Marking Up and Measuring

There’s an old adage used by craftsmen: “measure twice, cut once” and it’s good advice for beginners too. To cut, drill and generally make things fit together there are a number of marking and measuring techniques that will help you to make fewer mistakes, saving time and money.

The Basic Measuring and Marking Up Toolkit

For general DIY jobs like putting up shelves, modifying kitchen cabinets or just painting and decorating there are some basic measuring and marking up equipment that will help out no end. They are:

  • steel tape measure (3m)
  • short ruler
  • steel or wooden one metre rule
  • soft pencil
  • pencil sharpener
  • plumb line
  • spirit level
  • set square

Most of the measuring and level setting tools above need to be taken care of to stop them being damaged and going out of true. Use the plumb line (or a heavy object tied to a piece of string) to show you the true vertical to hang wallpaper against.

Measuring and Drawing Cut Lines

The one metre rule will be for drawing straight lines over long distances and the shorter ruler for measuring. The tape measure is used for longer distances, measuring the lengths of walls, kitchen worktops and the like.

Use the set square to draw lines at true right angels to an edge. This is invaluable for cutting shelves and worktops accurately. And the pencil and sharpener are of course for drawing the lines you will soon cut along. Although the pencil should be soft, so that they do not score the wood, it will need to be kept constantly sharp.

Marking Up Before Cutting

When marking up wood or other boards for cutting, make sure you mark which side of the line is the portion that isn’t going to be used. This is especially true if you are taking the piece away to a garage or shed for the cutting, since it’s easy to forget which way up or which way round the piece should be.

With lines longer than one metre, measure from an adjacent edge at half metre intervals. Then join those points up by drawing along the metre-long rule. This is tricky but as long as you keep a relaxed hand while you are drawing the pencil it should work out. Measure again afterward to make sure you got it right, before you start cutting.

Which Level is Level?

The plumb line and spirit level will provide points for reference for your measuring. There is no better way of making sure that your lines and cuts are level. But no house is completely square or level so once you’ve drawn lines and marked up, you may need to modify them slightly.

It’s no good being able to tell visitors your shelf is dead level if it looks wrong to them. So be prepared to trust your eye rather than the spirit level and line things up slightly off. For example if you are putting up a shelf that’s close to the ceiling and the ceiling is out of true, it might be better visually to line the shelf up with the ceiling than the spirit level.

Simple and Effective

There are of course many other measuring gadgets and devices that you can buy. But these simple tools will do most measuring and marking up jobs without costing the earth.