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Tip #135
Maintaining Measurement Accuracy

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7 tips for choosing and using the RIGHT measuring & marking tools for the job

Measuring and marking-out your workpieces is a vital step in the process of building every project. A foul-up here will ruin your project and cause untold frustrations.

Here are 7 valuable tips for making certain this step in the process is done correctly:

1. Buy good quality measuring and marking tools. Cheap rules with inconsistent, 1/16" thick dimensional lines won't cut it...and neither will squares and angle markers that are not precise. This is one place where spending a few extra bucks will make a significant difference in the quality of your results.

2. NEVER use one measuring device for some of the components of your project - and another device for others. There are often measurement inconsistencies between rules that will affect the fit of your components.

3. Some rules are made of thick materials that position their surfaces 1/16" or more above the surfaces of your workpieces. If you're using a rule like this, tilt it toward vertical to bring the measurement marks closer to your workpiece to avoid the "parallax effect".

4. Thicknesses are best measured with a device such as a dial caliper. When buying such devices, remember that inexpensive plastic models with 1/64" graduations are available for woodworkers. If you can't find one of these, affordable metal versions are also available. These are typically graduated in .001" increments...more than enough resolution for any kind of woodworking task ! These devices also typically contain a feature that will allow you to accurately measure the depths of dadoes, holes and mortises.

5. If you're using a pencil to mark out a line, be sure it's SHARP. A dull pencil, held vertically to a workpiece surface during mark-out will surely produce an improperly positioned line. It's best to use a #3 or harder pencil, which will hold its point longer and produce a lighter line, requiring less effort to remove.

6. For the most accurate mark-outs on wood, use a sharp knife (such as an artist's utility knife) or scratch awl with its point sharpened to a knife-like edge.

7. When marking metals, glass, plastics or similar hard materials, use a diamond-pointed scribe.

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