Measuring For Dummies
Each of us has, at one time or another, needed to measure something. A waist, an inseam, a window, a door, the length of a crack or the thickness of a given material, to name a few. After rummaging through the catch-all drawer in the kitchen or an elusive tool box we usually find the needed measuring device.
As apprentice carpenters we learned early the importance of having a measuring tape in our tool pouch or on our hip at all times. For those of us in the trades our tools become an extension of our persons. Without them we are quite lost.
You don’t need to be a pro to feel lost without a measuring tool. Just think of the times while out and about when you wished that you had had something to measure with. Such as when tooling around the hardware store, cloths shopping or trying to determine the size of a room when house shopping. What you may not know is that you probably had all the measuring tools at hand, literally.
Most of us are familiar with the pace method of determining the length of a room. A pace is equal to about three feet, hence five paces measure about fifteen feet. This is one example of many creative methods that can be used to derive a measurement without a traditional measuring tool. For those engineers who are cringing at this moment, the suggestions that we present here are for approximating distances and can in no way offer the accuracy of a measuring tape. However, they’re great in a pinch!
Using your legs to pace is not the only part of your body that can be used to measure things. Take your hand, for example. Measure the distance from the tip of your thumb to the tip of your pinkie. For most folks it’s about nine inches. Side by side both hands measure about eighteen inches. For a shorter, more accurate measurement use the distance between the tip of your thumb and index finger for which the average distance is six inches.
Wait a moment, keep your hands handy, we’re not through with them yet. When attempting to measure an inch at a time use your index finger. The first joint of an index finger is about one inch long. Therefore, for the purpose of this example, if you are average, you can determine the measurement of an object that is sixteen inches wide by using each of the three examples once in tandem.
Other examples of how to use your body to generate measurements include fingertip to fingertip with outstretched arms and the distance from the elbow to the tip of the middle finger which, by the way, measures approximately eighteen inches.
While being a human ruler has its merits there are several creative methods that might as close as your hip pocket (or pocket book). If your ever at a loss for a ruler, look in your wallet. Laid flat, a dollar bill is 6 ¼ inches long. Folded in half it’s about 3 1/8 inches; folding in half again it measures almost exactly 1 ½ inches. Folded in half lengthwise the 2 3/8-inch-wide dollar bill renders a measurement that is within a fraction of one and a quarter inches. And while on the subject of money as a measuring tool, you may find it helpful to note that a penny is exactly three quarters of an inch across.
Measuring the circumference of a round or cylindrical object can be impossible without a flexible tape measure handy. That’s only true if a piece of paper can’t be found. Wrap the paper around the object and make a mark at the point where it overlaps. Then, lay the paper on a flat surface and use a ruler to measure the paper.
Even with a measuring tape handy, many people find it difficult to read the tape when making an inside measurement such as a window opening. An alternative is to use an old adjustable curtain rod. Simply cut off the elbows on the rod, adjust it to fit the opening and tape the joint where the two pieces of rod overlap. Remove the rod and measure it.
Heaven forbid, you can even use a legitimate measuring device. As an example, instead of discarding the broken tape from a metal retractable tape measure try the following tip. Snip off a good six inch section of the tape and keep it in your wallet or pocket book. It can be especially helpful when checking the size of small items in the hardware store.
Here’s a trick that we learned as kids while accompanying our Mom to the fabric store. When selling fabric by the yard, the proprietor, Mr. Moore, would run the fabric across a yard stick that he had thoughtfully anchored to the counter top. This method works splendidly at a workbench when measuring string, wire and a host of building materials.
One final tip. When using a ruler or measuring tape, always read it straight on. Reading to one side can produce a distorted resultant. For a super accurate measurement, hold a measuring tape on its edge rather than flat against the surface. It is easier to read and to transfer a mark to the surface being measured.
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