Incra Ts/Ls Imperial or Metric?

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Forum topic by JeffP posted 08-05-2014 01:25 AM 4425 views 0 times favorited 10 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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573 posts in 1659 days

08-05-2014 01:25 AM

Topic tags/keywords: incra metric fractions tablesaw router

Hi all,
I’m a new guy here…an old guy most everywhere else.

I’m finally on the verge of putting together my dream woodworking setup. Up until now I’ve never had the time and the money and the space all at the same time.

I’ve been salivating over a “full boat” Incra system together with a combined cabinet saw and router table for such a long time now.

I’m about ready to take the plunge, and would like some advice. The issue is “English” vs. Metric for the Incra.

I simply HATE working with fractions. I sent off an email to Incra asking for their advice on a “Yank” buying English or Metric. Somewhat surprisingly to me, he recommended I go metric. I was leaning that way anyway due to my hatred of fractions…but it is a lot of money and I wanted to see if any of you have already done this and what is your “hindsight” on the topic.

There are plenty of threads about people’s preferences one way or the other (both here and elsewhere), but it seems ALL of the threads are just about personal preferences. I haven’t found anything specific like ”...i went metric and here are the things I ran into…”, or ”...I wasn’t sure, but I switched to metric when I bought my (x, y, z) a year ago and I never looked back…”.

In particular, I’m wondering what you found in terms of dealing with other things that are only easily available in the US in English sizes. Things like router bits and table saw blade thicknesses and wood sizes and the like. Do any of these pose a serious nuisance if your primary measuring/fence system is metric?

FWIW, I am plenty comfortable with metric units. I truly wish Jimmy Carter had won that fight back in the 70’s. My only concern is that there will turn out to be some non-incra part of an overall system that will turn it into an uphill battle.


-- Last week I finally got my $*i# together. Unfortunately, it was in my shop, so I will probably never find it again.

10 replies so far

View BJODay's profile


527 posts in 2210 days

#1 posted 08-05-2014 03:30 AM

I used to work in the printing trade. The archaic measuring system was points and picas.
12 points in a pica, 6 picas to the inch.
This was used because it is easily divisible by 3. Good typographic design is laid out in thirds. Think of newspapers and magazines. Pages that have 1/2 page ads do not look as good as pages with 1/3 page ads.

My boss bought a German scanner. We were forced to used metric for scaling pictures to size and setting picture resolutions. It was much easier. The math is much easier to calculate.

I have debated going metric in my shop but have not done it yet. Tough call in the US but Canadians, Brits and Aussies do it and many contribute on this forum.


View ronniebo's profile


129 posts in 2932 days

#2 posted 08-05-2014 03:39 AM

After speaking with the Aussie agent about converting my Incra tablesaw fence setup from Imp to Metric I was told that it would make very little difference, if any, to the operation of the item.
He was right.
Even though I asked for his advice I went ahead anyway and converted it to metric system and rules and scales.
I have always used the metric system in my woodworking as it is so much more straightforward and logical, but the ease of using the metric scales on the Incra has made the changeover worthwhile.
Good luck and you will love it.
Ron in Hobart, Tasmania

View retfr8flyr's profile


386 posts in 1936 days

#3 posted 08-05-2014 04:29 AM

I had to make the same choice with my Incra system. I also hate working in fractions and Metric is much easier to work with then Imperial but what I found is most woodworking in this Country is in Imperial. If you get any pre made plans for anything, or use something from a magazine, they will most likely be in inches and the 2 systems just don’t really convert that well. You can fairly easily convert inches and fractions to metric because you can reduce the conversion down to .5mm but it’s not that easy the other way. Metric measurements, for plans, are usually in mm not .5 mm and converting a metric measurement into Imperial can give some measurements that are difficult to use, like convert 21mm into an exact fraction. I decided to go with Imperial on the Incra and use Imperial for all my woodworking.

-- Earl

View JeffP's profile


573 posts in 1659 days

#4 posted 12-09-2014 10:17 PM

The last time I posted this (about 4 months back), everybody was out in the shop tinkering instead of “hunkered in the bunker” due to bad weather.

Now that Incra is having a 10% off sale, and now that I’m just about 1 weekend away from having my temporary shop building ready for “habitation”, I wanted to see if I could get a few more opinions on this “imperial” (or to me “English”) vs metric decision before I pull the rip-cord on a big investment.

