Measuring and Marking are a big part of woodworking and anything we can do to make it easier and more accurate will only make the work more pleasurable. There is nothing worse than working on a project right up until assembly then finding that one or more of the pieces don't fit and the part or parts need to be re-made. Making thing right the first time is just so much easier. I find it's better to take my time to the build rather than trying to rush and make mistakes because often the mistakes are fundamental measuring errors that lead to parts problems later on.

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One of the tricks I learned recently was how to make a circle using a square, a pencil, and 2 nails. At first, I couldn't see how it could even work. Something about it didn't seem right and I wasn't able to visualize it in my mind, I had to actually try it out, and wouldn't you know ... it works ...

For me, it wasn't until I was actually drawing the first circle that I could see just how this technique worked, but it amazingly accurate for anyone who needs to draw perfect circles and either doesn't have a compass or doesn't have a large enough one, this technique is deadly accurate. 

Measuring Square Circles

In the past, some of the biggest challenges have been trying to figure out how to accurately mark darker woods like Walnut. I tried pencil crayons, white and yellow with poor results, then I found what they called a grease pencil, known as a china marker, which had a nice, easy to see mark, but it's very wide, so I ended up using a marking knife or, in many cases, a wide piece of painters tape and marked my lines on the tape,  then pulled the tape off after ... a quick and easy solution, but on rare occasions, the tape would come off on its own, which was not so good. So for now, I am back to the marking knives again and having better and consistent luck  ...

marking knife

Another thing I found the wide tape very good for was using it as a marking note area, right on the side of my tape measure. I often have a felt-tipped pen in my pocket so using it to mark tape measure sitting on the tape was easy. What I soon discovered was that once I had the measurements, I did not have to run off immediately to make the cuts as shown on the tape, but rather I could just peel off the tape and stick it on to the project for reference later on ... a bonus for marking and measuring. 

Tape Measure

Drawing straight lines on wood seems to happen a lot in my projects and I have a marking gauge with a pointed scribe that I use all - the - time, but often I am need of an actual pencil line because I am working with rough plywood for example and scribing it often doesn't work well because of the roughness of the wood. Some time ago, I thought why not just flip my marking gauge over, drill a hole in the bottom end of the shaft, just large enough for a pencil and now I can scribe on one side and pencil on the other ... perfect, now one tool has 2 jobs.

marking gauge

My Marking gauge does not have a scale on it, and I chose it for that, but sometimes it's nice to have an accurate scale so I decided to try and use my tri-square or as a marking gauge. Now some tri-squares have a small indent at one end or the other, that would allow you to hold a pencil into the line. I thought about filing a shallow grove into mine, but they opted to drill a very small hole, just small enough for a sharp pencil lead to go through so that when I draw a line the pencil lead is not moving around. Now I can draw super accurate lines, even mortise, and tenon lines, with my tri-square and get accurate results.

combination square

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Copyright Colin Knecht

5 Quick Measuring Hacks


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