10 Marking and Measuring Tips

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“Measure twice cut once” is probably the most commonly given advice for woodworking. With that in mind, we’ve rounded up some of our favorite tips to make measurement easier, more accurate and sometimes completely unnecessary!

Bench ruler

I wish I had three hands sometimes, when I measure and mark. After dropping a tape measure I don’t know how many times a day, I decided to have the tape held off my bench. Using a guide, I routed a 1/64 “x 1/2” deep groove into my countertop and installed a flexible metal adhesive-backed ruler. –Stephen Goad

Center line marker

Sometimes it’s funny build a gadget just because it’s a clear idea. There are many ways to draw a center line, for example, but this method is very clever. It does not require any measurement or adjustments by trial and error.

To build the marker, you will need two 3/4 “x 1” x 12 “hardwood rods, two 1/4” x 3/4 “x 4-1 / 2” Plexiglas links, and four screws. Buttonhead # 6 3/4 “in length. Start by making the links. Draw a line along the exact center of a link and mark two holes with an awl, 1/2” from each end. Stack the two links together and drill the holes using a pillar drill. (The holes should be just enough in diameter for the screws to slide.)

Mark the center lines along both wooden bars. Drill pilot holes for the screws that are 1 “and 5” from the end of each piece. Attach the links to the bars. Leave the screws a little loose so the links can rotate. Close the bars together and mark the holes in each link directly above the line formed by the inner edges of the bar – this is the precise center of the links, from one end to the other. Drill holes in these marks large enough to accommodate the tip of a sharp pencil. Countersink the holes if desired.

To mark a center line, move the bars closer to the butt. The marker works for boards up to 4 ″ wide. –Bill Wells

Find a fail-safe center

To mark the exact center of a board, I measure an equal distance from both ends and make two marks. This distance is only an approximation, no matter if it is longer or shorter than exactly half length of the board, provided the marks are reasonably close. So I just divided the difference by eye. –John English

Precision height gauge

To set the height of a router tip – by .001 ″ if needed – I created this simple holder for my own. Works on a router table or a portable router.

Two screws with washers secure the caliper. When I need the pliers without the holder, it is easy to remove. The exact position of the caliper on the stand is not important; it just has to be plumb.

To use the caliper, set the tip to approximately the desired height. Place the forceps on the tip. Extend the collet depth rod until it touches the top of the tip cutting edge, then rotate the face of the collet dial so that zero is right on the needle.

Slide the gauge away from the tip and push the depth rod down onto the table surface. The reading you get is the height of the bit. If the tip height is not quite correct, adjust the tip and repeat the procedure. –Fred Adams

Easy-to-read speed squares

I really like the brightly colored speed squares because they’re easy to spot at work, but I find them hard to read. To fix this, I spray-painted my speed squares black. After they dried, I used a 3M Scotch-Brite pad to remove the paint. This left black marks and numbers. –Dewey Armstrong

Depth gauge with zipper

I first used this technique to measure tire tread depth, but found it very useful in the shop for finding hole depths or transferring measurements. Just cut the “hinge” end of the zip tie, insert the straight end into the hole and zip it up in the correct position. You can measure the tie with a tape or simply transfer the measurement directly. 100 plastic zip ties cost about five dollars. –Ed Waali

The squaring of a square

If your old (or new) carpenter’s square isn’t exactly square, don’t throw it away. You can adjust its angle using a ball-point hammer and center punch.

First, check to see which side it’s off. Place your tongue along the edge of a board and draw a line against the blade. Then turn the square over and repeat. If the lines coincide, your square is accurate. If not, hit near the outer corner to reduce the angle; punch near the inner corner to increase it. –Hugh Lineback

Perfect spacing of the pins between the shelves

This is an incredibly simple way to drill equidistant 1/4 ″ holes for shelf pins. Simply cut a 1-1 / 2 ″ wide strip of perforated panel and cut it to the length of the panel. Cover the holes you aren’t using with masking tape, then place the strip on the side of the panel. Tape or tape the mask. Flip the mask over to puncture the other edge of the panel. –Heinz Rudau

Finger-guided ruler

When you don’t need an absolutely precise line drawn on a piece (say for a shooting / nailing line or layout line) all you need is a wooden folding ruler, a pencil and your two hands. Place the rule on your piece at the right distance, then hold the rule in your left hand with your index finger against the edge of the piece. With the pencil against the tip of the tape measure, run both hands along the length of the piece, using your left hand as a guide against the edge of the piece. –David Lyell

Giant pliers

Have you ever had to find the exact diameter of a large part? Here is a simple solution that doesn’t involve math. You will need 2 framing squares. Place the squares in opposite directions and slide them together, keeping the blades (wide part) flush, until the tongues (narrow part) are snug against the sides of the part to be measured. You can read the measurement from the inside edge of the square blade. –Larry Lundholm

Product Recommendations

Here are some supplies and tools that we believe are essential in our daily shop work. We may receive commission from sales sent by our links; however, we have carefully selected these products for their usefulness and quality.

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