Q & A: Taking Dimensions From Photos

Q:

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?

A:

Try this method for scaling from photos:

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 each element.

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.

 For in-depth instruction on building from photos, check out the DVD “Building Period Furniture from Photos,” by Mike Siemsen.
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