Choosing and Using Measuring Tools
Whether it's length, distance, or angle, when the measurement you take is critical, so is the tool — and so is your technique
As a woodworker, I'm obsessed with accuracy in measurements. I once froze a 25-foot steel tape measure and baked another one, to see if they'd still read the same. They came within a sixteenth of an inch of each other before and after, and it didn't seem to matter that I'd shelled out $20 for one and a mere $5.95 for the other.
The lesson here is whether it's lengths, distances, diameters, or angles, you can trust modern measuring tools. The cause of mismeasurement is the person who's measuring — you have to choose the right tool for the task and know how to use it correctly.
On the following pages, you'll find what you need for basic household measuring, plus a few specialized tools for extra-big and super-small jobs. If, like me, you worry about the veracity of your measurements, you can opt for electronic tools, which minimize human error. Even This Old House general contractor Tom Silva, a digital skeptic from way back, has been won over — sort of — by his sonic measuring tool. "I'm always surprised by how accurate it is," he says. "I check it with a tape every time."
See images (left).
WHERE TO FIND IT
General Tools Mfg. Co.
New York, NY
Dial Caliper (for small distances)
Best for: Measuring outside and inside diameters of pipes, screws, and drill bits.
Look for: 6-inch caliper, which can handle most household needs; dial readout that gives measurement in sixty-fourths or hundredths of an inch (metric models also available).
Shown: 6-inch dial caliper, from General Tools, $32.
WHERE TO FIND IT (CONTINUED)
Empire Level Manufacturing Corporation
Digital tape measure:
The L.S. Starrett Company
Stanley Tools Product Group
New Britain, CT
Swanson Tool Co.
Robert Bosch Tool Corporation
100-foot tape measure:
Keson Industries, Inc.