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In my shop there is a seldom opened drawer full of tapes, rules, dial indicators and calipers of all kinds. Some instruments are metric, some are imperial, some have readouts in thousandths, some are, through use, are missing marks and numbers. Their common weakness is that they all rely on numbers. Numbers that often require conversion. So, in the drawer are also conversion charts, Imperial to metric and decimal to fractions and, calculators for those in between numbers.

In recent years I have grown increasingly weary and frustrated with these tools and their cumbersome and often inaccurate implementation. Some of which, I'm sure, results from operator error. 

I found a better way. Direct measurement. No need for numbered measurement tools.

The direct measurement set up tools I've found most efficacious are:

Adjustable and/or job specific, one time use, story sticks.

Four 1-2-3 blocks.

Keyway stock, 1/8" thru 1" in 1/16" increments. The 8" length ones fit nicely between the teeth of a 10" blade.

Open end wrenches.

Feeler gauges.

A good, large set of drill bits. Both metric and Imperial.

A good, large set of long hex wrenches. Both metric and Imperial (unlike drill bits, they don't roll)

Using these tools, in combination or alone, has vastly improved the accuracy of my cutting tool setups, decreased the time involved, saved a bunch of calculator batteries and, eliminated many math induced headaches and feelings of inadequacy...in the shop, at least.

I hope this has provided some food for thought. As always, comments, derisive, humorous and/or otherwise, are encouraged.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by Gene Howe

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I tool have a drawer with a lot of measuring tools/items. One of the ones that I really like is the FastCap left/right tape - the measurement ticks are direct read, i.e. they say 5/8, 13/16, etc. instead of lines to count. I find that very helpful.

For blade & bit settings, I use bar stock or something like that to set the bit/blade height on the saw/router.

Lately, I have been starting to use bar gauges and really like that - no measuring and remembering numbers.

As with all measuring devices, YMMV, but I think it comes down to personal preference.

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Hey, guys, have you tried the laser measuring things????  Wonder how acurate they are and ease of use.

 

I have a measuring tape without numbers on it.  I use this tape as a direct measuring tape.  Works well for me and confuses the hell out of anyone I toss the tape to.  :rolleyes:

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54 minutes ago, Fred Wilson said:

Hey, guys, have you tried the laser measuring things????  Wonder how acurate they are and ease of use.

 

I have a measuring tape without numbers on it.  I use this tape as a direct measuring tape.  Works well for me and confuses the hell out of anyone I toss the tape to.  :rolleyes:

I like that tape. Is that one of Lee Valley's April fools tools that went into production?

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3 hours ago, Gene Howe said:

Well Kelly, there's no more worries about lost measuring tapes.:lol:

 

I still have my tapes, not quite ready to give them up, so yes I still "misplace" them. I also have a FastCap 1/2" wide Metric/Imperial Direct Read. I like it for checking square - I use the metric side. But also, I am starting to like the bar gauges for that too.

 

One thing to add, when I am using a tape, once I start a project, that is the only tape I use on it. I have one that has been dropped enough that it has been downgraded to an outdoor project tape - the hook is bent and loose so I do not trust it for really accurate measurements.

 

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Like Kelly, I really like those Fastcap lefty/righty tapes, about the handiest one I've ever used (for woodworking). But for bar gauges I bought a bunch of brass stock in 1/16"square up to 3/4" square sizes. These bars (ex 3/4") were 3' long, so I cut some short lengths, and left 30" or so for long measurements (these have turned out to be useful on occasion). But I still needed some smaller (thinner) ones so I got some flat brass stock at the hobby shop, it's even thinner. I got the long lengths of brass from metalsonline.com, though I suspect that McMaster Carr would also have it (among others).

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+1 ( or +2?) on the Lefty-Righty.

 

I did a few projects in metric a few years ago, just to see how I liked it.   I learned two things.

1. DO NO DO CONVERSIONS.   Forget you know about inches.   It's ridiculous to be saying to yourself, "Now how many inches is 300 mm again??"  It's 300mm (or if you wish 30.0 cm) It only adds a layer of confusion.

 

2. Don't use more than one rule.   I have at least three tape measures with English and Metric markings as well as one with metric only.  At 1100 mm, one will read  1100 (mm), another 110 (cm), another (1m+) 10 (cm), and the last (1m +) 100 (mm)

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+ whatever on the Lefty/Righty tape from Fast Cap. No more marking while looking at the tape upside down. I find I make fewer measuring mistakes.

 

I do like using metric every once in awhile. They are especially useful when trying to divide up the space between A and B. No dealing with fractions and driving yourself nuts, (well in my case a putt). Want to put a shelf between two others, 50 cm apart...just mark off 25 cm. Go ahead figure out the distance in imperial.  What was that fraction, again?

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29 minutes ago, schnewj said:

+ whatever on the Lefty/Righty tape from Fast Cap. No more marking while looking at the tape upside down. I find I make fewer measuring mistakes.

 

I do like using metric every once in awhile. They are especially useful when trying to divide up the space between A and B. No dealing with fractions and driving yourself nuts, (well in my case a putt). Want to put a shelf between two others, 50 cm apart...just mark off 25 cm. Go ahead figure out the distance in imperial.  What was that fraction, again?

 

That is a GREAT tip about using metric to divide up a space. I will have to remember that one. THANK YOU!

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I have a wonderful inside feeler gauge tool Gene Howe gave me a few years back, I have used it many times, it's basic, no frills, but makes marking and repetition a breeze. I have quite a few measuring tools, but some are just memorable, like the ones folks make, and the ones that end up in my shop made by others, like Gene's.

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Use allen wrenches & drill bits (both standard & metric), combination squares (4" 6" 12" 18"), couple of tapes (one metric) and picked up  new set of machinist gauge blocks (albiet made in China) at a garage sale for $5; also have some square keystock, 4" & 6" digital calipers & another garage sale find for $1, nearly NIB Starrett 0-1" micrometer....too many years dealing with precision measurements I guess, but have resolved in my woodworking, it's not that measurements are exact, just that they match where needed.

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A useful tool that I have found is a digital 6" caliper the reads in metric, decimal and fractions. They are not that expensive (~$20) and save a load of time converting measurements. I don't have to cipher long hand, pull out a calculator or look at a chart taking up valuable wall space. Take a measurement and hit a button to toggle the readout between the three measurements.

 

Want to know what the closest fractional drill size is for a hole. Measure in decimal and hit a button for the fractional readout. The possibilities are endless.

Edited by schnewj

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13 hours ago, John Morris said:

I have a wonderful inside feeler gauge tool Gene Howe gave me a few years back, I have used it many times, it's basic, no frills, but makes marking and repetition a breeze. I have quite a few measuring tools, but some are just memorable, like the ones folks make, and the ones that end up in my shop made by others, like Gene's.

Glad you like it, John. Among other uses, it sure makes frame and panels easier, doesn't it?

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5 hours ago, Grandpadave52 said:

, but have resolved in my woodworking, it's not that measurements are exact, just that they match where needed.

Axiom 23: If you can't be right, be consistent.
Corollary: It's better for two corresponding pieces to be the same length than exactly right.

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4 hours ago, schnewj said:

A useful tool that I have found is a digital 6" caliper the reads in metric, decimal and fractions. They are not that expensive (~$20) and save a load of time converting measurements. I don't have to cipher long hand, pull out a calculator or look at a chart taking up valuable wall space. Take a measurement and hit a button to toggle the readout between the three measurements.

 

Want to know what the closest fractional drill size is for a hole. Measure in decimal and hit a button for the fractional readout. The possibilities are endless.

same here...

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