Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Choosing Measurement Tools

If You're Going to Measure Something, Measure it Right

You probably don't pay them much mind, but measurement tools are critical to completing a project well. A well-equipped workshop will have a variety of these tools, no matter whether your medium is metal or wood or you're a general all-around Mr. (or Ms.) FixIt. The range of available devices is impressive, but here are some basics.

Start with a Tape Measure

The most basic measuring device for the DIYer is a tape measure. They come in lengths from a pocket- or purse-sized six-footer up to a hefty 25-foot professional tape. When shopping, look for a tape that locks in place and has a sturdy blade that won't fold over from its own weight after being extended just a few feet.

A well-designed tape will have a hook on the end so you don't need a helper to hold it, and will have markings at the common on-center spacing for studs (16 and 24 inches). For around the house, sixteen feet is usually sufficient but a 25-foot number will come in handy for decks and other large projects.

Gadgets Galore for Measurement

If you like using up batteries, here are some more modern measurement tools after your own heart:
• A digital tape measure that reads the tape and shows the measurement in an LED or LCD display
• A self-powered tape that extends and retracts itself
• For the true battery-head, a laser or sonic rangefinder to measure distances without the bother of extending and reading a tape (though you should still "measure twice, cut once")

Any shop worth its salt will also need some additional "ammunition" on the measurement front, such as...

An Old Standby: the Folding Rule

A folding rule may seem "old-school" to today's tech-savvy crowd, but a model with a sliding scale in the last section is still one of the most accurate ways to take an inside measurement. Besides that, a folding rule is always fun to play with...

Precision For Small Items

Precision is essential when cutting dadoes or rabbets or for setup on just about any power tool. A 6-inch stainless-steel ruler helps you reach the necessary precision, down to 1/32 inch and 1mm.

Going Large

Whether you're laying out a fence or a baseball diamond, a 100-foot tape measure is darned near essential. Unlike those long-ago MIT students who measured the Charles River bridge by flipping a fellow student end-over end, most of us wouldn't think of measuring distances in Smoots. Boise-Cascade sells their dimensional lumber in feet, after all... Oh, sure, you can buy a self-retracting version - but where's the fun in that?

Measuring Angles

Protractors are great for laying out angles when you already know that the slope is 18-1/2 degrees, but how do you measure the angle in the first place? Without resorting to your high-school trigonometry textbook, that is? Easy: you measure it with an angle finder, and then you use the protractor!

With an assortment of tape measures and a couple of specialty tools, you'll be set for just about any project.

Find measuring tools for your workshop at eBay

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