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Discussion Starter #1
Hello everyone, Happy Holidays.
Consider me a handy person, but a novice to fine woodworking. I have done plenty of small project or rough construction, handled a fair amount of power tools, but have never really built anything such as furniture.

As a beginner, what is your best advice for learning to properly mark your stock for your desired lengths. I'm not necessarily talking about handling the blade thickness, but rather how to make a precise mark for your length.

Do you use a metal tape? Yard stick? wooden ruler?
Do you mark your line with a pencil? A knife? (saw this on TV once)
Do you draw a straight line? Mark it with a "V"?
Do you use a speed square?
Any other tips for getting to a point of consistent and accurate cuts?

Tools: I do have a few handsaws, a circular saw, jigsaw, compound miter saw, 2 drills, clamps, etc. (in case anyone wondered what kind of tools I'd be using)

Thanks in advance for any and all responses. I'm going to make a few basic Adirondack or reef chairs to start, and figured there would be enough cutting to start practicing "correctly" and hone my skills.

Jay
 

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Chester's Gorilla
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Hi Jay,

I think perhaps more important than the measuring tool is using stop blocks for consistent cuts between pieces. For example, in cutting four legs having them all exactly the same length is more important than having them all exactly 30 inches. I use stop blocks whenever possible, including on the miter saw table, on the table saw sled, and on the drill press.

As far as other tips, use a hard pencil instead of the standard 2B, which is kind of soft and will leave a thick line. I've also toyed with getting an Incra rule, which has slots for marking.

Happy working, SW
 

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Here is something my dad taught me and I use every day. Always and I mean always put an X on the waste side of anything you cut. Yes this is simple, but I can tell you, with out doubt, if you don't do that you WILL make a cut on the wrong side of your line, or cut out a corner from the wrong side of a board eventually...lol...it will happen trust me. I don't care how experienced you are, once you start flipping boards around, it gets very easy to loose track of what direction that thing needs to go, a simple X instantly tell you what side is waste and needs to go, so simple so vital....
 

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Rough Sawn Lumber
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If at all possible do not measure with a ruler or tape measure if you are able to mark the dimension directly from the piece of work. So if you want to get the length of a stretcher between two legs just place the work piece right where you want it and make your mark(s).

Marking knifes are more accurate then pencil but can be harder to see. So use a knife to score the line then darken it with a sharp pencil.
 

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The only time I use a pencil is for rough cuts. For everything else I use one of several marking knives and will follow with a pencil on top if the line is hard to see.
 

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Most of my precise measuring I do with incra and woodpecker T Squares. Straight lines are so easy and accurate with them. I use a good ol #2 ticonderoga with them. I hate my marking knife.


Here is something my dad taught me and I use every day. Always and I mean always put an X on the waste side of anything you cut. Yes this is simple, but I can tell you, with out doubt, if you don't do that you WILL make a cut on the wrong side of your line, or cut out a corner from the wrong side of a board eventually...lol...it will happen trust me. I don't care how experienced you are, once you start flipping boards around, it gets very easy to loose track of what direction that thing needs to go, a simple X instantly tell you what side is waste and needs to go, so simple so vital....
I am going to adopt this. I made a cut and used the wrong side of some 3/4 maple plywood the other day that has to be bought in 4X8 sheets. I had to go buy another sheet just for a 36" X 20" piece :sad:

If I would have just placed that little X where it needed to be, I would have continued cutting up that piece for scraps, instead of the piece I needed. An expensive lesson. Anyone need some 3/4 maple ply? ;)
 

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Discussion Starter #7
I find that when I make a mark, my line is slanted.
Or my pencil isn't sharp enough, so the line is wider and less accurate.

Does it just come with time to learn your own marking methods?
 

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I find that when I make a mark, my line is slanted.
Or my pencil isn't sharp enough, so the line is wider and less accurate.

Does it just come with time to learn your own marking methods?
I don't usually use a single mark, but make a "V" mark then as mentioned before an adjacent big "X" mark to denote the waste side. whether I follow up with a straight line for the entire cut, depends on what cut it is, if it is a long cut, I tend to make there or more marks and line up with a straight edge, and I re-measure after marking before the cut..what was that old adage "measure twice, cut once..lol..if it's just a crosscut to dimensional board, really not necessary, since there is no way to get a chopsaw to follow a line. If your using a sliding miter saw, you may want to backup with a straight line off you square from your mark, then drop your saw down (blade stopped, not running) before the cut to make sure your on your line, or laser if you have one to match up with the line.

But there are as many ways to do this as there are woodworkers, this is just what I do. The main thing you need to do is...how ever you do it, BE CONSISTENT...lol...do it that way all the time, unless it's physically impossible. if you start marking eight different ways, it won't be .. if you get confused, it will be ... when, and yes it does come with time, you will settle into a routine. How ever you mark, your main concern needs to be preventing confusion and being accurate, that's it.
 

