Imperial vs Metric - Page 2 - Woodworking Talk - Woodworkers Forum
Old 06-04-2020, 04:51 PM
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With the exception of home building and related industries most US industry is now primarily metric. Retail is quite a mix. For example, beer is sold by the ounce while wine and spirits come in fractional(!) liter quantities (3/8, 3/4 1-3/4). You find yogurt both ways, ounces or kilograms depending on brand. Same with soft drinks and bottled water, ounces and liters, both within the same brand. It's amazing how people will gladly suck down a supersize 1 liter soft drink but I'm sure would freak out at gasoline sold by the liter.

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Old 06-04-2020, 05:08 PM
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It's been my experience that most people who engage in this type of discussion don't really understand the topic in the first place. The vast majority of people think they are arguing "units of measure", when in fact they are just arguing "numbers".

"Fractions vs. Decimals" is completely unrelated to the discussion of "Imperial vs. Metric".

Once this distinction is understood, the average resident of this planet has very little concern over which unit of measure is preferred. That's because the average resident of this planet has very little need to convert units of similar measure. The most common cases where mixed units of measure are frequently employed is "Feet & Inches", or volume measurements in cooking recipes (tablespoon, cup, pint, etc). But this is actually a moot point, because mixed units of measure should be avoided, regardless which measurement system is employed.

As for fraction versus decimal, that is simply a choice that some people make to better assist themselves with a visual representation of the whole unit. All primary units get divided into smaller pieces. The only difference is the personal choice whether someone uses a base-10 division versus some other base-# division.
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Old 06-04-2020, 06:34 PM
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Cesar,
It is like this.

When it comes to spirits, the government and the industry pulled a fast one.

A fifth (US Gallon) is about 7.08 ML larger than a 750ML bottle. The significance is that for every 141.24 Liters of spirits the government gets an extra 1 Liter tax and the industry gets an extra liter of spirits to sell. It is all in the money. Most Americans don't have a clue as to how much 7.08 ML really is. (Almost ¼ US fluid ounce. By the time we got to the bottom of a fifth, ¼ ounce doesn't make any difference.)

As for petrol consumption, the number of Liters consumed per 100 Kilometers makes no sense to most Americans especially when the lower the number the better. We just don't think that way.

When the US tried to convert to the Metric system, the world was a different place. At that time most of the Shelias were full time, stay at home mothers. With one simple sentence and regardless of government intervention they made it so that the Metric system would never find wide spread use in the US.

I spent an hour or two trying to explain the metric system to SWMBO. I even showed her how she was already using the metric system without realizing it. She just looked at me and said, "I will not cook in metric." That was it. She and 80 or 100 million liker her said the same thing. Wives of the legislators in our governments revolted with the same sentence nationwide.

So in the US, given the choices back in the 1970s, 'Do we take the high road and starve or do we do nothing and get fat?' Well obviously we chose the latter. Remember that back then girls were taught "The way to a man's heart is through his stomach."

Today, however, with the work force being a majority of women, it may be possible to convert the US to metric. But I wouldn't hold my breath.

Unfortunately I don't think that the rest of the planet is quite ready for the US to convert. Some years ago I was reading the installation manual on-line for a woodworking machine. The machine was an European manufactured machine. It was this manual that caused me to believe that the US will never convert, but you be the judge of that. Part of the instructions said, ".... using a one meter 2 x 4...." At that point I realized that there is very little hope that the US will convert to the Metric system in my lifetime.

Rich
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Old 06-05-2020, 03:25 AM
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You reminded me that in my hobby, cooking, American recipes always in cups.
I have to convert to metric to make the recipe easy for me.
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Old 06-05-2020, 06:41 AM
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I get a chuckle that metric pipe threads adopted the British Standard Pipe standards and metric pipe is the same set of wacky diameters as US pipe.

