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We learn how to read a ruler in grade school, and for lack of more advanced instruction many of us go on reading a ruler for the rest of our lives – including in our shops. In many cases, however, the best way to read a ruler is not reading one at all. That’s why I chose to highlight the recent video from our YouTube channel for today’s post. Learning to use better measurement tools is one of the quickest ways to move through the intermediate stages of your woodworking career, and onto advanced projects.

The cool thing about this short video is that it highlights three simple marking tools, and shows you the progression from one to the next – in the same order you are likely to buy the tools. The last of the three is the measurement tool that I’m suggesting can replace your ruler in many cases. It’s the marking gauge.

Jeff Miller also displays his expertise in another fundamental area of woodworking skills development – body mechanics. There’s a reason why it is best to pull, rather than push, your marking gauge across the workpiece.

What’s not covered in this video is precisely how using a marking gauge can replace reading a ruler.

The idea here is to take a measurement with the marking gauge in much the same way you take measurements with a combination square, by placing the fence tightly against one side of the workpiece and extending the stem (or stock) out to the reference point, then locking the thumbscrew. This allows for greater precision in a range of tasks – without even needing to know how to read a ruler.

Reading a ruler is just one of many key skills in our ShopClass site

Reading a ruler is just one of many key skills in our ShopClass site.

Are you looking for more of these video tips to move you through the intermediate stages of your woodworking career? Subscribe to our ShopClass streaming video site, now with the option of a very affordable month-to-month rate of $19.99. We have loaded the site with a lot of content in this range of important mid-level techniques. (It includes, for example, the full contents of Jeff Miller’s video from which the above excerpt was taken.)

Tell us your tips for measuring and marking in the comments below!

Dan Farnbach

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