Popular Mechanics (South Africa) - - DIY SPE­CIAL -

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.

Mea­sur­ing jug

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.

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