Q & A: Taking Dimensions From Photos
Sometimes a catalog has a
piece of furniture that I’d love to
build myself. How can I get the
dimensions for a piece of furniture
off a photograph?
Try this method for scaling
Start by taping the picture to a
large piece of paper. Draw a vertical
reference line through the
piece so that it crosses the detailing
you’d like to dimension, like
drawers and doors. Use a triangle
to mark out horizontal lines
wherever you need dimensions.
These lines should be 90 degrees to the vertical reference line (Photo 1).
To determine the scaled dimensions you
need an architect’s rule. Architect’s rules are
three sided with a total of six scales starting
at 3⁄32 in. to 3 in. They are available at most
office supply stores and cost only a few dollars.
(Here we chose 80-in. for the height of
our cabinet. We used the 3⁄32-in. scale and set
the rule at an angle with the 0 on the top line
and the 80 on the bottom.) Draw a line
along the rule and measure each space along
that line to determine the dimensions of
For the horizontal dimensions, just repeat
the process with a horizontal reference line
and vertical measuring lines.
If the piece is too tall or too wide, simply
change the angle of the ruler to correspond
with your desired dimensions.
This story originally appeared in American Woodworker December 1999, issue #77.