“The leading cause of woodworkers abandoning our craft to other hobbies, like basket-weaving,” says Bob Nobstone, publisher, “is stressed-induced measuring error.”
According to Nobstone, it’s a growing trend that must be reversed, one tape measure tick mark at a time.
“I’ve been woodworking for more than four decades,” Nobstone continues, “and I still get nervous every time a measurement doesn’t work out to an even inch. It’s a wonder I’ve ever been able to get the fraction marks right. And we know, through careful survey, that many of our readers face the same measuring angst.”
But the fear of measuring is no reason to give up woodworking.
That’s why Woodworker’s Journal proudly announces the newest addition to its “The Way to Woodwork” teaching DVD series. Coming April 1, to a Rockler store near you, is a 180-minute intensive video course on learning how to measure without the mania of traditional measuring tools. It’s called “Measuring Made Easy.”
“Look,” Nobstone continues, “I can’t spill all the beans without upsetting the bean counters, but I’m happy to share some highlights of this exciting new DVD experience.”
The video is broken into three chapters for easy navigation. Chapter One, which focuses on alternative measuring tools, “kicks it Old School…REALLY Old School!” Nobstone says.
Viewers are encouraged to hide their tape measures and turn to simpler options. For instance, there’s the “Red Dye #3 Measurement Method.”
“I love that one,” Nobstone glows. “Here’s how it works: Mark a part length on your board, just as you normally would. Then, fill a pail, bucket or bathtub full of water, carefully, to the same height as the line you need to measure on your board. Measure the water level, just to be sure it matches the tick mark. Now, add some water-based red dye and stir well. Dunk your board in, and you’ll get a perfect shading right up to your layout line. Then, measure just the red part uh, well, with your tape measure. Cool, huh?!”
The DVD also illustrates a “Four Finger Method” for your consideration.
“Horse height is measured in hand spans, so we’ve adapted the same principle to woodworking measurements,” Nobstone says. “If it’s good enough for horses, it’s good enough for us.”
Here viewers are encouraged to press the four fingers of each hand into a tight group, and use them to pace off a distance to be measured.
“Just plod off the distance by leapfrogging one hand over the other until you reach the part length you need,” Nobstone explains. “Then count the number of four-finger groups you get. Measure the length of one group, multiply by the number of groups, and that’s your part length. Easy!”
Nobstone clarifies that it’s important to first measure the width of four fingers together. Do it with a tape measure. And be careful with the multiplying part. This method is not easily adapted to fractions.
“Or, try our ‘String Theory’ measuring approach if you’re missing a finger or two—or if you’re just afraid of your fingers, for some reason. That’s a fair reason all on its own, but it’s a subject for a very different DVD.”
“String Theory” involves, of course, the use of string as an alternative measuring device. Viewers are shown how to stretch a length of string next to the distance they need to measure, then cut it carefully to length. Measure the length of the string to determine the workpiece length.
“Everyone has string, right?” Nobstone adds. “Measure that string carefully, and don’t stretch it too much. That could throw things off. Wire might actually be a better way to go, come to think of it — but we show string in the video. I guess it works pretty well.”
“Measuring Made Easy’s” second chapter, titled “In a Pinch, Try the Inch,” offers viewers a singalong to help make the Imperial inch less frightening and more user-friendly. Graphically enhanced with a bouncing polka dot to illustrate the marks on of an inch, the lyrics scroll across the screen while Bob and fellow Woodworker’s Journal staffers clap in time and point to the moving dot.
“’Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star’ has been a favorite tune of mine since I was a whippersnapper in diapers whittling sticks,” Nobstone recalls. “So we thought it was a natural choice of harmony to help folks get in touch with their ‘inner inch’. Here’s a verse — just see if it doesn’t get stuck in your head, too!”
In a pinch, try the inch.
We can do it, nothing to it!
Quarters, Halfsies, sixteenths too,
Measurements are up to you.
In a pinch, try the inch,
The tape’s your friend
And here’s the end.
Finally, the DVD’s third chapter focuses on simple measuring exercises to help sharpen your skills. Follow Bob around his shop as he picks up random items and measures them. It’s a great opportunity to take a guided tour through Bob’s scrap bins and junk drawers, all while demystifying the tape measure. And measuring stuff.
“It’s an hour of you-and-me time, buddy!” Nobstone adds. “And quality time with our tape measures. You can’t get that hour back, but believe me, you won’t want to!”
“The Way to Woodwork: Measuring Made Easy,” (item 8675309-8675309) sells for $79.99. Also available on Blu-Ray for $99.99, you’ll get a second hour of measuring exercises in Bob’s shop, plus deleted scenes and outtakes. There’s even a rap version by Busta Blade of the “In a Pinch” singalong — perfect for teens and millennials.
Buy the DVD or Blu-Ray format at a Rockler store by April 2, and you’ll receive a free sampler bottle of red dye.
String, however, is sold separately.