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Theres a Better Way

How to Avoid Complicated Fractions When Measuring a Workpiece

comments (7) January 6th, 2012
grateful.ed Chuck Miller, editor at large

Video Length: 1:53
Produced by: John Ross

If you need to divide a piece of wood by some inconvenient fractional number like 11/64, you could do some fractional conversions in your head or on paper, but there's a better way.

David Kalin, from Oahu, Hawaii, likes to take the lazy man's approach to this by dividing numbers that are easily divisible in his head.


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What I'm doing is simply taking my tape measure, and instead of measuring straight across the workpiece, I'm taking it at an angle until I find a number that is easily divisible by 2. In this case, there's 18 inches. So I'll line up at 18 and mark 9 (though in the close-up you'll notice we split 16 into 8s instead of 18 into 9s). That is the halfway point in this board.

Let's say I need to divide this into 5 equal increments. So I find something that's easily divisible by 5, like 20. Then I mark at 4, 8, 12, and 16, and I've got 5 equal divisions.

Now let's pretend this board is a room, and we need to find the center point of this room. We take our tape measure and we measure out to a point that we know is a little more than halfway, or a little bit less than halfway (it doesn't matter which). We've got a 47-foot room here (representing feet with inches for this demonstration). So we're going to come out to 24 feet. Then we're going to go the other way and measure 24 feet. And now all we have to do is measure the distance between these two marks and split that short distance in half. That's the halfway point of our room. And we haven't had to do anything more complicated than that.

Thank you, David. That's a great tip.

posted in: measuring and marking tools

Comments (7)

Maritimus Maritimus writes: I third the metric idea!! Then maybe we could actually start using it up here in the carpentry field! Remember, their is only one country left in the entire world to officially adopt the metric system!

Good idea though David, since we never will actually stop using the imperial system we might as well make it a little more simple.

Cheers from the Great...... Green North. (Barely a lick of snow out there right now!)

Posted: 9:11 pm on January 11th

pchicoine pchicoine writes: I agree with Chapelin. You guys should use the metric system witch is an international decimalised system of measurement... but i suppose it's like asking everyone to speak only english... Have a good year from Canada !
Posted: 7:26 pm on January 10th

Okydoke Okydoke writes: THANK YOU for doing away with the adds at the begginning of the video!!! MUCH BETTER viewing experience - thanks.
Posted: 12:14 pm on January 10th

handyandy1 handyandy1 writes: Hi Chuck, watching you tip videos on dry wall repair I noticed that both tips leave the repair proud of the overall surface, my tip is to put a piece suitable lumber behind using a screw in the lumber to hold it in place then insert some drywall screws through the original wall into the lumber, this holds the backer in place then remove holding screw, cut and screw or stick the patch in place and finish with mud, sand to a flush finish, almost invisable finish.
Posted: 3:57 am on January 10th

WolfPackAlum WolfPackAlum writes: I want my money back! I just tried it on a dowel.
J/K :)
Posted: 10:45 pm on January 9th

Signmania Signmania writes: Great tip, but if you watch This Old House you'd already know it.
Posted: 7:28 pm on January 9th

chapeli chapeli writes: I've got an even better way.... switch to the metric system and avoid fractions all together :)
Posted: 4:15 am on January 8th

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