Standard Way to Give Dimensions

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Blog entry by miles125 posted 12-09-2008 03:23 PM 17575 reads 0 times favorited 13 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Maybe i’m just being the picky sort. But i believe wood, possessing a directional grain, pretty much demands its dimensions be given in a standardized way. I can’t count the number of times i’ve run into problems with people giving wood dimensions in every way imaginable. Which can very easily manifest itself as a crap load of 14” long x 29” deep cabinet ends for a job having the wrong grain direction.

I was personally always taught that it should be expressed as thickness x width x length. Yea i know. On the other side of the pond they believe it should be the exact opposite. Kind of like the way they choose to express the day, month and year when giving a calendar date.

I hereby resolve that no expression of dimensions is inherently superior to any other. Perhaps whats needed is an international coin toss to decide once and for all a standard that will be recognised across the planet. I’ll even vote for lumberjock Stewart from Yorkshire be allowed to flip the coin!

-- "The way to make a small fortune in woodworking- start with a large one"

13 comments so far

View Thos. Angle's profile

Thos. Angle

4444 posts in 3958 days

#1 posted 12-09-2008 03:49 PM


-- Thos. Angle, Jordan Valley, Oregon

View Peter Oxley's profile

Peter Oxley

1426 posts in 3870 days

#2 posted 12-09-2008 04:07 PM

It would be great if everyone could agree on a format for dims, but I don’t know if it’s going to happen. What if we all agreed to label our dims with a descriptive letter? w=width, l=length, h=height, d=depth, t=thickness. I find that these are really helpful to me when I forget what order I took measurements.

-- -- --

View Russel's profile


2199 posts in 3934 days

#3 posted 12-09-2008 04:29 PM

I agree with Peter. Remember the correct order is difficult. I’m still having trouble with the order of my kids.

-- Working at Woodworking

View rikkor's profile


11295 posts in 3870 days

#4 posted 12-09-2008 04:36 PM

So would a 2×4 be a 4×2 if used on edge?

View mmh's profile


3676 posts in 3717 days

#5 posted 12-09-2008 04:52 PM

Thanks for the lesson as I’ve wondered what was proper. Being an untrained newbie, I always use the (T), (W), (L) with measurements just to make things more precise and understood since my memory has a deficit. I’ll try to keep that one in my head.

-- "They who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night." ~ Edgar Allan Poe

View miles125's profile


2180 posts in 4001 days

#6 posted 12-09-2008 04:59 PM

Rikkor, i would say in solid wood the smallest side would always be considered the thickness and noted first. As in 4 3/4” thick x 5” wide. The real problem of all this isn’t really noticable until you get to sheet goods with a grain direction.

Take the example of an adjustable shelf going in a cabinet where its deeper than it is long and you want to apply a nosing to the front edge. A 12” x 25” shelf is not the same thing as a 25” x 12” shelf, and it gives you a false indication of which edge is to be nosed regarldless of the graining problem.

-- "The way to make a small fortune in woodworking- start with a large one"

View TimberMan's profile


113 posts in 3460 days

#7 posted 12-09-2008 05:01 PM

I’d agree with the letter. I personally don’t care what order they are in just put a letter indicating what each stands for and everyone can figure it out.

View Rogue's profile


260 posts in 3465 days

#8 posted 12-09-2008 06:46 PM

It seems like the standard is to have no standard. Any real woodworker I know experesses their measurement in the same way you do. But that’s the “real” problem. In my small area I can count on both hands the number of real woodworkers. The rest are “wanna bees”, “neverwas” or my favorite “doneven tries”. Working in a commercial cabinet shop is like spending your days in a game of twenty question with people who know what they want but have no idea the proper way to ask for it. Even guys who work in the shop can be like little baby balling for their bottle because they don’t know how to say I’m hungry.

-- Rogue

View Dusty56's profile


11819 posts in 3683 days

#9 posted 12-09-2008 07:04 PM

how deep is the water ? how deep are your counter tops / cabinets ? How wide is your sideboard ? how long is your kitchen table ? There must be a book out there somewhere that lists all of the standard terms that we use and from what angle things are viewed from . L O L…this is a great subject , Miles ! : )

-- I'm absolutely positive that I couldn't be more uncertain!

View Grumpy's profile


23916 posts in 3846 days

#10 posted 12-10-2008 03:45 AM

Good luck Miles. But I don’t like your chances. LOL

-- Grumpy - "Always look on the bright side of life"- Monty Python

View jockmike2's profile


10635 posts in 4242 days

#11 posted 12-10-2008 08:25 PM

When I worked construction Miles, I was working with a newbie and he was shouting measurements to me. One and only once, he called out” 4 and four little marks”. I said are they the real little marks or the inbetween marks, he looked real hard and said, no, the’re the real little marks. I went to the boss and told him to get rid of the guy, or at least move him he was no help to me. It could have been 4 1/8 or 4 1/2 . I told him what happened, the boss asked me if he could shovel, I said that is something he might be able to do.

-- (You just have to please the man in the Mirror) Mike from Michigan -

View MsDebbieP's profile


18615 posts in 4156 days

#12 posted 12-24-2008 07:02 PM

I guess I’m back to being the shop-sweep. I measure by the “little marks” method, unless of course I have the measuring tape that labels the little marks :0

I agree with the confusion – with measuring and with dates (I’d love it if people stopped doing the /08/12/08 method for the dates , let’s just call it like it is! Dec. 8, 2008 or Aug. 12, 2008.) and for measuring remembering that you may not be talking to a professional, the L W H T letters are really helpful (even though I have to admit I would have been scratching my head at the “T” part) :)

Good discussion

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (

View spanky46's profile


995 posts in 3386 days

#13 posted 03-23-2009 07:57 PM

I was in the packaging business for twenty years and it was always length, width, and depth!

-- spanky46 -- Never enough clamps...Never enough tools...Never enough time.

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