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Imperial vs Metric

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cookiemonster

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So what is the weirdest units anyone has worked with?
In my first job they were "going metric" and I had to convert a load of stuff from "gallons per cwt" to "000s litres per tonne". This was called the yield factor and concerned how much cheese was produced from quantities of milk. Yes, in my first job I was a human spreadsheet!
For me it has to be Indian lakhs and crores. Try as I did, when in India it still took me ages to work out quantities when those two were in play.

Also the Swedish mile. But at roughly 10 kilometres that is easier to get your head round.
 

Jelly

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For me it has to be Indian lakhs and crores. Try as I did, when in India it still took me ages to work out quantities when those two were in play.
10⁵ and 10⁷ respectively right?

I can see that being screwy when western systems effectively indoctrinate us to use steps of 10³.
 

cookiemonster

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10⁵ and 10⁷ respectively right?

I can see that being screwy when western systems effectively indoctrinate us to use steps of 10³.
It's ok with simple numbers like 1 crore or 2 lakh, or whatever. But when numbers get big and mixed up (or looks mixed up to me), e.g. 1,000 lakh, my head can't cope.
 

Mark Karacsonyi

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I use either but was raised with Imperial.....
for a laugh...read on....
I was in big DIY store near Bordox,FR....and was using my Stanley fat boy tape......like u do....
went thru the check out no probs but security pulled me over......a low educated giant of a chap.....
straight off he accused me of stealing it.....now everything getting loud and pushy....with plenty of spectators....
so no problem I asked if he would call the manager over.....
another dumpling in a fancy suit arrives.....
I explained the problem politely and got the usual French shoulder shrug......
When I opened the tape for them to see it was Imperial/metric, these are not available in France.....
So I gave em both barrels......made my day......hahaha.....
Had the same here in Budapest, in quite a few stores. On another note, I was helping fit a built in wardrobe in July. All the measurements were off by approx 6mm, the client was not too impressed. After a while we did a measurement comparison. The contractors cheap crappy tape was well off.

He then had the nerve to tell the client, the issues were due to me using a metric/English tape measure. The client didn’t go for it. I picked up the rest of the work.
 

wcndave

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The thing that's nice about Imperial for me, which is a point I see very few, if anyone, pick up on, has nothing to do with the scale whatsoever, but the fact that the divisions are done in fractions. Yes, 12" is nice, can be divided by 2/3/4/6 and 10cm by only 2/5 (to leave whole numbers). But what's really nice is that 1" is divided into fractions, meaning both multiplying, adding, subtracting, and particularly dividing is very easy. So I have 3/4" wood, I want to drill a hole 1/3 the width at the middle, just get a 1/4 drill bit and measure 3/8 from edge.

In metric, I have a 20mm board, have to get a 6.6666mm drill bit. (boards are often 19mm, which is even harder, however as that's a throwback to metric, it's not fair to include it here)

If we had rulers/tools that did fractions, so we had 1/2cm, 1/4cm, 1/8 cm, we could have the exact same convenience of the imperial system.
Of course 1cm is a bit small as the starting point, probably want to start at about.... 2.54cm?

Anyway, my point was that fractions are very very useful, and metric system tends not to use them, and imperial does, hence imperial can feel better/more intuitive.
 

Rich C

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If you had a 21 or 18 mm board though it would be easy in metric. 21mm is a pretty common size for planed timber. You can always find a number that is easy or awkward in either system if you pick it to be such.
 

TheTiddles

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The thing that's nice about Imperial for me, which is a point I see very few, if anyone, pick up on, has nothing to do with the scale whatsoever, but the fact that the divisions are done in fractions. Yes, 12" is nice, can be divided by 2/3/4/6 and 10cm by only 2/5 (to leave whole numbers). But what's really nice is that 1" is divided into fractions, meaning both multiplying, adding, subtracting, and particularly dividing is very easy. So I have 3/4" wood, I want to drill a hole 1/3 the width at the middle, just get a 1/4 drill bit and measure 3/8 from edge.

In metric, I have a 20mm board, have to get a 6.6666mm drill bit. (boards are often 19mm, which is even harder, however as that's a throwback to metric, it's not fair to include it here)

If we had rulers/tools that did fractions, so we had 1/2cm, 1/4cm, 1/8 cm, we could have the exact same convenience of the imperial system.
Of course 1cm is a bit small as the starting point, probably want to start at about.... 2.54cm?

