Folding ruler - I don't get it

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Forum topic by JeffP posted 04-16-2016 11:19 PM 2397 views 0 times favorited 66 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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573 posts in 815 days

04-16-2016 11:19 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question

So, I think I must be missing the point.

I have seen a number of youtube videos that include the use of one of those “old school” folding wooden rulers. You know the kind…the kind your father (or grandpa) used to use all the time before tape measures stole the show.

Can somebody explain it to me? I don’t see the allure. Why would one of these clunky (opinion) old things be anywhere other than a woodworking museum?


-- Last week I finally got my $*i# together. Unfortunately, it was in my shop, so I will probably never find it again.

66 replies so far

View MalcolmLaurel's profile


269 posts in 1047 days

#1 posted 04-16-2016 11:27 PM

For the same reason some people prefer hand tools to power tools; it’s the aesthetic enjoyment of using simple but well crafted tools instead of mass produced imported tools with no soul.

(I use both antique hand tools and mass produced power tools, and a folding ruler and a tape measure… depending on the job at hand and my mood.

-- Malcolm Laurel -

View Rentvent's profile


144 posts in 273 days

#2 posted 04-16-2016 11:41 PM

Tape measures have a loose little metal thingy at the end that guarantee at least 1/16th of an inch of inaccuracy.

View MalcolmLaurel's profile


269 posts in 1047 days

#3 posted 04-16-2016 11:47 PM

Actually the loose end is supposed to make it more accurate… it moves according to whether you’re pushing it against a surface or hooking it over the edge, compensating for the tab’s thickness.

-- Malcolm Laurel -

View Texcaster's profile


1103 posts in 1097 days

#4 posted 04-16-2016 11:52 PM

The rule at the bottom of the pic is a current 1M Lufkin. I call it the blind man’s rule, very easy to read and I prefer it to steel rules. All the other rules pictured are all potential edgebanding for me.

-- Mama calls me Texcaster but my real name is Mr. Earl.

View BurlyBob's profile


3494 posts in 1689 days

#5 posted 04-17-2016 12:10 AM

Jeff I’ve got an old Lufkin with a brass sliding insert for inside measurements. It’s a total game changer. I don’t know how I got along with out it. Give these old tools a try, they are wonderful and quite nostalgic.

View bearkatwood's profile


1175 posts in 435 days

#6 posted 04-17-2016 12:17 AM

I hate tapes for fine woodwork, I stick a folding rule in my back pocket every morning, it is my go-to tool for measuring.

-- Brian Noel

View Jim Finn's profile

Jim Finn

2391 posts in 2346 days

#7 posted 04-17-2016 03:28 AM

As an old, retired, tradesman, who has used folding rules, I agree they belong in a museum…I guess I do also.

-- "You may have your PHD but I have my GED and my DD 214"

View jumbojack's profile


1667 posts in 2048 days

#8 posted 04-17-2016 03:51 AM

I use my folding rule for case work only. The are great for getting inside measurements. However I will normally measure the folding rule with my trusted tape.
Recently was installing built in shelving into a pantry. NOTHING was square. The opening varied a 1/4 ” back to front. My folder saw this and with my trusty tape was able to cut the shelving accurately.

-- Made in America, with American made tools....Shopsmith

View MadMark's profile


970 posts in 877 days

#9 posted 04-17-2016 04:13 AM

Folding rules are faster. Since the rule is six feet, you’ll hear dimensions like “six fourteen & three quarters” sounds cumbersome but realize the saw man has pre marked the six foot length on the stock already. All he has to do is measure 14-3/4” from his mark & cut. This is faster than measuring 86-3/4” as with a tape you have to pay it out & walk to measure instead of leaving the rule unfolded.

These rules come with an inside measure that you can’t do accurately with a tape.

I have Incra tools and DRO’s and still have the folding rule at hand.


-- Madmark -

View Tony_S's profile


598 posts in 2507 days

#10 posted 04-17-2016 09:14 AM

Nostalgia and romanticism Imo…nothing more.

-- It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it. Aristotle

View Aj2's profile


634 posts in 1222 days

#11 posted 04-17-2016 11:36 AM

I like folding rules also.Tape measures always seem to be hiding when I need one.Plus it reminds me of work when I was under someone’s thumb.
Since they are a bit slower to use it helps me slow down.less mistakes maybe.

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile


13575 posts in 2042 days

#12 posted 04-17-2016 12:59 PM

ignorance of folding rulers is alive and well, obviously. More accurate and consistent than tapes, they lay flat on the work (not curled). File a notch in the brass ends and it’s a panel guage.

Or, don’t use it, doesn’t matter to me.

But I will suggest a drop or two of machine oil on each joint improves the action considerably.

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. -- OldTools Archive --

View jbay's profile


710 posts in 323 days

#13 posted 04-17-2016 03:06 PM

All I ever hear about on this site is how wood moves, wouldn’t they fluctuate.
I’m apparently ignorant because I don’t get the advantage over a well tuned tape measure.

I can hook my tape on the end of a board and measure of 86 3/4” faster, and more accurately, than I could find a 6’ mark then add 14 3/4” to it. I’ve never been any where that someone calls out “six fourteen & three quarters” ,

I guess I’m naive and ignorant :>/

Oh well, each there own.

Edit: Thought I would mention, I do have one hanging on my wall with my other antique tools.

-- Many times my “MO” involves Judging others, playing God, acting as LJs law enforcement, and never admitting any of my ideas could possibly wrong or anyone else's idea could possibly be correct.--

View TheFridge's profile


5682 posts in 910 days

#14 posted 04-17-2016 03:15 PM

Boxwood has been used for rules for years because of its stability. I believe it was the primary wood used in drafting rules way back because of that.

-- Shooting down the walls of heartache. Bang bang. I am. The warrior.

View bandit571's profile


14094 posts in 2107 days

#15 posted 04-17-2016 03:27 PM

Masons still use a folding rule…...of course, their’s are marking a bit differently.

Folder rules, can be used with just one hand, leaving the other free. Some even have a brass slider on the end, to use for that last inch or three in length, or as a depth gauge.

Stanley make their first million dollars, making such rules. Now Lufkin makes the better ones.

-- A Planer? I'M the planer, this is what I use

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