Expert Answers: Finding Accurate Measurements

Check out two questions about measuring that every DIYer should know the answers to.

Q: I have two questions about measuring:

  1. Doesn’t the hook end of a tape measure, which slides back and forth, lead to inaccurate measurements?
  2. When measuring a workpiece, the measurement usually includes a fraction. If that fraction is a simple one, such as 1/2 in., finding the center of the piece is easy. But most of the fractions are not simple, and neither is finding the center. Any suggestions?
- W.R. Hornsby, Toledo, OH

A: Many people have wondered how the sliding hook on a tape measure affects accuracy. The hook is designed to slide. When the hook is pushed in during an inside measurement, the distance from the outside of the hook to the 1-in. mark is an inch. When the hook slides out after it snags the edge of a workpiece, the distance from the inside of the hook — and therefore the edge of the workpiece — to the 1-in. mark is also an inch.

Regarding your fractions frustrations, here’s a simple solution: Eliminate the fraction. Hold the tape at an angle across the workpiece so that the width equals a whole number, which you can easily divide by two to find the center. For example, angle the tape on a 1x6 so that distance between edges and along the tape equals 8 in. (see lead photo). The center of the board is at the 4-in. mark. - HANDY