Knowing how to use the various measuring and marking tools will assure your project is being built as you planned it. The tools are generally simple to use, but if done inaccurately they will cause unexpected, and usually poor results.
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Measuring Tools and How They Work As woodworkers we need to be able to measure four things: alignment (straightness), planar accuracy (twist), angular accuracy (angles) and linear dimension (length). Of the tools we use for our measurements, only the dimension measures are calibrated so that we can say the measurement is too small or too large and by how much.
Levels are available in many sizes and shapes, the most common being 24" long in the style shown above. They can be made of wood, aluminum or plastic, some have fixed vials, others are adjustable. All levels have one or more vials for vertical and horizontal use, some have 45 degree vials. Inside the vial is a fluid with an air bubble, when the bubble is centered between the two indicator lines the surface is level.
Most Common Mistake. Not measuring more than once. A good carpenter measures three times and cuts once. Accuracy and care in measuring are all important. They can mean the difference between a well-put-together project and a sloppy one.
Broadly speaking, solid wood joints come in three types: butt joints, mortise and tenon joints and dovetail joints. It is commonly believed that they are difficult to lay out, but there's actually an underlying simplicity to it. Furthermore, you need only five marking tools and they, too, are relatively simple: a pencil, a marking knife and three gauges - marking, cutting and mortise.
One of the first tasks in any woodworking project or detail, or joint, is lay out. As much as I like guessing, that just won't work, in cutting or trimming wood. There are a number of marking tools available, and they all have their place, based on what you're doing. A simple lumber crayon is great for rough lumber layout lines, but won't help much with a dovetail joint. The same is true for a scribe, used for a dovetail, won't be of much use in laying out rough lumber.
Every woodworking project begins with a single mark-a line describing the size and shape of the work’s first piece. Inscribed accurately and followed skillfully, this measurement and others that follow will guide the woodcrafter unerringly toward successful completion of an object of beauty. But much is at stake: Inaccurate or erratic measurement can doom a noble design to the kindling box.