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Thread: Accuracy of old Stanley folding rules

  1. #1

    Accuracy of old Stanley folding rules

    I’m thinking about picking up a Stanly 36-1/2 folding rule/caliper. My most used rule is my steel 6”, followed by my 12”, and lastly my tape measure. I also have a brass caliper that I whip out occasionally. I feel like the 36-1/2 would kill a lot of birds with one stone (all but the tape measure), and it would be fun at the same time.

    BUT…. How accurate are these old Stanley folding rules? I’ve never used one before. I assume the markings are perfectly accurate, but I wonder about the thickness of the rule playing a role in accurately placing a knife or pencil as you sight over the edge. Most of the time I just need a ballpark measurement, but sometimes I need things to be pretty accurate.

  2. #2
    I worked in a place that made window sash. They wanted everyone to use those rules….it was a rule. Like snowflakes no two were ever the
    same. But some are made of box wood, and they are fun. The steel folding rules are accurate. You are right about the thickness of wood
    rules being a problem….but they probably sell small plumb bobs to drop for better accuracy!

  3. #3
    I keep a 6' Lufkin folding rule with a brass slide insert in my toolbox for inside measurements only. Way slower than a tape. When I was a youngster my dad worked with an old-timer who used one regularly. It was painful to watch that thing get unfurled and refurled every time. Mine agrees with my tapes, but parallax is an issue and the painted gradations are rather coarse. For precise marking out an engraved rule is far better.
    Last edited by Kevin Jenness; 10-19-2021 at 2:08 PM.

  4. #4
    Having come out of the pipe trades, the first day of my apprenticeship in ‘70 I was told to report the following morning with a pair of Channelocks, a torpedo level and a 6’ folding rule. The rule is a Lufkin 46X’s with the slide and hook. In the shop if I grab a folder it is the inside White Lufkin. Much better to work with as it lays flat on the table. Some work I will use it some I won’t.

  5. #5
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    The ones I use always read the same thing every time.

    If I'm up high, calling measurements to a saw man down below, we compared measuring devices to start with.

  6. #6
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    The rule of tapes and rulers is to use the same one for all of your measurements.

    My woodworking became a lot better by no longer trying to mark and cut everything down to 1/32 of an inch.

    My most used folding rule:

    Nose Planes & Draw Knife.jpg

    It has had its markings redrawn with an extra fine point Sharpie™. Not ANSI accurate, but the lines don't change from measurement to measurement.

    If the line is too far away from the work, tilt it up on its edge.

    For me it works fine with a try square underneath the rule to set it where a line has to be knifed or drawn with a pencil.

    My tape measure is always in my pocket and is my most used tape measure. It is the Stanley SW Hart 175 year anniversary edition.

    jtk
    "A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."
    - Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965)

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin Jenness View Post
    I keep a 6' Lufkin folding rule with a brass slide insert in my toolbox for inside measurements only. Way slower than a tape. When I was a youngster my dad worked with an old-timer who used one regularly. It was painful to watch that thing get unfurled and refurled every time. Mine agrees with my tapes, but parallax is an issue and the painted gradations are rather coarse. For precise marking out an engraved rule is far better.

    Interesting. I just recently bought a folding ruler (granted, made of plastic and not tape) because I've always been so darned annoyed at tape measures.
    They're fast and great for carpentry work I'm sure, and maybe I just suck at using them, but they're so unstable that it's difficult to do detailed work and get an accurate measurement. You have to keep one side hooked to the end of the work using tension, and you have to hold the tape measure up right, and it always wants to come unhooked or fall over or whatever. A plain, straight ruler that you can just lay down on your work is *so* much nicer, but takes up a ton of space to store. Enter the folding ruler! Stable and compact. Just lay it down on your work and then you have both hands free to mark and you're not playing this delicate balancing act in which your measure will come crashing down at any moment.

    Again, maybe I just suck at using tapes, but flat, non flexible, stable ruler is much easier for me to use.

