Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Old Adage is True!

     When I was just starting out in this woodworking thing, some decades ago; I was told to always use the same tape measure for a project.  If you're like me, you probably have more than one laying around and grab whichever is closest or most convenient for the job.  For me, I have a 25 footer for big projects, a 16 footer for general stuff, and a 12 footer I keep in my coveralls for most of my work.  Well, today I went nuts trying to figure something out!
     For a new commission I have I needed a bunch of Walnut 2 3/16" wide.  Since I didn't put on my coveralls I grabbed the 16 footer from the bench.  I set the fence on the tablesaw to the 2 3/16" and, as is my habit, ripped a piece of scrap MDF to double check the setting.  It was off a sixteenth so my first thought is that the scale on the rip fence was out of adjustment.  Loosened the screws and slid it over but still wasn't right.  I grabbed a caliper and found the piece I initially cut was 2 3/16" wide as indicated by the scale on the rip fence and checked out the tape measure, here's what I found:

Things Don't Match!
     Using a gauge block that I know is accurate it shows the tape 1/16" short of the 3" block.  I know that sometimes the tip gets bent and can throw the measurement off a bit but no amount of messing around, trying to readjust the tip brought it back to acceptable accuracy.  This tape was just assembled wrong!  Guess that's why it was a freebie from a promotion -- you get what you pay for.
     You know, a sixteenth of an inch may not seem like much but if you had a certain area for a cabinet that had a number of pieces in it those sixteenths can add up in a hurry!  Just reinforced my belief in using one tape measure for a project starting with the measurement at the clients house and all the way through until the project is completed.  It would really suck to make a cabinet to fit a 24" opening measured with one tape measure only to find out that you're 1/2" off  and the cabinet is actually 24 1/2" wide when you get there because you used a different tape in the shop then what you used on the site!  Might be a good time to check all of your measurement tools in the shop and see if they agree with each other -- sounds like a good New Year's resolution!


  1. I heard once that 1/16th of an inch is a good tolerance if you are building a house but awful if you are building furniture.

  2. Oh so true, and sorry to admit I know that from experience!