Hedge layers measure.

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Broch

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Jan 18, 2009
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It's long ago that I have reverted to a "black box" philosophy on computers, if I input this and there is reliable deterministic output I am going to be happy. There is no going back to abaci.

Oh, I still enjoy doing a bit of coding :) I recently built a USB keyboard emulator to make a console unit to fly Elite and MS Flight sim - in C mind; I wouldn't want to go back to programming in machine code and doing all the hex and octal conversions :)

I look at stuff I coded only 15 years ago and wonder a) how I had the knowledge and b) how I had the patience!
 
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Toddy

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Hey
Interestingly I used to lay hedges too
The measurement is actually at your finger tips
Put your first stake in the hedge put your elbow against the first stake and hold the next stake in the same hand , as you drive it into the hedge that’s a cubit spacing the two stakes two I f these make a yard 44 cubits makes a chain - a days work
I now teach measurement and inspection to engineering students and our first lesson is where measurement systems originate from

That's the same measurement that was used on the birlinns and longships to mark out where the oar rests were fastened :)
 

Toddy

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I read an account by a Brit who moved to Provence, and had a local firm of builders doing repairs to his house. He was puzzled by the measurements they were using, and finally realised they were using the old pre-Napoleonic measurements, based on the width of a man's thumb, the length of his foot, and span of his outstretched arms, etc - just like ours!
He said he did ask them what they thought about the metric system - but he said he wasn't sure what the answer was "because I couldn't find that word in my French / English dictionary!"

I sew, and I was taught to measure just using my hands. My handspan is eight inches, from the heel of my hand to the folded knuckles of the fist, is four, hand straight out is six, my thumb is two. Tip to first joint of middle finger is one inch. Arms full stretch is two yards.
To start a crochet square for a blanket, I wrap the yarn around my left ring finger tip to create the centre circle. For a baby's hat I use the tip of my pinkie.
Those kind of measurements, think of strides/steps too, were so commonplace in the days before any kind of standardisation.
 

Broch

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In the back of my fieldbook I have my finger, hand, arm and foot measurements so I don't have to guess when I measure tree diameters, leaf sizes, spore sizes, pole diameters etc. Two good ones are the diameters created when I touch my middle finger or my index finger to my thumb - lightly compressed they are 2" and 1.5" diameters :). I confess I've never tried to commit the rest to memory though.
 

champ

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Dec 20, 2020
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Horses can be apparently measured in hands.I always assumes it was across the palm including the thumb.Not sure if this is correct.
 

demographic

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Apr 15, 2005
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If you asked me to find 2' 6" 17/32 on a tape measure or rule, I could point it out to you, straight off, even if the tape measure / rul was only marked in eighths of an inch.
What few people seem to grasp these days is that, pre-metric, nobody needed to know all of the old measurements; once you started work, you learnt the ones you used in your job and ignored the rest. So fencers, hedgers and ditchers, landscape gardeners, and dry stone wallers worked with rods and chains - because they were the handiest sized units for them to use in their job. Boatbuilders ignored rods and chains, because feet, inches and eighths of an inch were the handiest units of measure for them to work with. Woodworkers went down to quarter inch, eighths or sixteenths, depending on whether they were carpenters, joiners or cabinet makers, and so on.
Those different measurements weren't dreamed up by some academics - nor were they based on an incorrect measurement of the circumference of the Earth (as though anyone could calculate that accurately in the 18th century!). They were worked out on the job by working people, and the units chosen were PRACTICAL for their particular job. Also, the sub-divisions of units gave you a useful graduation of measurements, instead of the 'everything divided by ten, whether it fits or not' approach.
All of that is ace, as long as yer boatbuilder stays a boatbuilder cos as soon as he changes job he needs to know another type of measurement. The world just doesn't provide that kind of lifelong career security.
Also, my father worked as a dry stone waller and two of my brothers still (sometimes) do, I can't say Ive ever heard them measuring in chains. Yards? Yes, chains no.

As for the carpenters measuring in sixteenths, put some noggins (or Dwangs if your Scottish) into a steel beam, measure the lengths of them in sixteenths and tell me how you get on. You'll either throw them in and they'll be so loose as to be no good at all or you'll need a lump hammer to bray em in and theyll be smashed to bits from the effort.
Thats how come Americans end up with terms like 8 3/16ths" heavy or 8 3/16ths" light.

The stuff about Whitworth was ok though, the main good thing about that threadform is the radiused corners which greatly reduced the stress raising aspect of them.
 