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I don't usually use a single mark, but make a "V" mark then as mentioned before an adjacent big "X" mark to denote the waste side. whether I follow up with a straight line for the entire cut, depends on what cut it is, if it is a long cut, I tend to make there or more marks and line up with a straight edge, and I re-measure after marking before the cut..what was that old adage "measure twice, cut once..lol..if it's just a crosscut to dimensional board, really not necessary, since there is no way to get a chopsaw to follow a line. If your using a sliding miter saw, you may want to backup with a straight line off you square from your mark, then drop your saw down (blade stopped, not running) before the cut to make sure your on your line, or laser if you have one to match up with the line.

But there are as many ways to do this as there are woodworkers, this is just what I do. The main thing you need to do is...how ever you do it, BE CONSISTENT...lol...do it that way all the time, unless it's physically impossible. if you start marking eight different ways, it won't be .. if you get confused, it will be ... when, and yes it does come with time, you will settle into a routine. How ever you mark, your main concern needs to be preventing confusion and being accurate, that's it.
Couldn't agree more about being consistent, the important factor is the fit not the dimension.
You can use a $100.00 steel ruler or a $1.00 tape measure and as long as you stick with one or the other and mark precisely the fit will be there.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
I don't usually use a single mark, but make a "V" mark then as mentioned before an adjacent big "X" mark to denote the waste side. whether I follow up with a straight line for the entire cut, depends on what cut it is, if it is a long cut, I tend to make there or more marks and line up with a straight edge, and I re-measure after marking before the cut..what was that old adage "measure twice, cut once..lol..if it's just a crosscut to dimensional board, really not necessary, since there is no way to get a chopsaw to follow a line. If your using a sliding miter saw, you may want to backup with a straight line off you square from your mark, then drop your saw down (blade stopped, not running) before the cut to make sure your on your line, or laser if you have one to match up with the line.

But there are as many ways to do this as there are woodworkers, this is just what I do. The main thing you need to do is...how ever you do it, BE CONSISTENT...lol...do it that way all the time, unless it's physically impossible. if you start marking eight different ways, it won't be .. if you get confused, it will be ... when, and yes it does come with time, you will settle into a routine. How ever you mark, your main concern needs to be preventing confusion and being accurate, that's it.


I've seen the "V" method as well.
Just like everyone, I struggle wanting to better right away!
 

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measuring tips

I prefer using a folding wooden ruler for precise measuring vs. a tape measure. The metal hook on the tape measure can become loose and throw off all your measurements. After I have marked, I like to walk away from the piece and then re-check it. I have caught several of my mistakes this way by putting down the ruler and then starting all over. As close to fresh eyes as i can get.

The old adage of measure twice cut once is still true except I will measure twice and cut 3,4,5 6 times sneaking up on the exact cut I want.
 

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I'm with Steamwinner - use stop blocks for replicating exact cuts. I don't have a mitersaw but I use a strong magnetic block on my table saw which is placed before the blade. The 1st cut establishes where to place the block and the rest of the cuts are made by butting the wood against the block and cutting. I can cut 20 + pieces precisely the same length using the block method.

As for measuring - most often I use the same steel 16 inch ruler or tape measure for longer measurements. The loose tip isn't an issue because the tip is stretched for outer measurements and pushed in for inside measurements. Tape measures are designed for that loose tip so both your inside and outside measurements will be accurtae.

As for marking - I use a blade. I also add a noticeable cut on the bottom edge of the board and I match the tip of a saw blade tooth on that cut... can't think of a more accurate method. I always think about which way I will place the board on the ts to make sure I place the deep cut on the correct edge.
 

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I'm surprised mechanical pencils didn't come up, try them they stay very sharp. And can get even sharper if you sand them at an angle
 

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I always use the same ruler for all measurements on the same job!
I make a small pencil tick mark and X the wast side.
If tear out from the cut is an issue then I use a knife to make a score line.
Stop blocks are a must for repetitive accuracy on a saw sled or miter saw.

There are several things about better woodworking that you must understand.
1. You WILL make mistakes. We all have and still do.
2. The odds of making a mistake are directly proportional to the cost of the piece you're working on.
3. You must have patience... LOTS of patience. If you find yourself getting frustrated or rushing then it's time to stop & go have a beer... come back to it tomorrow.
4. Lack of patience causes frustration, frustration causes haste and haste causes mistakes at best and accidents & injury at worst.

The one thread on this board, that should be mandatory reading for ALL members:
http://www.woodworkingtalk.com/f7/lets-see-some-damage-34/

Welcome Jay.. Be safe & enjoy the forums.
..Jon..
 