I was in engineering and the first time I did a foundation concrete takeoff in meters, instead of feet and inches, I was almost done before I started! Another fun fact, a cubic meter of water weighs a metric ton.
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Old 06-05-2020, 11:49 AM
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I was lucky enough to be just starting school when Canada switched to metric so I'm bilingual and I'm glad of that. Eventually the USA will be totally metric simply because it imports so much from metric countries. I'll bet every appliance in your house is metric, all electronics are metric even the domestic US automotive industry has gone metric, my 2005 Envoy made in Oklahoma is 100% metric and my buddy tells me Boeing is 100% metric.

The human mind is so powerful that being able to look at a piece of wood and recognize that it's BOTH 1 foot long and 30.5cm long at the same time should be the easiest thing in the world. No one should have trouble with that unless they've decided they can't.

If a person uses Imperial units what do I care, I think of them as someone who speaks another language that I happen to also understand, I'm just glad no one is still using cubits! In the end we're still all woodworkers looking forward to a Saturday in the shop covered in sawdust.
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Old 06-05-2020, 12:09 PM
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Originally Posted by JayArr View Post
...I'm just glad no one is still using cubits!
Well... not everyone has given up on cubits. Several years ago when I was gearing up for building acoustic guitars and needed radius dishes I thought it would be fun to mark the radius in cubits.

Here are the two dishes and if you'll look in the top left corner you'll see the specific radius for that dish (15' and 28' for those that don't speak 'cubit')

David

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Old 06-05-2020, 12:22 PM
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Originally Posted by faith michel View Post
That is so funny David lol... but that is not true..
true, but cesarbiguetti fell for it and we all had a good chuckle

i graduated with a bs civil engineering in 1997. most engineering classes are taught in metric, cuz it is sooo much easier than imperial, aka standard. it is quicker to convert standard to metric, do the math and convert back to standard than it is to do engineering math in standard.
before i had to retire, i did a lot of automotive work (conveyors, automation, structural), 99% of automotive work is metric. i wished we'd pic a date and convert. the confusion would be massive, but the time would be short. most of the 40 & under crowd already knows metric, we dinosaurs need to get with the program
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Old 06-05-2020, 01:01 PM
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Originally Posted by _Ogre View Post
most of the 40 & under crowd already knows metric, we dinosaurs need to get with the program
You are not a dinosaur.. i always asking WHAT IS AGE ?? IT IS JUST AND ONLY NUMBERS.. Every year of your life is so beatiful..
Please be happy sir.. Because life is too short..

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Old 06-05-2020, 02:07 PM
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I use metric for metabox and blum hinge machines but as soon as there built I go back to the standards on the boxes there used in or on...
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Old 06-05-2020, 02:38 PM
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Originally Posted by _Ogre View Post
true, but cesarbiguetti fell for it and we all had a good chuckle

i graduated with a bs civil engineering in 1997. most engineering classes are taught in metric, cuz it is sooo much easier than imperial, aka standard. it is quicker to convert standard to metric, do the math and convert back to standard than it is to do engineering math in standard.
before i had to retire, i did a lot of automotive work (conveyors, automation, structural), 99% of automotive work is metric. i wished we'd pic a date and convert. the confusion would be massive, but the time would be short. most of the 40 & under crowd already knows metric, we dinosaurs need to get with the program

Knowing metric and using metric are two different things. There is less to learning metric than there is to learning standard Imperial. You can learn the system of metric in just a few minutes. It is all derived from one the millimeter.

I have no idea just what you worked with in college that was simpler in metric. As a Nuclear Engineering major i also took other subjects including some in the Civil Engineering arena.

The problem comes when you want to convert a whole society to another method of units. Virtually everything around you is now in the Imperial. If you could talk The manufacturers into changing you would have a major accomplishment. Many years ago when I had my MG-TD it used Whitworth. I had to have a set of Whitworth tools. Now I keep a set of Metric tools along side my other tools..

Many vehicles use metric as do other things we buy. If you want to repair anything you have to be prepared for whatever had been used.

