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Dividers on a drawing

Set the divider to the dimension you want to capture.

I was modeling a Gimson table in SketchUp using scaled drawings Stickley had published in The Craftsman as a reference and having problems determining dimensions for individual parts using the scale. Apparently my thumbnail marking position on a ruler was an unreliable method for transferring dimensions – even if I managed to move the ruler to the scale without my finger slipping, it still wasn’t precise enough to measure small parts. If only, I thought, there was a tool that could let me capture a set length, then show that length on the scale to determine a dimension.

Place the dividers on the scale and determine the dimension of the part.

Place the dividers on the scale and determine the dimension of the part.

Then, a moment of epiphany, or at least of a moment of “why didn’t this occur to me sooner:” dividers, of course! Dividers are useful in the shop; they can be used to, amongst other things,  mark consistent lengths, lay out dovetails, and create proportions when designing.  They can also easily transfer dimensions from drawing to scale. It was a simple matter to set the dividers on the model, then on the scale, using it to determine the actual dimensions of the part.

— Michael Crow

• Now available: Michael’s new book, “Building Classic Arts & Crafts Furniture” (Popular Woodworking), with 33 shop drawings for Charles Limbert pieces.

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Here are some supplies and tools we find essential in our everyday work around the shop. We may receive a commission from sales referred by our links; however, we have carefully selected these products for their usefulness and quality.

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Showing 3 comments
  • Michael Crow


    I think I’ve given up on ebay, but machinist tools are always something I look for at garage sales and antique stores. My favorite machinist tool might be the 4″ double square.


  • Albert Rasch


    I’ve got dozens of dividers in different sizes, designs, and different purposes. There are a lot of machinist’s tools that are very applicable to woodworking, especially if you are the kind of person that needs to work in absolute, accurate numbers. Dial indicators help immensely in setting up machines or even hand tools. Verier or dial calipers help in understanding what a few thousands might look like in a shaving from a plane. 1-2-3 blocks for squaring and clamping items. The list goes on! Take a few moments and look at used machinist’s tools on ebay, then look up the different tools.

    Best regards,
    Albert A Rasch

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