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Toddy

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My Dad was a boatbuilder and a joiner. Mostly he went on site, draughted out designs and then built pieces at the bench for others to install .
He measured right down to 32nds, and the thickness of veneers.
Boats he built a lot of too, and I'm pretty sure my Dad would have thought quarter of an inch was too far. He liked a good fit. None of this loads of fillers stuff.

M
 
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demographic

Bushcrafter (boy, I've got a lot to say!)
Apr 15, 2005
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My Dad was a boatbuilder and a joiner. Mostly he went on site, draughted out designs and then built pieces at the bench for others to install .
He measured right down to 32nds, and the thickness of veneers.
Boats he built a lot of too, and I'm pretty sure my Dad would have thought quarter of an inch was too far. He liked a good fit. None of this loads of fillers stuff.

M
I'm a carpenter and for most things a millimetre is there or thereabouts, a mm isn't a kick in the backside off 1/32nd with the thirtysecond being a gnats bits smaller.
Thats how come I ignored the clearly incorrect carpenters working to a quarter of an inch bit. Anyone who suggests that either doesnt know or is just trying to insult carpenters. It usually comes from cabinet makers when they're trying to big themselves up.
Mind, just before Christmas I put a roof on (or at least to the point when it was flybattoned anyway) and that was right to less than about 3mm on the spar heights. I know this cos I ran a straight edge over it after it was on, just to check.
Thats easy close enough for something thats getting slated.
The spar feet will be set to a stringline before I do the plumbcuts for the fascia and I'll not worry if its set within a couple of mm but backmold mitres have to be right and a milimetre gap is unacceptable.

Just cos someone works on site doesn't mean their work has to be rougher than someone in a workshop.

Don't get me wrong though, I'm interested in these old measurements and they provide valuable historical perspective. It's just that everyone measuring in different units holds us back. For an excellent example of a measurement conversion fail look up the Mars Climate Orbiter.
Thing worth remembering is that even the humble ounce has a few different masses and a volume measurement. This from Wiki.
Variant(grams)(grains)
International avoirdupois ounce
28.349523125​
437.5​
International troy ounce
31.1034768​
480​
Apothecaries' ounce
Maria Theresa ounce
28.0668​
Spanish ounce (onza)
28.75​
French ounce (once)
30.59​
Portuguese ounce (onça)
28.69​
Roman/Italian ounce (oncia)
27.4​
Dutch metric ounce (ons)
100​
Dutch (pre-metric) ounce (ons)
ca. 30​
Chinese metric ounce (盎司)
50​
English Tower Ounce
29.16​
450​

That kind of idiocy was ok when medicine wasn't really a thing that needed accuracy and things could just be a little bit bigger without it being the end of the world.
When the industrial revolution came round and having masses of different measurements and complex machines that got designed in one place, the plans written down and built somewhere else and if a pressurised steam boiler goes pop it takes out the entire street.

Having standardised measurements lessens the problems associated with the village over the hills chief having a 10% different sized foot or someone elses wheat grains (where grains of gunpowder measurements supposedly came from) growing slightly bigger.

Some people stll cant use a tape measure though and I reserve the right to rip them for it on site.
 
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Toddy

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Used to iritate the life out of me on a site and people wouldn't do a diagonal check to make sure the grid was actually square.

I think the advent of silicon filler joinery was a blight on the trade. Too many think it's acceptable to fudge the fit.

Sewing I still 'think' in inches, but I now draught in cms. It's simpler. 700mm seems enormous, but 70cms isn't somehow :dunno:

M
 

demographic

Bushcrafter (boy, I've got a lot to say!)
Apr 15, 2005
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Used to iritate the life out of me on a site and people wouldn't do a diagonal check to make sure the grid was actually square.

I think the advent of silicon filler joinery was a blight on the trade. Too many think it's acceptable to fudge the fit.

Sewing I still 'think' in inches, but I now draught in cms. It's simpler. 700mm seems enormous, but 70cms isn't somehow :dunno:

M
Never really sunk in with me at school with all that "the square of the hypotenuse is equal to the sum of the square of the other two sides" bit but then someone just called it the 3,4,5 method and even though it amounts to the same thing it made a lot more sense.
Thats what I teach apprentice's I have with me nowadays and from that they manage to remember the longer way.
Doing a corner to corner is simpler still.

As far as I know a lot of fabric patterns are in cms and I'm pretty sure thats what my wife uses to good effect.
I can't stand centimetres though and working with randoms that measure something and tell me something is 40.5 long when its actually 405mm I'd rather they just measured it in inches.
One bloke I work with is dyslexic and prefers to do some measurements in inches and thats fine, I get that.
 
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Toddy

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I think of it like temperature and the point doesn't worry me. Where as 16 9/8ths would, and 405mm seems huge.

