All Replies on Why quarters?

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View JerryinCreek's profile

Why quarters?

by JerryinCreek
posted 05-12-2013 08:17 AM

17 replies so far

View sprucegum's profile


324 posts in 1163 days

#1 posted 05-12-2013 11:02 AM

I think it may be because the ratchet on the set works on many old circular mills was set up in quarter inch interments so if the sawyer was sawing 2” it was 8 notches or quarters. Just a guess not fact.

-- A tube of calk and a gallon of paint will make a carpenter what he ain't

View Picklehead's profile


953 posts in 1095 days

#2 posted 05-12-2013 11:18 AM

Back when this all started, that’s how much wood cost. A four quarter board was one dollar, eight quarter was two dollars! ;-)

-- You've got to be smarter than the tree.

View Monte Pittman's profile

Monte Pittman

19164 posts in 1503 days

#3 posted 05-12-2013 12:14 PM

1+ for sprucegum. My dad worked at a lumber yard for many years and that was his explanation.

-- Mother Nature created it, I just assemble it.

View Monte Pittman's profile

Monte Pittman

19164 posts in 1503 days

#4 posted 05-12-2013 12:14 PM

Welcome to LumberJocks. :-)

-- Mother Nature created it, I just assemble it.

View bold1's profile


235 posts in 1012 days

#5 posted 05-12-2013 01:33 PM

Set works are set in quarters, so are scaling rules. The lumber ind. was one of the first to come up with standard measures for buying and selling. Not sure if it was because of Gov. buying for ship timbers or where it came from. I’m guessing England.

View JoeinGa's profile


6193 posts in 1172 days

#6 posted 05-12-2013 01:40 PM

Welcome to LumberJocks, and THANKS for asking that. I always wondered that myself, but never asked :-)

-- Perform A Random Act Of Kindness Today ... Pay It Forward

View Bluepine38's profile


3265 posts in 2250 days

#7 posted 05-12-2013 02:15 PM

Welcome to Lumberjocks, hope you enjoy a long visit. I grew up with that quarters embedded in woodworking,
and never did wonder where it came from, just figured like cubits, yards and meters it was a measurement you
had to learn and use. Still having a little trouble with that metric in wood. In bolts and fasteners, I had to learn
it, but I guess I will never convert it easily to wood.

-- As ever, Gus-the 77 yr young apprentice carpenter

View BJODay's profile


478 posts in 1108 days

#8 posted 05-12-2013 03:23 PM

Masons often work in eighths. This removes any confusion if you were to mix fractions. It is better to say 2/8s of 4/8s than 1/4 or 1/2. There is no need to convert fractions to their simplest form if everyone uses the same fractions.

I’m not sure if that correlates to lumber but it is easier to think in quarters than mixed fractions. 5/4 instead of 1-1/4.


View Dallas's profile


3599 posts in 1652 days

#9 posted 05-12-2013 03:48 PM

OK, OK, I know I promised myself I wouldn’t do this, but I just have to!

Using another term for quarters just wouldn’t have the same ‘RING’ to it.
After all, how would it sound if the term was pounds, shillings, ounces, dimes, nickles or pennies?

Now I hate myself.

-- Improvise.... Adapt...... Overcome!

View JerryinCreek's profile


141 posts in 1007 days

#10 posted 05-12-2013 03:50 PM

I really like the explanations that refer to set works. That makes perfect sense and I will have to share this with some of the folks I initially asked, especially those at Woodcraft. For Bluepine38, I feel your pain for metric. I’m old enough to remember our weak national push to go metric. Thanks all!

-- Jerry, Johnson Creek, WI "If it was meant to be different it would be."

View ChuckV's profile (online now)


2784 posts in 2692 days

#11 posted 05-12-2013 05:25 PM

This thread led me to find a very interesting article from 1964 titled History of Yard Lumber Size Standards, coauthored by L. W. Wood.

-- “There is a very fine line between 'hobby' and 'mental illness'.” ― Dave Berry

View Airspeed's profile


428 posts in 1068 days

#12 posted 05-12-2013 07:33 PM

While I sold hardwood I simply found It easier to speak measurements in 1/4s. It just seems natural so I never questioned the origins. I’m curious about this myself now.


View BTimmons's profile


2287 posts in 1650 days

#13 posted 05-12-2013 07:41 PM

The only countries in the world that don’t use Metric as standard are:

Myanmar, Liberia, and The United States.


-- Brian Timmons -

View Clint Searl's profile

Clint Searl

1530 posts in 1526 days

#14 posted 05-12-2013 08:16 PM

It’s in the Constitution.

-- Clint Searl....Ya can no more do what ya don't know how than ya can git back from where ya ain't been

View ChuckV's profile (online now)


2784 posts in 2692 days

#15 posted 05-12-2013 09:33 PM

Myanmar, Liberia, and The United States.

A wise man will make all his decisions by asking himself “WWMD?” (“What would Myanmar do?”).

-- “There is a very fine line between 'hobby' and 'mental illness'.” ― Dave Berry

View bold1's profile


235 posts in 1012 days

#16 posted 05-12-2013 09:54 PM

You got me looking. Standard sizes in N. America seem to come in the latter part of the 1800’s thru the 1st WW, when shipping boards out of the local area became common due to the RR’s. But the quarter inch base seems to date before standardization, and was used when setting sizes because it was already recognized everywhere in the country. I’m still looking, but haven’t found when it started. I’m still leaning toward English, since the Imperial measure was used pretty much worldwide at one time. And since a lot of Imperial measure was based on craft Guild standards, it may run to the middle ages. I’ve used it since I was a kid and never thought about it before.

View shipwright's profile


6487 posts in 1963 days

#17 posted 05-13-2013 12:50 AM

I’m Canadian and I have been in woodworking all my life and never heard of “quarters” until I shopped in the USA.
In Canada we (most of us old guys anyway) still call a “four quarter” board a one inch board. I guess some of the younger set call them 25 mm boards but I haven’t heard anyone calling them four quarters here.

Maybe I just don’t frequent the right lumber establishments.
This is where I buy hardwoods. You won’t find any quarters.

-- Paul M ..............If God wanted us to have fiberglass boats he would have given us fiberglass trees.

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