he used it for many years. he was a great man and i miss him everyday, the tools he gave me fill me with joy everytime i use them.

-- Roper - Master of sawdust- www.roperwoodturning.com

View Betsy's profile

Betsy

3338 posts in 3363 days


#5 posted 07-02-2008 04:11 AM

Whew – it’s good to know that you men can get emotional too!

-- "Our past judges our present." JFK - 1962; American Heritage Magazine

View Roper's profile

Roper

1370 posts in 3180 days


#6 posted 07-02-2008 04:12 AM

ya we just cry in the shop with all the tools running.

-- Roper - Master of sawdust- www.roperwoodturning.com

View sIKE's profile

sIKE

1271 posts in 3221 days


#7 posted 07-02-2008 04:22 AM

You should of seen me cry when that board hit me in the hip last week ;)

-- //FC - Round Rock, TX - "Experience is what you get just after you need it"

View lew's profile

lew

11347 posts in 3222 days


#8 posted 07-02-2008 05:16 AM

Thanks, Betsy

Keep ‘em coming!

Lew

-- Lew- Time traveler. Purveyor of the Universe's finest custom rolling pins.

View Taigert's profile

Taigert

593 posts in 3308 days


#9 posted 07-02-2008 11:22 AM

I ditto using a folding rule and a storey stick. The only thing I use my tape for roughing out stock. I do love my Starret steel rules. Betsy they also have rules with steel hooks on them, thats the style I use. I guess it depends on how accurate one wants to be, I try to stay within 1/64th”.

-- Taigert - Milan, IN

View Sac's profile

Sac

268 posts in 3101 days


#10 posted 07-02-2008 02:57 PM

Great tips there Betsy! I love the idea of clamping a steel rule. Also the metal tip on the tape. Seems like I remember reading about that many years ago but had forgotten all about it. And the idea of using the same tape/ruler through out a project. Wow I never thought about different tapes measuring differently. I’ll take a look at mine today.

Thanks for these tips.

-- Jerry

View FlWoodRat's profile

FlWoodRat

732 posts in 3376 days


#11 posted 07-02-2008 09:02 PM

Betsy, I seldom measure anything with a tape unless I have to. Years ago, LOML asked me to “finally’ install some crown molding in our kitchen then asked if I need HER hellp to get it done (in THAT tone). I replied, thanks, but no, I can handle it. She went out to do a half-hours stint with her roses. When she came back in, I was sitting down, having a sandwich and watching golf on TV. In THAT tone again, she said… I thought you said you were going to to the crown today… to which I said,, check it out.. it’s done. Much to her amazement I had completed the task and the joints were almost imperceptable. Now, but not in THAT tone, she asked.. How did you do that, I wasnt there to hold the tape. I told her that I did not measure any of it, couldnt even find my tape measure. Then I explained to her how I did it. Two sliding sticks extended between the two ends, then clamped together. Then taken to the material and the ends marked and cut 1/16th over (estimated). The moulding was then flexed and stuck up and pressed flat. The extra length acted just like an extra set of hands. Two minutes later, the nail gun did the final work. After that explanation she asked… again in THAT tone.. If it was so damned easy, why did you wait so long to do it. I was smart enough to NOT answer that question. LOL

-- I love the smell of sawdust in the morning....

View Betsy's profile

Betsy

3338 posts in 3363 days


#12 posted 07-03-2008 01:55 AM

Geez Woodrat—I’ve been wanting to put up crown molding in my house. If I make you a sandwich and let you watch (yikes) golf on TV will you put up my molding to? I’d really appreciate it. :-)

Actually, all kidding aside, that’s a great tip to use when I’m ready to do this job here at the house.

Story sticks and extended sticks are great ways to get around the need for a measuring tape, ruler, etc. After all what did the crafters do before these came about? They used story sticks and extended sticks to do the job.

Thanks for reading and your suggestions, etc.

-- "Our past judges our present." JFK - 1962; American Heritage Magazine

View FlWoodRat's profile

FlWoodRat

732 posts in 3376 days


#13 posted 07-03-2008 10:13 PM

My pleasure Betsy.. What type of sandwich? I will work for food. BTW, my father, who was a carpenter, taught me that trick. He also taught me how to plumb a vertical with a bob, not a level, how to square up abutting walls without a framing square and how to CLEAN UP after him.

-- I love the smell of sawdust in the morning....

View Betsy's profile

Betsy

3338 posts in 3363 days


#14 posted 07-04-2008 10:58 PM

Woodrat——the best I can do is PBJ or bologna. I’m not very good at the kitchen stuff.

I like the fact that you learned to clean up. I bet your wife does too!

-- "Our past judges our present." JFK - 1962; American Heritage Magazine

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