Anyway, my point was that fractions are very very useful, and metric system tends not to use them, and imperial does, hence imperial can feel better/more intuitive.
If only the electronic calculator existed, or a slide rule, or a lookup table, or proportional dividers... in fact if only mental arithmetic existed then the “it’s easy to calculate” response could finally be relegated to history
 

Peri

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......... is very easy. So I have 3/4" wood, I want to drill a hole 1/3 the width at the middle, just get a 1/4 drill bit and measure 3/8 from edge.
That's confused me so much I'm not even sure if you're joking or not. :D


Really reminded me of that famous Terry Pratchett footnote:

Two farthings = One Ha'penny.
Two ha'pennies = One Penny.
Three pennies = A Thrupenny Bit.
Two Thrupences = A Sixpence.
Two Sixpences = One Shilling, or Bob.
Two Bob = A Florin.
One Florin and one Sixpence = Half a Crown.
Four Half Crowns = Ten Bob Note.
Two Ten Bob Notes = One Pound (or 240 pennies).
One Pound and One Shilling = One Guinea.

The British resisted decimalized currency for a long time because they thought it was far too complicated."
 
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Dr Al

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So I have 3/4" wood, I want to drill a hole 1/3 the width at the middle, just get a 1/4 drill bit and measure 3/8 from edge.
I think I can count on the fingers of one elbow the number of times I've needed to drill a hole of a size that's a proportion of the width of a board. Hole sizes in most of my projects are dictated by what's going into the hole, not how big the board with the hole is. You can always come up with examples that are supposedly easier in one system or another, but there's a reason most of the engineering and scientific world has switched to metric.
 

Phil Pascoe

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I work quite happily in metric, my problem is I can't estimate or visualise in it. I have no idea whether a 90kg 1.85mtr man is heavy or light, short or fairly tall, how far away 15K is, whether 17c is warm or cold, what 300ml of liquid looks like, etc.
 
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Rich C

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I think I can count on the fingers of one elbow the number of times I've needed to drill a hole of a size that's a proportion of the width of a board. Hole sizes in most of my projects are dictated by what's going into the hole, not how big the board with the hole is. You can always come up with examples that are supposedly easier in one system or another, but there's a reason most of the engineering and scientific world has switched to metric.
Agreed, also if you want to put a hole in the middle of a board you don't need to measure at all, just set a marking gauge or similar so it reaches the same spot from both sides, easy middle.
 

Andy Kev.

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I work quite happily in metric, my problem is I can't estimate or visualise in it. I have no idea whether a 90kg 1.85mtr man is heavy or light, short or fairly tall, how far away 15K is, whether 17c is warm or cold, what 300ml or liquid looks like, etc.
I'm a 1.83m, 95 kg bloke if thats any help.😁
 

wcndave

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That's confused me so much I'm not even sure if you're joking or not. :D

Really reminded me of that famous Terry Pratchett footnote:

The British resisted decimalized currency for a long time because they thought it was far too complicated."
I too enjoyed that footnote each time I read whichever discworld book it was.
I was not joking though.
what is 1/3 of 3/4? 1/4?
what is half of 3/4? 3/8.

Again, the other responses show that the point was missed, and in my opinion, it's a big reason imperial feels easy for woodworking.
It uses fractions.

I am all for mental arithmetic, working without measuring etc. However, if you have a pizza and 4 people, you cut across and then across again.
If there's 6, you cut across, then each half into 3. if 8 people.... etc....

Where I think it's actually slower with adding, and I've seen some youtubers adding various measurements, thicknesses, then leaving a 1/64 gap here, and 1/16 there, and end up with 29" 17/64 or something....

However, often fractions are incredibly quick and easy to use, and they seem to disappear in metric woodworking (and many other disciplines using metric).
You could/can have fractions in metric, they're just not used, so my point was not about imp vs metric per se (of course metric is the standard and makes more sense), but that we lost some of the working with fractions, for some reason...
 

Peri

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It's definitely a mindset. I work with engineering lecturers - some of whom are younger than me - who take the mick out of me because I cant switch from metric to thou's haha


Edit:
We have a variation of the following conversation every year with new students

Student - "I don't do imperial - it's old fashioned and no one uses it"
Lecturer -
How tall are you - they normally answer in feet.
How much do you weigh - majority still answer in stone.
When you go to the pub, what do you order?
What's the miles per gallon on your car?
What's your cars 0-60?

etc etc
 
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