Global Skywatch

Ted’s essays

metric Montana draftsman

Earlier this year I decided to give go at using metric measurements. That system has many advantages facilitating gauging and related calculations. For target ranging through optical scopes using mil-dots, plus calculating hold-offs and hold-overs, it is far more fluid than the MOA, foot, inch, yard system.

Thus I have lived in a mixed-system world for the last six months.

Setting up my new studio, radio shack, reloading, hobby area requires quite a bit of design, millwork and cabinetry … all needing to be done before I could have a nice mechanical drawing station set up.

I am incredibly happy with the cheesy little 30-dollar “interim” drawing board I bought to draw plans for my drawing table and more. I have completed numerous designs, and built several things from those drawings.

For exploration and experience, I did them all using metric measurements … and locally purchasing inch-foot lumber.

Allow me to introduce my tools:

Right to left, counter-clockwise, counter-culture:

METRIC CONVERSION SLIDE RULE … probably my MVP in this game.
line up inches in one window, read centimeters or millimeters
line up ft or yd in the next window, read meters.
It has 17 other windows, but the above are crucial to wood-working in my hybrid world.

It tells me that a USofA one-by-two, which carpenters know to be actually three-quaters of an inch by one-and-a-half inches, is in my metric world a 2 by 4 … two centimeters by four centimeters. If my drawing calls for a piece of wood 183 centimeters long, the slide rule converts that to 6 feet so I can order lumber in Montana English.

Above it is my metric/inch/foot TAPE MEASURE.
As displayed in the photo, the bottom half of the scale shows 10 millimeters to a centimeter; 100 centimeters to a meter. I carry this in a holster on my hip whenever I am in Construction Mode.

The cumbersome top half has thirty-seconds, sixteenths, eights, quarters, halves within each inch. Past that, 12 inches equals a foot. Adding measurements together involves fractional math, finding common denominators, reduction and so on. The decimal system blows this into the weeds.

The eraser is common, but the thin metal erasing shape template is a great, recently discovered drafting tool allowing erasure of some lines without touching ‘the keepers’… those lines that used to require re-drawing every time I made a change.

Mecrtic scale

I have long had three-sided scales in fractional inch models and engineering models where the inches are divided into tenths. My new one is a true decimal metric model making drafting math a breeze.

Then is the great little drawing board with a built-in parallel and several light-duty tools that work just fine if you have a light touch. The nice drawing table, or station I was going to build “someday” is way down the priority list now.

Having had the drawing board or drafting table on my Want List for decades, it is interesting how much lumber I save by doing my improvisational designs with pencil and paper rather than turning pieces of lumber into scraps as my ideas evolve.

I also note that the benefits of drafting in metric continue to prove superior to the convoluted multiple-base system I accepted as The Only Choice all my life.