Monday, May 18, 2009

How To Read A Ruler

Today's Stamping 411 post comes to us from Lee Conrey, a Stamping 411 designer from Florida.

We know that "how to read a ruler" may be not where all our readers are coming from, but what better place to start than at the very beginning! Have a friend who's new to stamping?? You can refer them here and the articles within, will help them get started!

Lee writes "Understanding all of those little marks on the ruler. A standard tape measure (or ruler) in the United States is divided up into feet and inches. Each foot is divided into 12 inches. The problem starts with the subdivision of the inches. In each inch there are a number of lines of different length. The longer the length of these lines, the larger the unit of measurement.

For example. 1. The longest line in the inch is in the middle. This is the half-inch mark and there is only one. 2. The next shortest line is the 1/4" (one quarter of an inch) inch mark and there are only two of these. 3. The third shortest line is the 1/8" (one eighth of an inch) mark and there are four of these. 4. The fourth shortest is the 1/16" (one sixteenth of an inch) mark and there are eight of these. 5. Some rulers will go a step further, down to 1/32" but this is often more precise that most woodworking cuts need to be.

On the typical ruler the basic (smallest) unit of measurement is 1/16". If you count the distance between two inch marks (one inch) you will find sixteen lines. This is because an inch is 16/16th of an inch long. Because we like to express fractional numbers in the largest unit possible we call it one inch. So it follows that if you have 8 lines, or 8/16" you have a half-inch or ½". And likewise, if you have 4 little lines, or 4/16" you have a quarter inch and so on.

At first it can be a little cumbersome to count these lines but over time you will learn to recognize the lengths and the different units of measurements they represent. This often starts with the ½" mark and progresses down the line. Over time a measurements like 59-3/8" can be located quickly.

OTHER MEASUREMENTS You might have noticed that every 24" on the tape measure are marked with a contrasting black background and every 16" is marked with a red background. The marks are used by construction workers for spacing wood studs in a wall or joists in a floor/roof. 16" spacing is used most commonly for load bearing walls and 24" for non-load bearing walls. The small black diamonds represent a less common spacing scheme.

The Operators


  1. Great post on reading a ruler..I will remember to send people here that are havin trouble figuring out their ruler measurements. TFS

  2. NICE!!! I am always asking my carpenter-hubby for help with any measurement that isn't easy to figure out...thanks so much Lee, this is awesome!

  3. Thanks Lee... I sent it to the group I am part of ... we are always saying WHaaaat? when people mention ruler references! =)

  4. I appreciate this info and have kind of a side question about the measurements .... I want the most efficient use of a piece of cardstock to eliminate waste. I love to layer stuff and I end up with so much scrap that I get overwhelmed. Same thing with fabric .... don't know what's up with that. Has anyone come up with a way to use very close to the entire sheet of either 8-1/2x11 or the 12x12? Or am I just going to have to "get over it!" LOL

  5. This is awesome. No one has ever explained it better to me. You are the best. Thank you.

  6. Thank you for this post. I often have to refer to my print out of this information when I need to know where 7/8" or 3/8" marks are on the ruler.

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  8. A ruler is one of the basic materials that are required in school. We remember using it to make straight lines during art classes. Your trigonometry teacher has also asked you to use a protractor, which is also a form of a ruler.

    We have been using a ruler since kindergarten (and maybe even before that), yet there are some who have taken for granted learning how to properly use a ruler. If you are teaching a kid on using one, here are some tips.