Folding rulers?

  • Advertise with us

« back to Hand Tools forum

Forum topic by Brett posted 08-17-2011 06:08 PM 11748 views 0 times favorited 36 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Brett's profile


660 posts in 2705 days

08-17-2011 06:08 PM

Has anyone used a folding ruler for woodworking? There are two kinds of folding rulers that I’m familiar with:


and 2)

My dad had a folding ruler like the one in the lower picture when I was a kid, and I thought it was fascinating, but it seems to me that a tape measure would always be more accurate than either folding ruler. Anybody have good experiences with them?

-- More tools, fewer machines.

36 replies so far

View Murdock's profile


128 posts in 2506 days

#1 posted 08-17-2011 06:12 PM

I find folding rules like the 2nd one are good for measuring the inside of things like drawers.

With a tape measure you either have the body of it getting in the way, or if you bend the tape up you have that little curve caused by the bending tape that doesn’t let you get an exact reading.

I still use the tape measure if the exact number doesn’t matter and I just need a rough idea, but the folding ruler works great.

-- "Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new." - Albert Einstein

View whit's profile


246 posts in 3999 days

#2 posted 08-17-2011 06:19 PM

I have one of each of these types of rulers that I inherited from my Dad but really prefer to use a tape measure. If I need an inside measurement, two aluminum strips with a c-clamp make a really good (and really accurate) substitute.


-- Even if to be nothing more than a bad example, everything serves a purpose. cippotus

View longgone's profile


5688 posts in 3331 days

#3 posted 08-17-2011 06:23 PM

I have a Starrett folding rule and find it very useful in many situations. All rulers have their place.
I Use Incra and Woodpecker measuring devices for some shorter situations, the folding rule for others and my tape measure for longer measurements. My dial calipers come in handy for precise thickness measurements and small measurements under 6”.

View Murdock's profile


128 posts in 2506 days

#4 posted 08-17-2011 06:25 PM

Good call on the 2 strips clamped together.

I should add that I do not own one of these, but the one I have used belongs to my father and is not the wood type pictured. It is a very nice all metal number with embossed markings.

-- "Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new." - Albert Einstein

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27250 posts in 3844 days

#5 posted 08-17-2011 06:47 PM

I have a 6 and 8 foot rule (#2) that I routinely use for any measurements under 8’. I am much more comfortable with these than I am a tape largely for the same reasons that Murdock mentioned.

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

View crank49's profile


4032 posts in 2993 days

#6 posted 08-17-2011 08:57 PM

I used to think my dad was being stuborn for not using a tape instead of the folding rule (#2), but now that I advanced above all that metal working stuff I see the rule as very handy, especially for inside measurements. And besides, there is a pocket on carpenters overalls made especially for those rulers.

View Brett's profile


660 posts in 2705 days

#7 posted 08-17-2011 09:19 PM

It would be interesting to compare an inside measurement of a drawer made using the #2-type ruler above with the same inside measurement made with two strips clamped together and then measured with a tape measure. The purist in me wonders about the accuracy of the #2 ruler because of its “step-like” folding mechanism. I may have to pick one up cheap somewhere and give it a try.

-- More tools, fewer machines.

View Tedstor's profile


1643 posts in 2655 days

#8 posted 08-17-2011 09:35 PM

I have the four-fold model (top pic). I ordered it from Garret Wade and thought it looked like a classy tool that I’d use often. While it is a classy tool, I’ve found it doesn’t really suit me particularly well. I can’t point to any particular design flaw…...It simply didn’t grow on me. Combo squares, metal yardsticks, and tapes seem to work better for me.

View jamesicus's profile


132 posts in 2714 days

#9 posted 08-17-2011 11:30 PM

I have used Stanley two foot boxwood folding rulers such as this No. 61 and No. 62 ….......

.......... for the past 65 years—I love the large, clear numbers and graduations.


View Howie's profile


2656 posts in 2945 days

#10 posted 08-17-2011 11:58 PM

#2 is considered a Carpenters rule in my circles(retired pipefitter) I used a Lufkin Red End for years and years(not the same one) reads right to left or flip it over and reads left to right. I still use one in my shop on a regular basis.
If I have to get down to the nitty gritty I use an Incra 12” rule.

-- Life is good.

View jeepturner's profile


939 posts in 2815 days

#11 posted 08-17-2011 11:58 PM

I use the wood rule. I have two of them, but both are intentionally snapped off at just over seven inches. The two inches on the folding leg makes a nice clip for the pocket. I use it mainly for setting distance on my rip fence on the band saw. I picked up the habit, of breaking them, when I was working in the elevator trade, stacking rails in the hoist way. The two I have are remnants of my trade tools, but I haven’t done that kind of work for over twenty-five years.
Both of mine are like the one in the second picture, but without the depth gauge.

-- Mel,

View yrob's profile


340 posts in 3675 days

#12 posted 08-18-2011 02:01 AM

I use the first kind. It is perfect for laying out dovetails without doing any math. Like this:

1) draw a line the thickness of the other board across your tail board.
2) Pick a chisel roughly half the thickness of the tail board, say 3/8 for a 3/4 board.
3) on the line and on each side of the board, mark with the chisel. That is the location of your half pins.
4) from the middle of each half pin location. lay that folding rule in diagonal until you hit a number you can easily divide by the number of tails you want, for example 6” for 3 tails.
5) if you want 3 tails, make a mark every 6/3=2 inches.
6) with a try square carry the marks up the face of the board by drawing vertical lines. These will be at the center of each pin.
7) with your chisel, mark on the line each pin centering them on the vertical lines you’ve drawn.
8) finally, use your bevel and draw the slopes on each side of the chisel marks.

This guarantees a proper layout and that you will have the right amount of room at the bottom of the pins for your chisel.

-- Yves

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile


15367 posts in 2641 days

#13 posted 08-18-2011 08:10 PM

I have a number of 2’ folding rules and, despite trying real hard, haven’t found them to be the ‘reach for’ tool that my grandfather made them out to be. I’ve not given up, but use a 2’ less than I use a tape measure at the workbench.

If you’re choosing #2, it’s important to consider that Lufkin (the kind my dad uses and thus, I do too) makes many styles. The one we prefer also happens to make the most sense, and that is one with the first inches on the inside of the rule… in other words, opposite of what you have in the OP pic above. Then it sits flat to the surface for measuring. Need to watch for them, because the other style seems much more common. The Lufkin rule is the measuring tool I reach for first.

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

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


18285 posts in 3698 days

#14 posted 08-23-2011 06:14 AM

I have some and tried them, but I haven’t ever found them to be as handy as a tape. For inside measurements, the body is 2 inches, east to add to the measurement.

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View Sylvain's profile


708 posts in 2522 days

#15 posted 08-24-2011 05:05 PM

I have never seen the first one in Belgium.
The second model is popular in 2 m long (about 6ft) and of course graduated in cm; although, I have never seen them with the depth gauge here.
The folding rule is nice particularly if you have to measure vertically, lets say the height of a window. The tape would fold and fall on your face ;-)
The tape is easily put in a normal pocket and rolls automatically but if you can not hook the extremity, it is often irritating because it twist and bends.
Folding rules are available here in wood, in aluminium or in nylon. Wooden ones break easily. Nylon ones don’t break easely and are safer if you are an electrician as their are non conductive.
I have a nylon one and various tapes also.

-- Sylvain, Brussels, Belgium, Europe - The more I learn, the more there is to learn

showing 1 through 15 of 36 replies

Have your say...

You must be signed in to reply.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics