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Paul alan

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One thing I have very recently learned, that has increased my accuracy a lot, is that when laying out with a tape measure instead of just trying to pencil mark a specific line (which never in the past worked out for me even though at the time I wasn't aware) I can put a combination square or similar ) against the piece and across the tape.

This way I can be very precise when marking up pieces that are too long for a gauge or similar, it has " upped my game ".

What have been your brake through moments when marking and measuring?

I am embarking upon a journey into becoming the best possible woodworker I can be, I would love to hear the experiences of others that have gone before me.

Thank you
 

Paul alan

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Absolute accuracy is not important but relative accuracy is, ie, make sure all the parts fit together accurately.
That makes sense to me, things I once got hung up on don't seem to matter so much any more. It's like not being able to see the woods for the trees kind of thing.
 

Paul alan

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I suppose that's the theory behind using face edges for referrences
 

Cabinetman

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Hi Paul, I’ve never really worried too much to within a millimetre on the size of the pieces of wood I use as long as all the ones that have to be the same are the same, To do this I put them lined up next to each other with a try square across the left-hand ends and push them hard up against it so that end is dealt with they are all the same there, then I use a try square and a sharp marking knife and make a mark on the edge of the one furthest away from me at the distance required.
"Then I put my knife back in the mark and slide my try square up to it" and cut across all the pieces from that mark with the knife. Then if you can cut to that line you know that all your pieces of wood are the same length. Basic marking out once learned is very simple, The sentence in punctuation marks is the bit to remember. I wish you the very best in your journey. To start with, the basic tools you will need are a try square a marking knife a marking gauge and possibly a mortise gauge. I also like to use a 1 m long steel rule, mine is actually made of aluminium from wicks. A tape measure can lead to mistakes sometimes, I don’t know why but it just does. . Ian
 
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Paul alan

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Hi Paul, I’ve never really worried too much to within a millimetre on the size of the pieces of wood I use as long as all the ones that have to be the same are the same, To do this I put them lined up next to each other with a try square across the left-hand ends and push them hard up against it so that end is dealt with they are all the same there, then I use a try square and a sharp marking knife and make a mark on the edge of the one furthest away from me at the distance required.
"Then I put my knife back in the mark and slide my try square up to it" and cut across all the pieces from that mark with the knife. Then if you can cut to that line you know that all your pieces of wood are the same length. Basic marking out once learned is very simple, The sentence in punctuation marks is the bit to remember. I wish you the very best in your journey. Ian
Thanks Ian, my obsessive nature means I'll go over that until it sinks

I'll be trying that out tomorrow, I can see how that's going to be very accurate and for just that 1 tip this post was worht its weight in gold.
 

Trevanion

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I come from a bit of an "efficiency is king" environment so you mostly come up with various ways to cut down on time marking out and reducing possible errors.

If you're doing a lot of laying out with a common measurement (For context, spacing out glazing bars in a window sash evenly) it is a huge time saver and error-reducer to cut a small piece of timber to the exact length required and use that as your "measurin' stick".

When laying out on multiple, identical parts like many standard-sized door stiles that has multiple mortices to mark it is handy to make what's called a Rod or Storyboard which again is a length of timber or sheet material with the marks required laid upon it so all you have to do is lay the Rod onto the part and transfer the marks from the Rod to the part and square the marks across. This can be a huge time saver over individually marking out each part but is only really worth doing for bigger batches of identical parts or something more complex.

When making joints, it is almost always better and more accurate to use the timber you are using as the measuring reference rather than taking an actual measurement and transferring it to the piece, for example, for a straight forward lap joint between two pieces of timber you would draw a square line across one piece of timber, lay the other piece on top of it and line it up with the square line and strike the other pencil line against the piece of timber as your reference.

A tape measure isn't the most accurate way to measure, or at least using it the conventional way with the hook on the end isn't and I wouldn't trust it enough to rely on it for important measurements. If I'm using a tape measure for accurately marked measurements I draw the tape out and place the 100mm line (or 1" if you're old school) where I need to measure from and then mark the measurement +100mm, so say if I'm wanting to mark 821mm on a piece of timber using this method I would have to mark it at 921mm on the tape to account for the 100mm at the front end.

You'd be amazed at what you can do with a compass, a pair of dividers or trammel points for all kinds of layout.
 

billw

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I write up a list of all the measurements I need to mark out, and make sure that if I set my gauge to a certain setting, I do all of the marking out for that size at once, rather than changing back and forth, because that just increases the chance I'll set something out by a mm.
 

Cabinetman

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Trevanian, absolutely spot-on, some of what you said I didn’t realise I did it until I read it just now ha ha
 

spb

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Another thing that may or may not be a lightbulb moment: I've never seen a traditional marking gauge with a measuring scale on it, because almost all the accurate marking you need to do is transferring dimensions from one piece to another. The overall dimensions of, say, a table top, or the height of the legs, can be done by eye and what feels right, as long as all the joints fit together properly.
 

Paul alan

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I come from a bit of an "efficiency is king" environment so you mostly come up with various ways to cut down on time marking out and reducing possible errors.

If you're doing a lot of laying out with a common measurement (For context, spacing out glazing bars in a window sash evenly) it is a huge time saver and error-reducer to cut a small piece of timber to the exact length required and use that as your "measurin' stick".

When laying out on multiple, identical parts like many standard-sized door stiles that has multiple mortices to mark it is handy to make what's called a Rod or Storyboard which again is a length of timber or sheet material with the marks required laid upon it so all you have to do is lay the Rod onto the part and transfer the marks from the Rod to the part and square the marks across. This can be a huge time saver over individually marking out each part but is only really worth doing for bigger batches of identical parts or something more complex.

When making joints, it is almost always better and more accurate to use the timber you are using as the measuring reference rather than taking an actual measurement and transferring it to the piece, for example, for a straight forward lap joint between two pieces of timber you would draw a square line across one piece of timber, lay the other piece on top of it and line it up with the square line and strike the other pencil line against the piece of timber as your reference.

A tape measure isn't the most accurate way to measure, or at least using it the conventional way with the hook on the end isn't and I wouldn't trust it enough to rely on it for important measurements. If I'm using a tape measure for accurately marked measurements I draw the tape out and place the 100mm line (or 1" if you're old school) where I need to measure from and then mark the measurement +100mm, so say if I'm wanting to mark 821mm on a piece of timber using this method I would have to mark it at 921mm on the tape to account for the 100mm at the front end.

You'd be amazed at what you can do with a compass, a pair of dividers or trammel points for all kinds of layout.
Invaluable-thank you! I have been using a story pole whilst building worbenches in my shop, great idea!
 

Paul alan

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Another thing that may or may not be a lightbulb moment: I've never seen a traditional marking gauge with a measuring scale on it, because almost all the accurate marking you need to do is transferring dimensions from one piece to another. The overall dimensions of, say, a table top, or the height of the legs, can be done by eye and what feels right, as long as all the joints fit together properly.
A nicely fitting "seamless" joint is paradise to me, as I've struggled so much in the past...
 

Paul alan

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I write up a list of all the measurements I need to mark out, and make sure that if I set my gauge to a certain setting, I do all of the marking out for that size at once, rather than changing back and forth, because that just increases the chance I'll set something out by a mm.
I suppose that way is going to be much more efficient too
 

KingAether

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This might be the most basic of basic but while a measurement instrument might not be the most accurate, it will be consistent; always use the same one for the whole project
 

TheTiddles

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Absolute accuracy is not important but relative accuracy is, ie, make sure all the parts fit together accurately.
Precision, you are taking about precision! It’s way more important than accuracy in woodwork
Aidan
 

Just4Fun

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I come from a bit of an "efficiency is king" environment so you mostly come up with various ways to cut down on time marking out and reducing possible errors.
As a hobby woodworker I am at the other end of the spectrum. I have the luxury of time, which you don't have, but I am just as interested in reducing possible errors. Marking up is so important for getting a good result so I take my time over it to make sure I have it right. This approach would not work in a commercial environment but for me it pays dividends.

One thing I do is to make what I call sanity checks. Rather than double-checking something I check something else that is related. Say I am making a box with dovetailed corners. I mark the shoulder lines from the ends but check by ensuring the distance between the shoulder lines is the same on opposite sides of the box. For almost every measurement there is a related measurement that can be used as a sanity check. Double-checking might lead to making the same mistake twice, but checking something related usually exposes such errors.
 

Paul alan

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As a hobby woodworker I am at the other end of the spectrum. I have the luxury of time, which you don't have, but I am just as interested in reducing possible errors. Marking up is so important for getting a good result so I take my time over it to make sure I have it right. This approach would not work in a commercial environment but for me it pays dividends.

One thing I do is to make what I call sanity checks. Rather than double-checking something I check something else that is related. Say I am making a box with dovetailed corners. I mark the shoulder lines from the ends but check by ensuring the distance between the shoulder lines is the same on opposite sides of the box. For almost every measurement there is a related measurement that can be used as a sanity check. Double-checking might lead to making the same mistake twice, but checking something related usually exposes such errors.
Sanity check...I like that...stops you from going insane!
That’ll probably stick with me now
 

Andy Kev.

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My lightbulb moment for measuring led me to a way of working which Cabinetman and Trevanion have alluded to. The bottom line is that I end up leaving numerical measurements (e.g. 1/2" or 12 mm) early on the in the project. For instance, I'm just finishing the third and (probably) final version of a shoerack. I went to the space it is to occupy, spread my arms to the desired width which looked/felt right and then took out a tape to find out what that meant numerically. It might have been about 33". Then I marked a piece of wood at 33 1/2" - the only formal, numerical measurement in the whole project - safe in the knowledge that the final length had to be "a bit" less than that. Then it's a matter of working as Cabinetman described.

I might measure the the finished shoe rack out of interest once it's finished but it will only be out of interest.

The reason I Iike this approach is that the element of doing sums is removed and instead you concentrate on getting pieces made in terms of each other. Perhaps it could be described as an organic as opposed to a mathematical approach. You can also apply it to the measured drawings of published projects in that you decide which measurement determines everything else (often the overall length, width or height)* and then just work according to what is proportionally pleasing. The number you give even to that determining piece is suddenly more or less irrelevant. I think that's liberating.

*The proportions may well be more significant than the measurements e.g. a length : width ratio of 4:1 might be the key thing because it looks right. L:H might be 2:1. You're still not really interested in the numbers though as you are more in dividers territory.
 

RobinBHM

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When doing a series of measurements which are culmative, don't measure from one to another, get your calculator out and write down the measurements. Then put your tape on one end and mark them all off.

I actually used excel for marking out roof lantern rafters.
 

MikeG.

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I'm with all those who don't measure very much. Essentially, I will measure and mark a horizontal component, a vertical component, and a front-to-back component early on in the project, and then pretty much put the tape measure away. I derive my marks from the pieces I've made. My "Eureka" moment came when I swapped from using a Stanley knife to a cut down vegetable knife, which could get into a lot more places than the Stanley. This meant that transferring marks from one component to another was a lot easier.

If I was being really assiduous I would make a rod before I did any woodwork, rather than marking my first pieces with a "P" (pattern).

The photo below shows a pair of pinch sticks........amazingly useful and accurate, and you never have to worry about trying to read a tape inside something:

 
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