Limiting your range of plans?

As much as I do enjoy coming up with my own designs and projects, building them in my mind, working through the specifics of design, I also look at a LOT of woodworking plans.

I’ve gotten to the point that I don’t necessarily care whether the plan is in imperial or metric, but I do know a lot of people who are only comfortable working with plans that use the same measurement scale that is ‘native’ to their country, and as such pass up on the opportunity to use some incredible designs just because they are drawn up in inches and not millimetres (or the reverse).

At times, it really does become necessary to work in one, or the other, or worse, mix the two in the same project.  In Australia for example, being metric and mm being our forte, we run into a constant problem that often not only are the plans in imperial, but so are the tools!  Router bits are imperial, that is just a fact.  Often the same with other cutters, such as dado blades etc.  So what do we do?  Abandon projects that require a conversion?  Constantly get out a calculator and divide the fraction then multiply by 25.4? Or just use a better calculator.

The FastCap Converter Pro, from Professional Woodworkers Supplies allows calculations in digital imperial, fraction, and metric all in the same calculation and then have the answer in metric or a fraction (and flick between the two).


Converter Pro

So if you wanted to add 2.52″ + 2 5/32 +37.5mm you can.  Easily.

(The answer is 6 1/8″ or 156.28mm fwiw (and yes, I’d just round it to 156!)

Or subtract the kerf of your blade, measured using a digital caliper.  Or whatever.

The point is, you don’t have to ignore projects, plans, tools that use a measuring system you are not confident with. And that is the advantage that having the Converter Pro in your pocket gives you.

5 Responses

  1. Couldn’t agree more. I have one of these and find it very useful. My dad always worked in imperial which gave me a headstart but since I have been into woodworking I now find I am comfortable in both which comes in handy.

  2. A very interesting post.

    Like a lot of other people I know in the UK, I find it more comfortable working in feet and inches for rough measurements and only then moving in to millimetres (metric is what I was bought up on!) for finished dimensions.

    I find it’s much easier to be ‘precise’ this way, when you have to, rather than to start diving inches in to fractions!

  3. I bought one of these and it’s worth every cent and more! I have recently been making some toys for the grand chiuldren, using old plans from the 1960’s that are set out in imperial. The calclator has been invaluable and very easy to use.

  4. Stuart, over the period of time that I have been reading and enjoying your column, you have reviewed many great tools, etc. But you never give a price. Even a ball park figure would be better than leaving us hanging, and wondering. I note that The Australian Woodworker is guilty of the same fact.

    • It is a valid observation, and a conscious decision on my part for a number of reasons:

      – prices change, both over a short term based on fluctuations in exchange rates and specials etc, and over the longer time simply due to inflation. A review of a product from 2 or 3 years ago could have a significantly different price now (in either direction), and that is only going to be exasperated in another 2 3 or 5 years time.

      – that feeds into point 2 – when companies have prices listed outside of sites they control, there are a number of people out there who then go to these companies and demand to get that price, even when it is or 3 years out of date.

      – I try to present products based on their performance, not on their price. I always (hopefully!) provide a link to the seller of a product so you can get the current, accurate price from them, so you don’t get left completely out in the cold. It is then up to the individual to make an assessment of whether the combination of my opinion/experience of the tool in question, and the price they have been able to source independently means it is a tool they want in their workshop or not.

      So many websites that do list prices (and links) are doing so to get a kickback from said company. I don’t (although I won’t disregard that opportunity if it ever presents itself). The is one exception to that – things listed in the “Store” I do get a small commission on any sales. But overall, I am not out there actively campaigning to sell you something. If you choose to buy it because of my experiences, then cool – both for you, and the company selling it.

      It is a marketing approach I deliberately choose, and why I don’t review every product under the sun – it has to be good (as a general rule) for me to want to talk about it. If not, I will either give it a less than favourable review, or simply not review it at all (and that has happened on more than one occasion). Even so, if there are negative aspects to an otherwise good tool, I still endeavour to get that info out there.

      So hopefully that explains a little of my rationale behind why I tend not to mention product price (although if it is particularly relevant, I have occasionally mentioned if something is significantly expensive or cheap for what it is)

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