Metric vs. English: Which do you use?

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Forum topic by pashley posted 04-21-2008 04:00 PM 11884 views 0 times favorited 54 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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1043 posts in 3712 days

04-21-2008 04:00 PM

Here in the U.S., we are still stuck in the English system of measurement – inches, pounds, etc. – while seemingly the rest of the world uses the much easier, and more logical, metric system (the U.S. officically adopted the metric system with the Metric Conversion Act of 1975). Which do you use?

I admit, I’m still stuck in the English, just due to habit, I suspect, but am thinking about forcing myself into metric. You might be able to subtract 7 3/16” from 22 7/8”, but I sure can’t, at least not without the help of a calculator. Contrast that to 1051 MM minus 752 MM, which is 299 MM !

As you know, part of successful woodworking is not making dumb measuring mistakes! I would think going metric would be less prone to error.


-- Have a blessed day!

54 replies so far

View Thuan's profile


203 posts in 3812 days

#1 posted 04-21-2008 04:27 PM

I use inches for overall dimension becuase I can picture how long a foot is, and I use dimensional lumbers. My chisel set is metric, so when it comes to detail, i don’t measure, I butt, mark with a sharp pencil, then cut. or use a marking gauge. I’ve given up on fractions past 1/16th.

-- Thuan

View GaryK's profile


10262 posts in 3983 days

#2 posted 04-21-2008 04:42 PM

I use inches. I just think in thousands of an inch never in fractions.

-- Gary - Never pass up the opportunity to make a mistake look like you planned it that way - Tyler, TX

View Dadoo's profile


1789 posts in 3985 days

#3 posted 04-21-2008 05:06 PM

Ever since becoming a nurse I’ve found that the metric system is easier than previously believed. Math, measurements, conversions all come easy. But unfortunately, being an American means I’m stuck on inches! I’m just used to it I guess. And I go to the 32’s.

-- Bob Vila would be so proud of you!

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2141 posts in 3793 days

#4 posted 04-21-2008 05:41 PM

I use inches here in the states and when I am abroad I use metric.

I find inches to be simple based on the 1/16” kerf on a table saw blade. Base all cuts and dimensions on that, and english system makes sense

-- making sawdust....

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Scott Bryan

27250 posts in 3816 days

#5 posted 04-21-2008 05:59 PM

I am comfortable with either system. In my working life I was a chemist and everything revolved around metric measurements. With me in the shop it just depends on the situation as to what measurement system I will use.

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

View RusticElements's profile


167 posts in 3720 days

#6 posted 04-21-2008 06:39 PM

I grew up in Canada when it was imperial. Canada changed to metric when I was in my teens and I quickly grabbed hold of it. But any job I got I had to use imperial, after all, all the material was still produced in inches and feet, and that’s just what everybody used. On my own I tried to use metric as much as possible. Everything I built in my own businesses was done in metric.

Unfortunately, I moved to the US ~11 years ago and ended up being like a alcoholic locked in a liquor store. Old habits die hard. I’m looking forward to moving back to Canada where things are now produced (at least somewhat) in metric. It’s sooooo much easier to calculate.

-- Michael R. Harvey - Brewster, NY - - -

View Brad_Nailor's profile


2539 posts in 3952 days

#7 posted 04-21-2008 07:26 PM

The metric system is the tool of the devil! You go with what your used to and feet and inches are what I’m used too! Although I was thinking of going with another measuring format but the conversion is killing me..anyone know how many inches in a cubit?


View sIKE's profile


1271 posts in 3748 days

#8 posted 04-21-2008 08:01 PM

I keep telling every to use the Bobsrule measuring system, best of both worlds!

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

View ND2ELK's profile


13495 posts in 3768 days

#9 posted 04-21-2008 09:09 PM

I use inches when building a cabinet and metric when using the 32mm system. A lot of the hardware is going to metric.

God Bless

-- Mc Bridge Cabinets, Iowa

View fredf's profile


495 posts in 3704 days

#10 posted 04-21-2008 09:33 PM


It is a dilemma for sure. The metric system is so much simpler to do calculations but I still think in feet and inches.

We should have started teaching the metric system in the schools back in ‘75 and let the kids get used to thinking in metric. Instead we now have TWO systems to deal with, and the metric sure isn’t going to go away. We should have pulled the plug on the imperial system years ago (IMHO) people wont change until forced to, unfortunately

-- Fred, Springfield, Ma

View teenagewoodworker's profile


2727 posts in 3763 days

#11 posted 04-21-2008 11:02 PM

I use inches. I guess that thats what i’ve always used my whole life so i’m used to it now

View Blake's profile


3443 posts in 3869 days

#12 posted 04-21-2008 11:46 PM

I use inches divided into 10th’s, 100th’s, 1000th’s, etc. Seems like the best of both worlds, easier to calculate and more precise than fractions.

-- Happy woodworking!

View YorkshireStewart's profile


1130 posts in 3896 days

#13 posted 04-22-2008 12:01 AM

Like a number of the respondents, I visualise most stuff in imperial but work mainly in metric.

Most rules here have metric on one edge & imperial on the other, so when finding the half-way point I find myself glancing at both measures to see which is the easiest mental calculation.

When asking for, say, an eight foot length of 4” x 2” (never 100×50!) at a particular local timber supplier, he reminds us that they’re ”metric feet”!! Meaning 300mm, and therefore you’ll be an inch and a half short!

-- Res severa verum gaudium - True pleasure is a serious business.

View Eric's profile


875 posts in 3778 days

#14 posted 04-22-2008 03:39 AM

During a similar thread recently, I first heard about Bobsrule (as sIKE mentioned above). I have to say, it sounds like a solid way of doing layout. I’m really considering buying one and giving it a spin.

-- Eric at

View ChicoWoodnut's profile


904 posts in 3810 days

#15 posted 04-22-2008 03:45 AM


Do you have a rule that will measure 1/8” in a decimal? I know they exist but mostofusdon’thaveone

-- Scott - Chico California

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