Tools - Measuring And Leveling

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.

Carpenter's pencil. This is flat to prevent its rolling away, and encases a large lead for drawing broad, easy-to-see lines.

Steel tape measure. 16' to 33' in length, this tool belongs in every home. A blade that is 1" (or more) wide will be safer and easier to use. Those with cushioned bumpers protect the hook of the tape from damage - likely to occur when the tape retracts back into the case. The play in the hook allows you to make either inside or outside measurements without having to compensate for the hook. Its flexibility allows it to measure round, contours, and other odd-shapes. When making inside measurements, add the measurement of the tape case, usually marked on the case.

Tape Measure Squares. Squares are used for laying out work, checking for squareness during assembly, and marking angles. The carpenter's square, also called a framing square, is used for marking true perpendicular lines to be cut on boards and for squaring some corners, among other things. One leg is 24" long and 2" wide, and the other 16" long and 1 1/2" or 2" wide. The better types have a number of tables, conversions and formulas stamped on the side to simplify many woodworking tasks.

The combination square is a most versatile tool. It has a movable handle which can lock in place on the 12" steel rule. It is used to square the end of a board, mark a 45-degree angle for mitering, and even make quick level checks with the built-in spirit level. It can also be used as a scribing tool to mark a constant distance along the length of a board.

Chalkline. This is a string or line coated with colored chalk used to transfer a straight line to a working surface easily and accurately. Pull the line out and hold it fight between the two points of measurement Then snap it to leave a mark. Some have a pointed case to double as a plumb bob.

Combination Square Levels. Levels are used to make sure your work is true horizontal (level) or true vertical (plumb). The trick is to always use the longest level possible. The torpedo level is 8" or 9" in length, with vials that read level, plumb and 45 degrees. It is used for small pieces of work. A 2 to 4 foot level is a must for any home woodworking project, like building shelves or structural carpentry.

Plumb bob. This is a heavy, balanced weight on a string, which you drop from a specific point to locate another point exactly below it, or to determine true vertical.

Plumb Bob

Tips on Measuring

  1. When many pieces need to be cut or drilled the same, use one accurately cut or drilled piece as a template to mark all the others. However, for greatest accuracy, always rely on your tape measure.
  2. Remember the old maxim: "A good carpenter measures three times and cuts once."