George
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Old 06-05-2020, 09:43 PM
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Curiously, angular measurements have never gone metric, even in the metric system. A circle has been 360 degrees since time immemorial and remains that in both systems. Conveniently, a circle can be divided in 1/2, 1/3, 1/4, 1/5, 1/6, 1/9, 1/10, and 1/12 and the arc remains an integral degree measurement. Anyone out there think a 100 degree circle makes sense?

Imperial surveying was originally built on base 2. A mile was 320 rods. See how many times a square mile can be quartered with the sides of the plots remaining an integral number of rods. A quarter section farm is 160 rods square. A 40 acre field is 80 rods square. A 10 acre plot is 40 rods square.

Prior to the development of standardized measurement, it would not have occurred to surveyors, carpenters, and tailors that they needed the same units to measure length. They built measurement systems suitedto their crafts rather than having to adapt their crafts to arbitrary measurements.
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Old 06-05-2020, 10:15 PM
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if you want to go down a similar rabbit hole, try getting into active yeast, dry yeast, instant yeast, cake yeast, Ozs , teaspoons etc.

Retired engineer-bureaucrat in Oakland, CA. Been working with wood since the 1960's. From the 50's if you count the scrap woodpile on the farm!
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Old 06-05-2020, 10:51 PM
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One of my first jobs was on a survey crew, over 55 years ago. Feet and tenths had be scratching my head. I asked my party chief why tenths and why not feet and inches? His answer has stayed with me all these years. I'll sanitize it here for a family forum. "The only people that use feet and inches are carpenters and ladies of the evening."

Rich
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Old 06-05-2020, 10:55 PM
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Use the system that you are most comfortable with, furniture made from dimension lumber looks really amateurish, so cut those 2X4's to whatever dimension you wish, inches, millimetres, cubits, pick a size that looks good and go for it. Nobody will have any idea what ruler you used, they will only know if they like it or not.

Wise men speak because they have something to say; fools because they have to say something -Plato

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Old 06-06-2020, 12:44 AM
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Curiously, angular measurements have never gone metric, even in the metric system. A circle has been 360 degrees since time immemorial and remains that in both systems.

Well, yes and no. In a lot of engineering a circle is divided into radians. there are pi (3.14159) radians in 180 degrees. It's a ratio whereby you take the radius of the circle and lay it around the arc, both being the same length. You get 6.28 radians per circle. It makes a lot of math involving sine waves a lot simpler.
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Old 06-06-2020, 10:58 AM
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I was told in high school over 50 years ago that we would all be converting to the metric system.
The best I can say is that "America inches towards the metric system."
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Old 06-06-2020, 12:15 PM
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Serious post:

I would like to thank @Rick Christopherson for his excellent points, which I had not fully considered. The issues are not only about common units of measurement. (For "standard" woodworking, I use inches, not feet and inches.) Rick also pointed out that when we do woodworking in standard units, we tend to use fractional notation, but when we work in metric, we use decimal notation. I am comfortable with either notation style and the math that goes with them, but I can see how switching between them could be more challenging for others.

Since I got back into woodworking a few years ago, I tell my spouse how surprised I am at how much math I have needed - geometry, geometric construction, and trigonometry in particular. I store a calculator with trig functions and a small drafting set in the garage, and use them. A compass, dividers, and straightedge can do a lot. I like the old vintage US and German drafting tools, and bought a small vintage drafting set on eBay for around \$10 to keep in the garage. I suspect that most woodworkers don't bother with math and drafting tools. A practiced eye and a lifetime of experience is faster and better.

I would also like to thank @NoThankyou for giving a plausible reason for why we didn't make the expected switch to the metric system in the late 1960s and early 1970s. It makes sense to me. I like to cook, and I bake the bread for the family, so I get it. I still use teaspoons, tablespoons, and cups in fractional notation. I would be happy to switch to metric, but all of my recipes (and those I find online) are not. For the last two decades, many volume measurements are done by weight, using a digital kitchen scale. It faster and far more consistent.

