Built to Scale - Popular Woodworking Magazine

Built to Scale

 In Contributors' Blog, Woodworking Blogs
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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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

      That’s one piece I still don’t have.I’ve been meaning to get a variety of them, but the opportunity hasn’t arisen. Those smaller engineer’s squares are perfect for, well, smaller projects and edge work.

      I still check out ebay occasionally, but the connection from out here is so bad that it’s no fun.

      Still and all, there’s usually good deals on groups (lots) of dividers.

      Hey! i just saw your site, and went to take a look at it! Great stuff! Sorry about the exclamation points, but I am excited! I’ve just gotten into the Arts and Craft movement as I feel that 1: It fits in with my limited ability, and 2) As I refine my abilities, the pieces will also be become more refined, and 3) I like the look!

      Take care!

  • 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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