So long as any design is clearly written, we manage fine. It's when they're mucked about and then things like the space shuttle disaster happen, that it's not fine.

Geometry's useful :)
 

TarryJack

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Dec 27, 2020
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All of that is ace, as long as yer boatbuilder stays a boatbuilder cos as soon as he changes job he needs to know another type of measurement. The world just doesn't provide that kind of lifelong career security.
Also, my father worked as a dry stone waller and two of my brothers still (sometimes) do, I can't say Ive ever heard them measuring in chains. Yards? Yes, chains no.

As for the carpenters measuring in sixteenths, put some noggins (or Dwangs if your Scottish) into a steel beam, measure the lengths of them in sixteenths and tell me how you get on. You'll either throw them in and they'll be so loose as to be no good at all or you'll need a lump hammer to bray em in and theyll be smashed to bits from the effort.
Thats how come Americans end up with terms like 8 3/16ths" heavy or 8 3/16ths" light.

The stuff about Whitworth was ok though, the main good thing about that threadform is the radiused corners which greatly reduced the stress raising aspect of them.
Demographic - I was talking about the way boatbuilders used to work back in the days when a tradesman could and did work at the same job for life, y'know? And not as things are now.
Secondly - try reading my post again; I did NOT say that carpenters measured timber in sixteenths of an inch.
Finally, re. the Whitworth thread form; as explained to me by the Swiss engineer I worked with, it's not just a matter of the thread being radiused. Whitworth calculated exactly what root and crest radius would give it the strongest grip, even in the rather weak iron castings prevalent in the late 19th century - and he also calculated the optimum angle for the thread to be as strong as possible, rather than just going for some handy angle, as is used in so many other threadforms.
 
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SaraR

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I miss being able to use decilitres (dl) and decimetres (dm) to describe stuff. They are perfect for many everyday measurements (baking, cooking, short lengths), but of course no point in using them if others don't understand you.

For cm vs mm, it comes down to accuracy and keeping numbers in a comgortable range. 40 cm might be the same as 400 mm in theory, but in practice 40 cm could be 398 mm or 401 mm etc. If you want millimetre precision, you use millimetres, but if it's not needed then 40 cm keeps the number in a convenient range. And to indicate a rougher estimate, you could use 4 dm. ;)
 
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Winnet

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Oct 5, 2011
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It does bring to mind the old discussion on the difference between precision and accuracy. I can give you a very precise figure but it may not be accurate.

G

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Toddy

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I truthfully dislike deci numbers.
It's like saying 1' 1" instead of 13".
It's just an added complication that's unneccesary in a metric system. 1 or 100 or the numbers of each, does fine.

I make miniatures. I have sewn 72 stitches to the inch cross stitch on the silk net used for microscope graticules.
Christmas cards less than 1cm square though :)

I have a ship model my father made, it has 72 hand sawn oak planks across a deck that is less than an inch wide, the rigging is made from human hair and the little pulley blocks that run on that actually work.

My Grandpa took the head off an ordinary sewing pin, drilled it out and screwed the head back on.
He made the drill from a needle.

All of those were done in imperial measurements, but now we'd do it using metric ones.

I think it's skill, and the application thereof that matters rather than the actual measuring system. Metric makes it easier simply because it is simple.

I do take the point about the Whitworths vs rigid metric divides and increases though.

M
 

SaraR

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Decilitres are great for baking, where it's usually 1 dl of this or 2 dl of that and it makes for a handy sized measuring cup, that fits neatly around the teaspoon and tablespoon measuring cups.

Centilitre is the one that annoys me - only used for shots and on drinks cans & bottles. :)
 

TLM

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Nov 16, 2019
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It's like saying 1' 1" instead of 13".
Hmm... here you are using bigger and smaller units or just smaller units, within 10⁻³ to 10³ the same can be easily done within the SI system with proper prefix. It is really just a matter learning to use the system. It is not always easy, I remember fighting with kgf and N, one does get used to it.
 

Toddy

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I simply quoted length.

I disagree Alison, decilitres is an unneccesary complication, especially with such small amounts.
200ml is simple, it's a fifth of a litre :)
20dcl? is unfamiliar enough that folks wonder.

Thinking on it, I don't know anyone now who uses decilitres or decimetres. It was part of the whole 'learn decimal' in the 1960's and 70's but was swiftly dumped by pretty much everyone.
It's not commonplace in recipes, or in measurements nowadays. I think to use them would utterly confuse a great many.

200ml, 200g ? folks are familiar enough with that. We buy things like cartons of juice and the like in litres or ml, we buy butter in 250g packs.

M
 
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