woodworking, sheds, cabins, barns, cottages

Secret Measuring Hacks and Tricks

A Handful of Handy Hints for the do-it-yourselfer.

Try them out to save time and money and make jobs easier.

1. Remove stubborn screws by trying to turn them in not out. This often helps to unlock stubborn screws. Work them back and forth until loose enough to remove.

2. When hammering small finishing nails use a small hammer and put your standard 16 ounce hammer aside. Save your fingers by holding the nails with needle nose pliers. Sometimes you can even use a comb to hold a small nail.

 Need to get a rough measurement but forgot your tape measure? Try these handy techniques to get a rough idea:


  1. A standard Canadian or American bill of currency is about 6" long .


  2. Try using your belt, from the buckle to the hole your belt notches into. If you know your waist size you've got a crude measuring system
  3. Most floor tiles are now 12" by 12". Lay objects on the floor on tiles and get an idea of lengths based the tiles.
  4. Most T-Bar ceiling tiles are 2 ft by 4 ft or 2 ft by 2 ft. These can be really handy for approximate measurements of floor/ceiling areas and entire rooms dimensions.
  5. Long distances can be paced off if you know the length of your standard pace. Calibrate your pace by first walking a known distance like the length of a known room, building or between two hydro poles placed 100 feet apart. Once you know the average length of your pace, you can use it to approximate longer distances.
  6. Avoid costly errors with tape measures that are printed in the wrong direction for your particular method of use. Right handed woodworkers who typically hold their tape measure in their left hand will want upright numbers printed from right to left. Left handed woodworkers will want numbers printed from left to right.
  7. To rip a board into equal parts, hook the end of the tape measure on one edge of the board and hold the tape measure on an angle until an easy to divide number reaches the other edge. Now you can easily divide the equal widths you need. For example, if you want to rip a board into three even pieces, stretch the tape across on an angle until you read 18 inches. Divide by three and make a cut mark at the 6" and 12" marks on the tape.
  8. When you need to measure a long distance by yourself and have no helper to hold the end of the tape, temporarily insert a small screw into the board, wall, floor, ceiling etc. and use the small slot in the end of the tape measure to hold the tape in place. The small slot in the end of your tape measure is designed to hook over the head of a small screw enabling you to measure long distances by yourself.
  9. Create an accurate right angle with your tape measure using the Pythagorean Theorem. Right angles are created by the 6,8,10 rule. Mark two distances on a board six inches into the board and eight inches along its edge. Take your tape measure and mark a triangle - at ten inches on the hypotenuse, you will create a perfect 90 degree angle. Use 2 by 2 boards to create a 3,4,5 or 6,7,8 triangle to square off big jobs like sheds and garages.
  10. If you don't have a pencil, use the built in serrated scribing tool found on the end of your tape measure to mark your work. If you need to cut a board to length and a perfect right angle without a square or pencil, use the serrated end of the tape measure and then apply the 6,8,10 rule outlined in item [8].
  11. If you don't have a spirit level, find an old parallel sided bottle and fill it half full of water. Tighten the cap well and lay it on its side on boards, surfaces, tables etc. This will give you if not perfect, a fairly accurate method of finding a level line or plane.



  1.  If you work with metal, crazy glue a small earth magnet to the end of your tape measure clip. Let the magnet hold the end of the tape measure for you. It's good for rough measurements however the thickness of the magnet although small will distort accurate fine measurements.


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