Mainly, I would love to hear from folks who do their own design work in a CAD program and then do their shop work in a country where wood comes labeled in “inches” rather than mm.

If I decide to go metric, will I find it frustrating working with “4/4” lumber and/or “3/4” inch 4X8 sheet goods?

Will it be a pain to find blades and router bits with metric “kerf”? Will that matter?

thanks much!

-- Last week I finally got my $*i# together. Unfortunately, it was in my shop, so I will probably never find it again.

View Notorious's profile


1 post in 302 days

#5 posted 04-22-2018 12:33 PM

I am working on going metric in my shop… The expensive digital machines make it easy to switch between metric and imperial but those are out of reach for most of us. Get a decent digital caliper that will convert from imperial to metric and vise versa. Wixey makes many such tools. You will find it easier to work with solid wood dimensioned to metric dimensions but it is also possible to use standard sizes fairly easily. Saw blades are often 3.2mm or 1/8”...

Todd Ferguson

View bilyo's profile


503 posts in 1369 days

#6 posted 04-24-2018 12:33 AM

You have a lifetime of using feet and inches and changing how you visualize the size of something is mentally difficult. For instance, I can visualize how big a chest of drawers should be in feet and inches, but I’m not yet used to metric enough to visualize it that way. This past year, I converted all my measuring tools to metric and did my first design and dimensional drawing in CAD using the metric system. My biggest obstacle was determining in CAD what my dimensions should be in the metric system. Once I realized that 3/4” is very very close to 2 cm, it helped a lot.

Once the design and drawing phase is complete, construction using my metric measuring tools is mostly easy and straight forward with no more fractions to deal with. I don’t recall having any particular problems other than mental ones. Once I have the metric drawings in front of me, few if any metric/imperial conversions are required. Most of the time, working around non-metric equipment such as drill bits, router bits, saw blades, etc., was not a problem. Most of the time I am making cuts to fit and the size of the cutters is not a factor. When it does matter, I simply measure them with the calipers or do a conversion and cut accordingly

Bottom line is that the metric system is easier to use in general. Most of the issues you will encounter in making the change will be mental and this can be overcome with practice. An alternative to the metric system is to convert to using the decimal inch system. I haven’t used it, but I imagine the conversion is easier because you are staying with the familiar inches and feet while eliminating the troublesome fractions.

View Woodknack's profile


12518 posts in 2647 days

#7 posted 04-24-2018 03:44 AM

Old thread I know… I tried to convert but it was annoying. All my drill bits, router bits, saw blades are inch based. Hardware is often in inches. Working in cm or mm on big items is annoying. Drawing plans I had to switch units back and forth. In the end, it wasn’t really easier, simpler just to work with the occasional fraction. I use decimal inches whenever possible, best of both worlds.

-- Rick M,

View Texcaster's profile


1286 posts in 1941 days

#8 posted 04-24-2018 07:35 AM

I was dropped in the deep end landing in Australia and shifted gears quickly because I had to. To help with the visuals (the hardest part) know your own height, arm span, knee, hip in metric. Standard passage doors are 2.1 m x 850 mm, etc . Work only in mm and metres, forget cm. I would think changing over in the company of imperial users will be hard. Metric/imperial tapes only prolong the change over and can’t be read from both sides. Have one of each. Hope this helps

-- Mama calls me Texcaster but my real name is Mr. Earl.

View BalsaWood's profile


80 posts in 1425 days

#9 posted 04-24-2018 08:38 PM

I’d go with imperial. I have much experience from work with both measurement systems but prefer imperial since there are more plans and it is easier to visualize. Overall, there is nothing special about metric in woodworking except it being a little easier to use sometimes. Fractions shouldn’t be scary anyway.

View Texcaster's profile


1286 posts in 1941 days

#10 posted 04-25-2018 02:36 AM

I d go with imperial. I have much experience from work with both measurement systems but prefer imperial since there are more plans and it is easier to visualize. Overall, there is nothing special about metric in woodworking except it being a little easier to use sometimes. Fractions shouldn t be scary anyway.

- BalsaWood

Fractions aren’t scary, they’re redundant.

-- Mama calls me Texcaster but my real name is Mr. Earl.

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