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15 Comments

  1. Keith
    May 4, 2018 @ 12:52 pm

    I’ve done a few projects in metric, just to see how I like it. I determined it’s like learning fluency in a language, you don’t translate every word to English, you understand the meaning in the other language. So, you don’t say, “Let’s see, I’d like this piece 20″ long, how many cm is that?” But you think in metric. Or as I heard once, “Imperial is OK, metric is OK, both concurrently is not” I have also had some hardware that is 6mm x 3″ with a 7/16″ hex head. Or RTA furniture that had a 10mm head in one part of the piece and a 7/16″ head in another part. Aaarg. And we all remember the Mars explorer that crashed because one group was using imperial and the other metric.

    One problem I had was that I think I’ve got 4 tape measures that are both imperial and metric. And one that’s just metric. They all read a bit differently. For example, at the 1 m + 1cm mark, one reads 110 (cm), the next 10 (mm, just having to rely you’ve passed the 1m mark), the other one 1 (cm, ditto), and another 1100 (mm).

    I spent a couple college summers doing civil engineering work (interstate highway construction). Those guys use feet and tenths and hundredths of a foot. So the measures have ten and 100 increments per foot. They used to tell the newbies to measure something 11″ and watch the bewilderment. And there were “stations” every 100 feet. So a given point would be noted “520 (station) + 50 (feet)”

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  2. Bryan
    May 4, 2018 @ 4:10 pm

    Some of the examples used to show the difficulty in remembering metric values are perhaps inadvertently biased. No one who works with metric as their “first language” would ever design a table that is 1676 mm wide. They are much more likely to round to 1700 mm, just the same as why the table in question is 5 1/2 feet wide. I grew up in Australia a decade after the metric conversion and imperial still pervades many aspects of our lives. The informal standard for people’s heights is feet and inches for instance, very people say they are 190.5 cm tall but instead say “6 foot 3”

    For measuring and cutting though I work in mm exclusively.

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  3. Wayne Gammon
    May 4, 2018 @ 11:40 pm

    Hi steve. Hope this txt finds you and your family in good health. Inches or meters, well some of us oldies in the UK still work in the old inches but the youngsters use the new, mm. The UK has been using the both systems since the seventies, I always covert the the new to the old, this maybe because the mm system was coming in as I left shcool. I manage to work with both, just. Best regards Wayne.

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  4. Paul
    May 5, 2018 @ 11:57 am

    An engineers tape is in feet, tenths and hundreds of feet. Used in the oil field to measure pipe.

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  5. Peter Goodyear
    May 5, 2018 @ 4:11 pm

    In Australia we changed to the metric system in the 1970s.

    The construction industry here copied the UK in its metric conversion and uses millimetres for everything. From small things like a door frame, to a whole bulding, its size will be in millimetres. No metres with decimal points, or centimetres. I’ve seen floor plans for a supermarket with the length of the building as a 5-digit number, something like “47250”. No units cluttering up the drawing. In the title box in the bottom right-hand corner it says “All units in millimetres”

    (If you are wondering, that supermarket is 155 feet long.)

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  6. Gary Bivin
    May 5, 2018 @ 8:05 pm

    I’ve seen metric rulers where the 2, 3, 7, and 8 mm marks are longer, making it pretty easy to visually find the right mark:

    | i | | i | i | | i |
    | | |
    0 1

    That’s kind of crude, but the best I can do with characters.

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    • Gary Bivin
      May 5, 2018 @ 8:09 pm

      … and it lost all the spaces that were supposed to line up the 0, 5mm, and 1cm marks on the second line. I hope you still get the idea that there are always ways to make things better.

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  7. Manuel
    May 5, 2018 @ 8:25 pm

    Hi, I live in Costa Rica, which is a “metric system country” for most applications. As an engineer I use millimeters every day, but there are things that we simply do not use in metric, for instance the width and length of lumber is always in inches, as well as the diameter of conduit and all sorts of pipes, just to give you a couple of examples that imperial system is also used worldwide for certain applications.

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  8. Marc B
    May 7, 2018 @ 5:17 am

    This is a courageous exercise. I was « born imperial » and now the country is metric. Therefore I have been using both systems but must admit the fractions measurement system (imperial) generates more mistakes in my projects. The introduction of 6 inches/mm digital calipers bought from hardware stores made me switched to metric (mostly): this because those calipers divide an inch into multiple of 10 anyway; I have not found any measuring tape in 1/10 of inches to transfer measurements from the calipers to a measuring tape . Since those calipers can either switch inch/metric, I went metric and can then transpose any measurement from a calipers in metric to a metric measuring tape in metric. It works for me but I am not a skilful Carpenter…

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  9. Graham
    May 8, 2018 @ 6:20 pm

    In my 70s now, I grew up with imperial but now use metric as well. Main rule is to use either but not both. My Portuguese wife grew up with metric system and the funny thing is, they tend to use centimeters in conversation i.e. 80 centimeters but, on drawings would use 800mm. Here in the UK, we seem to be in an in between world with 4″ x 2″ studs but 150mm x 25mm boards. Plasterboard (dry wall), last time I bought small sheets were 6ft long x 90cm wide. Always seems strange to me when some Americans use terms like 4 quarter, instead of 1″.

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  10. Craig
    May 12, 2018 @ 2:36 pm

    My main gripe with Americans holding onto imperial is their exports and having to own 2 sets of tools.

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  11. Tilemachos
    May 17, 2018 @ 10:36 am

    In Hellas (Greece) we use imperial (inches only) for certain objects like TV diagonal or wheel diameter. In most cases I say “One-sixty” meaning 1,6m or “fourty-five” meaning 45cm. Millimeters come in picture where more accuracy is needed and in manuals and alike “booklets” where both accuracy is needed along with less “confusion” of the final recipient (that’s the client).
    Either measuring system is fine if you “grew up” with it. (You can’t an old dog, new tricks…). Measuring systems are like languages, one can learn-use them fluently but you can NEVER TRANSLATE word by word, errr I mean exact measurements. I ‘ll use the office picture as an example, you ‘ll not find in Hellas a desk that’s 1676mm (5 1/2) but you will find 1,60m. Also by looking metric BMW plans, there are standard dimensions for some surfaces like standard desks (1,2 x 0,6 meters) and sheets of wood (2,5 x 1,2 meters). I mention those examples as a problem of translation 😉
    Finally “Imperials” have yards and some other sub-units they dont use, like “Metrics” have the decimeters that are not used. As said before you learn to measure as you grow up like you learn you native language by listening to your environment (parents usually).

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  12. Adam
    May 19, 2018 @ 6:10 pm

    Australian here. You make a good point about the foot. Conversationally, we’ll use the foot when talking about some things like height or when approximations are good enough. However, whenever we actually start measuring we use metric.
    Also, I’ve found converting plans isn’t practical. Because the units don’t quite align, the 0.1mm differences start adding up and nothing fits properly at the end.

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  13. Diogo
    May 22, 2018 @ 12:40 pm

    I was raised in metric, but after so many youtube videos I had to get used to the idea of inches.

    My main issue with imperial is that I have to be “fluent” in feet, inches, half-inches, quarters-of-an-inch, eighths, and sixteenths.

    Whenever I hear a comment about a drawer gap of 1/8-in or checking for square and 1/32-in being square enough I simply “translate” it in my mind as being “small”.

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