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I'm with "jodasm 1977"...I use mechanical pencils all the time for marking. I like .05 leads, but they break on open grained or rough wood. I use .07 leads in that case. You will always get a fine line with these pencils. I do make an "X" or put a "check mark" toward the waste side coming off the tape end of my mark. That eliminates error if my mark is slanted.

I only use Stanley tape measures because I trust the markings and I trust the hook on the end to be accurate. If you drop a tape measure, I don't care what kind, on the hook and bend it, it will be worthless unless you put it in a vise and hammer the hook flat again. Check it with another tape for accuracy before you use it again.

You can make the most perfect line, but splitting that line or going precisely next to it with a saw blade is all in the person's ability and the tool's accuracy. Without both of them, all the blades, rulers, and sharp pencils in the world won't help you.

As for the method of cutting one piece and marking off others with that piece....you are asking for trouble. Very rarely do I resort to that method. By measuring and cutting each one or using a stop block on your saw (providing that you don't bump it out of position), your cuts will be very precise. Marking by laying the first piece on top of the stock for the next one requires lining up the end perfectly and the side parallel for the mark to be accurate. Then, any amount of slant to your pencil or knife will change the position of the mark. That is too many variables for me.
 

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Wood Snob
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I use what ever I have on hand. I have a cheap Stanley yoyo I like. I don't think I could bend the hook if I dropped it due to its size. The hook is loose, but we all know why and how important that is. If it did get wacked and changed. It couldn't possibly be enough to worry about.

I use a pen. A ball point pen. It's a fine tip and has never let me down. I like the way it soaks in the wood so I have to sand a little more to get it out. Prolly no more than if I had used my marking knife. Sometimes I use a mechanical pencil, .05. It leaves the same size line as my pen and fits in my almost useless Incra scale.

I never measure any finer than a 1/6th. Wish they would stop putting 32nds on tape yoyo's. If I have to be exact I lay the piece in place and mark it to cut. This way I don't have to concern myself with counting all those tiny lines.

All my saws have long tapes on them with very accurate hair line stops. This is without a doubt the biggest life saver when It comes to measuring and marking.

Al

Nails only hold themselves.
 

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Al B Thayer said:
I never measure any finer than a 1/6th. Wish they would stop putting 32nds on tape yoyo's. If I have to be exact I lay the piece in place and mark it to cut. This way I don't have to concern myself with counting all those tiny lines. All my saws have long tapes on them with very accurate hair line stops. This is without a doubt the biggest life saver when It comes to measuring and marking. .
You're sounding like the sheet rocker I work with! He says there's nothing less than an 1/8" on the tape measure. lol

Eric
 

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Wood Snob
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Anguspapa said:
You're sounding like the sheet rocker I work with! He says there's nothing less than an 1/8" on the tape measure. lol

Eric
Sometimes we woodworkers are just so full of ourselves. Talking about something being thousandths off and how square is square. Micrometers for thickness gauges. Gees!

Al

Nails only hold themselves.
 

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You wanted advice as a beginner... I'm a beginner, and here's my advice. :cool:

Stop measuring. Or, more accurately, measure the minimum of pieces, and size everything else from those. Granted, I've mostly only made small things -- shop jigs, boxes, stuff like that -- but the two really big projects I did (a queen sized bedframe and a workbench) worked the same way.

Here's the trick: before you start your project, figure out about what your longest measurement is going to be, and cut a stick to a few inches longer than that. It's nice if it's square, but not necessary. Mark the most critical measurement on that with a marking knife followed by pencil. From there on, mark everything on that stick, then transfer from the stick to the workpiece: depending on the project size, it may be necessary to use two or three. If you're doing something unreasonably long (side rails for a queen bed, say), mark one and cut it, then use THAT to mark the second board.

Mostly, I started having success when I realized that I should stop paying attention to actual measurements. As long as my bench is flat, half an inch taller, shorter, narrower, whatever doesn't really matter. The important thing is that the legs are all the same length, the rails match each other, and everything is square. I also like using a knife to make the mark, then darkening with a mechanical pencil.
 

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Al B Thayer said:
Sometimes we woodworkers are just so full of ourselves. Talking about something being thousandths off and how square is square. Micrometers for thickness gauges. Gees! Al Nails only hold themselves.
I recently bought a number of 2" x4" s . They varied by as much as 3/8" . I wrote to the ill demanding they start using a Micr. From now on.
Seriously, whatever method suits you best when measuring then refine it and stick to it. The only concession I make is on fine / short measurements I never use the end of the tape or rule , I always start on the 1" line and add the inch on the other end. It my preffered way.
 
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