When marking wood: > Use a pencil. > Put down a length of masking tape on the area of a join before marking a cut line to avoid permanent marks. > Don’t press too hard; you might dent the surface.
Tale of the tape
The angled piece of metal on the end of a steel tape measure doesn’t move because it’s broken: it is designed to move. When measuring an inner surface, such as the distance between a corner and a door jamb, the hook when pushed against the corner moves in about 1 mm (the distance depends on the thickness of the metal used for the hook), accounting for that thickness. When measuring an outer dimension, say to the end of a countertop, the hook is pulled out, to a precise position and then stopped by its attachment rivets.
Reach for it
When trying to measure from a point that is out of reach, place two lengths of timber side by side. Move one up until it reaches the point at which you need to start measuring. Now move the second bit of timber down until it reaches the lower point. Clamp the pieces together firmly. You can now measure the total distance from end to end.
On the level
A proper spirit level is one of the most useful tools in any Diyer’s armoury. For those situations where you don’t have a level handy and absolute accuracy is not critical, here’s how you can improvise.
Take a parallel-sided bottle – such as a wine bottle – and half-fill it with water. Replace the cap or cork, place the bottle on its side on the surface to be levelled (ensuring that it cannot roll off and break) and turn it until the edge of the label is clearly visible. Now lift or lower one end of the surface until the water’s meniscus is exactly on the edge of the label. Voila… you have levelled the surface.
Fill a measuring jug with water to a one of the marked lines and place it on the surface to be levelled. When the meniscus lies on the line, the surface is level. Turn the jug through 90° and you can check the other plane as well.
Book or DVD case
Hold a DVD case or paperback book up against surface to be checked and place a water-filled measuring jug on it (keep a hold on it so that it doesn’t fall!). Now adjust the pole or surface until the meniscus is on one of the lines. Holding the pole or surface very steady in the first plane, move the DVD cover or book around the pole about 90° and repeat. The pole should now be vertical.