For those who grew up with metric cooking, 3 teaspoons = 1 tablespoon, but 2 tablespoons = 1/8 cup. Ouch.

In response to @JayArr's post, I have never heard of anyone using radians or grads for angle measurements in woodworking. Most woodworkers have never heard of either scale. I have seen posts here mentioning "dms" notation, but my work has never needed precision finer than 0.5 degrees. The need for 0.5 degree precision happened only once so far, but the 0.5 degrees made a noticeable difference for that project.

I still wish we could bite the bullet, pick a day, and switch to common international standards here in the US. It will be a painful and expensive investment, but the obvious payback should appear in less than a decade, two at most.
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Old 06-06-2020, 06:13 PM
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I have to say that I've really enjoyed reading this thread. Thanks all.

Now I will put my two penneth in.

I was educated at a time when we Brits were changing over from Imperial to Metric system, and I'm well versed in both. Working in the aerospace industry for many years has shown me a totally confused world, where engineers making a metric sized part will complain that they're a "couple of thou' out" when machining it.

For some things, I absolutely loathe the imperial system. WTF is a fluid ounce? Why is a US gallon smaller than an Imperial gallon? Who thought it was a good idea to have different lengths of miles if you're at sea compared to when you're on land?

However, when it comes to woodwork I work in inches, and absolutely love them. I love the fact that they're a nice size, not too small, not too big, just right. When I measure a board and it's 6 7/8" wide and I want the centreline, the math is so easy - it's 3 7/16" (halve the units, double the denominator) I don't even need to think about it. When I'm being given a price for timber and it's in xx per board foot it makes sense, but when they say xx per cubic meter, the math just got way more difficult for the quantity I buy and the decimal places are ridiculous.

The absolute worst thing I've seen with Imperial is on my table saw. For some inexplicable reason some idiot at Ax******r, some idiot thought it a good idea to put 1/10" graduations on it and not 4R fractional graduations. The same moron who did that must have had a previous job at Dr*p*r where they did the same to a 24" rule.

Someone mentioned Festool earlier in the thread. What were they thinking when they made the MFT table hole spacing 96mm? Sure it divides out a bit, but ugh! What was wrong with 100mm?

You wouldn't believe the hassle it is to get proper imperial things in the UK. I'd really like a Lie-Nielsen dowel plate to do 3/8" dowels, but I only ever see metric ones here. Chisels are almost all in mm sizes (strangely except Lie-Nielsen). Bench dogs are 20mm, instead of the 3/4" standard. To get a 6" blade for my beloved 6" Starret combo square it had to be imported especially as the local one has metric cr*p on one side and the blade is 150mm long. So the inch scale is shorter than 6", making it effectively unusable in inches. While I was at it, I imported a 12" Starret rule and it's truly wonderful. But it took about 4 months for them to arrive. So no doubt Starrett had to obtain an export licence and technical information transfer licence from the US government to be able to send them back to the country that invented the units.

There's nothing wrong with metric, it works, but it doesn't have any heart.

Metric screw sizes are fantastic, that's where metric really works well. Somebody, please explain US screw sizing.

Take care and stay safe,

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Old 06-06-2020, 07:13 PM
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Having said all that, you don't really need a measurement system at all in woodwork. Tonight I made a screwdriver, it is 5.012" / 127.3048mm long by 1.300" / 33.02mm diameter at the widest point and fits nicely in my hand. I didn't actually measure anything, I just made it and that's the size it is.

I use a sliding bevel far more than I use a protractor and have no use for degrees or radians.

I use a story stick to layout when I need things to fit together.

The only things I really need to be accurate are my square and a mitre square. And you can make them out of wood.

So I say to all metric and/or imperial zealots out there: Who needs units?

Grant.

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Last edited by GrantCrawley.uk; 06-06-2020 at 07:14 PM. Reason: Forgot to sign my name ;)
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