Inches or Millimeters?

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Blog entry by GaryK posted 03-06-2008 05:12 AM 2004 reads 0 times favorited 33 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Just curious. For those outside the US.

Where do you live and what do you use: inches or millimeters?

A combination of both?

Do your tools use inches of millimeters?

Here in the US we buy wood that is 4/4, 8/4, 2×4 and so on.

If you don’t buy wood that way, how do you buy it?

-- Gary - Never pass up the opportunity to make a mistake look like you planned it that way - Tyler, TX

33 comments so far

View RobS's profile


1334 posts in 4721 days

#1 posted 03-06-2008 05:20 AM

Or Bobs, don’t forget those Gary.

I haven’t got one yet but have always thought the concept was interesting. I think I’ve read some entries on here where people have used this method.

Good question though.

-- Rob (A) Waxahachie,TX

View Woodshopfreak's profile


389 posts in 4157 days

#2 posted 03-06-2008 05:31 AM

good question

-- Tyler, Illinois

View DocK16's profile


1186 posts in 4502 days

#3 posted 03-06-2008 05:38 AM

I wish this country had gone to the metric system along time ago, I hate working with fractions every time i gotta add and subtract different denomenators.

View Dick, & Barb Cain's profile

Dick, & Barb Cain

8693 posts in 4714 days

#4 posted 03-06-2008 05:58 AM

I worked with mining engineers doing drafting, & we measured in 10ths, & 100th of feet, & inches.

I wonder why wooden builders have always used this system of fractions?

-- -** You are never to old to set another goal or to dream a new dream ****************** Dick, & Barb Cain, Hibbing, MN.

View sIKE's profile


1271 posts in 4169 days

#5 posted 03-06-2008 06:02 AM


I have picked up a couple of woodworking magazines for across the pond (they are available at the local Woodcraft) and all o the plans in the magazine are in metric. Bobs system looks to be a very cool solution, that will never (sadly) be adopted.

-- //FC - Round Rock, TX - "Experience is what you get just after you need it"

View GaryK's profile


10262 posts in 4403 days

#6 posted 03-06-2008 06:27 AM

I started out life as a machinist, so the only fractions I ever use are in increments of 1/8”. and those
I convert automatically to decimal. I will use a scale in 10ths and 100ths any chance I can. I use dial
calipers for everything under 6”.

So basically I never use fractions. I think in decimal so 4 feet, 3 3/8 inches to me is 4 feet 3.375 inches.
The math is a lot easier.

-- Gary - Never pass up the opportunity to make a mistake look like you planned it that way - Tyler, TX

View Dan'um Style's profile

Dan'um Style

14181 posts in 4398 days

#7 posted 03-06-2008 06:39 AM

I work in decimals too. started life as a apprentice machinist too.

-- keeping myself entertained ... Humor and fun lubricate the brain

View Eric's profile


875 posts in 4199 days

#8 posted 03-06-2008 09:26 AM

In Malaysia, I have seen a combination of metric and US standard. When I buy wood, the dimensions are always in inches and feet. Same with when I buy bolts, screws or nails from the local hardware store. Drill bits are sometimes in metric and sometimes in fractions. Stanley exports a lot of stuff here (or maybe contracts someone in this part of the world to make it) so the fractions are alive and well.

I have a few different rulers, and almost all of them have centimeters on one side and inches on the other. I have one that has inches but in tenths, which is occasionally annoying (when I forget) and occasionally useful (just another interval option).

-- Eric at

View Blake's profile


3443 posts in 4289 days

#9 posted 03-06-2008 09:42 AM

Interesting question. I may not be outside the US, but I may still have an unconventional answer. I use an engineers scale whenever possible, which is inches divided into 10’ths and 100’ths. It’s much easier to do the math on a small scale and seems more precise. I like measuring the width of a box side at 5.6”, etc.

I guess it combines the best of both worlds. I wish the entire world would go metric. But since we Americans insist on using inches, at least I can still divide them into decimals.

-- Happy woodworking!

View Jiri Parkman's profile

Jiri Parkman

953 posts in 4228 days

#10 posted 03-06-2008 10:00 AM

Hello from Europe, and no UK Europe. For me your system is completely ununderstandable. I know what feet or inch is. But the combination and fractions?? Must use calculator.
But on the oter hand – we buy wood of the same size only call it in different way.
Instead 2×4 ve say 5×10 and so on.
Sorry for my English.

-- Jiri

View motthunter's profile


2141 posts in 4214 days

#11 posted 03-06-2008 11:14 AM

I lived in Brazil for 10 years and have traveled for business to more than 60+ countries. Most countries use metrics. Tools have metric scales on them and wood is purchased by the cubic meter. Metrics have a strong advantage for simple calculations, but in the inch system, it is easy to work off of the calculations of a kerf equal to 1/16th…. If I had to choose, I would work metric, but the equipment I have only has inch scales.

-- making sawdust....

View davidtheboxmaker's profile


373 posts in 4220 days

#12 posted 03-06-2008 11:42 AM

I live in the Uk and use both metric & imperial.
I think millimetres are best for fine meaurements – thickness of box sides etc.
When I think sizes (height,width, length) for my boxes I think in inches because that’s what I was taught at school.

View mrtrim's profile


1696 posts in 4295 days

#13 posted 03-06-2008 12:10 PM

i use feet / inch mostly . i have used metric a lot as well . metric is easier for small stuff . longer i think is easier with ft./ in. . i allso have a bobs rule wich is a combination of both without fractions and i think its a very good system

View MsDebbieP's profile


18619 posts in 4576 days

#14 posted 03-06-2008 12:52 PM

we use metric and standard.
Me? I use the “one little line past the big line” method.

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (, Young Living Wellness )

View toyguy's profile


1692 posts in 4252 days

#15 posted 03-06-2008 01:41 PM

Like Ms Deb, I’m in Canada. I grew up at a time when the Imperial system was in use, so that is what I was taught in school. We went metric back in the early seventies I think. For me this has been a problem mostly because we are so close to, and trade so much with the US. Life would be a lot easier if just one system was in use world wide.
I use both system often. As most of the plans for the toys I like to build come from the US, sometimes I make my own little rules..great for scaling up or down from drawings. But for the most part, I would have to say I use the imperial system, because that is what I learned in school.

-- Brian, Ontario Canada,

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