  8. #8
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    Again, maybe I just suck at using tapes, but flat, non flexible, stable ruler is much easier for me to use.
    One of my favorite things about my folding rule is the hinges have been oiled with silicon oil and it can be picked up and folded from the center and the two legs fold via gravity. It is a quick one handed movement from fully extended to folded into my pocket or set aside on the bench. It can also be opened just as easily.

    jtk
    Last edited by Jim Koepke; 10-20-2021 at 5:39 PM.
    "A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."
    - Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965)

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Koepke View Post
    The rule of tapes and rulers is to use the same one for all of your measurements.

    My woodworking became a lot better by no longer trying to mark and cut everything down to 1/32 of an inch.

    My most used folding rule:

    Nose Planes & Draw Knife.jpg

    It has had its markings redrawn with an extra fine point Sharpie™. Not ANSI accurate, but the lines don't change from measurement to measurement.

    If the line is too far away from the work, tilt it up on its edge.

    For me it works fine with a try square underneath the rule to set it where a line has to be knifed or drawn with a pencil.

    My tape measure is always in my pocket and is my most used tape measure. It is the Stanley SW Hart 175 year anniversary edition.

    jtk
    Jim, that's a nice rule, quite a different design than the Lufkin I have in that it will lay flat on the bench. I can see why you like it. The 6" extension on the Lufkin is what makes it useful to me for inside measuring.

    I often need to pull relatively large measurements so I always have a 3/4" x 16' Stanley tape at hand. For layout I often will use a spring clamp to secure the extended tape to the workpiece or story pole, referencing off the 10" mark so I don't have to tension the hook (referencing off the 1" mark has been the cause of many an error). A Fastcap flat tape is also handy. For more precise gauging I may use trammel points on a beam or a bar gauge. For relatively short measurements I have 6", 12" and 24" rigid rules and a nice 1 meter flexible rule with metric and imperial gradations.

  10. #10
    I took all my rulers and tapes out one day, lined them all up against the fence and compared the measurement to an 8" long piece of wood measured with my Starrett.

    The results:

    Two tapes out of 6 were dead on accurate: a Milwaukee 6' tape and a Komelon 12' tape. The Stanley's, Dewalt, and Lufkin were all off by up to 1/16".

    All 3 Veritas hook rules were dead on as well as several stainless steel rulers.

    None of the 24, 36, 48 and 60" aluminum rulers were within 1/16.

    The Lufkin folding rulers were the worst.

  11. #11
    When doing any project, it's best to use the same rule or tape throughout the entire process to eliminate any variance between measuring tools. If you do this, accuracy is sort of moot.
    Back when folding rules were the common method of measuring, people didn't usually have seven different tapes, rules, gauges and so on. One folding rule did pretty much everything.

  12. #12
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    I use a four fold or a 6’ 90%. I also use story sticks (poles). I believe a lot of it has to do with how you learned. Many times in the course of work there are multiples of the same piece. I measure and mark one and use that to mark the rest. The same piece used to mark the rest. Im only using the measuring device once. You have to remember to “take the line” or your parts will grow. Once you learn a few tricks you can set angles and some other things with a folding 6’.
    Jim
    Last edited by James Pallas; 10-21-2021 at 2:21 PM.

  13. #13
    Thanks everyone; this is all great info.

    I think I’ll try and get one. Whenever I use my tape measure it’s just for ballpark where the exact measurement doesn’t really matter. The more important measurements are when I’m using my 6” and 12” steel rules and the 36-1/2 will cover those so I could stick with the one measuring tool to keep things consistent if it’s a little off.

  14. #14
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    I also use story sticks (poles).
    [edited]
    Once you learn a few tricks you can set angles and some other things with a folding 6’.
    +1 on story sticks. Some of mine use a gauge block that comes in handy when repeatedly marking the same size:

    Story Stick Gauge.jpg

    One gauge block can be used on multiple sticks.

    Some of those tricks can be done with a two foot folding rule:

    Stanley Rule Protractor Angles & Distance.jpg

    Usually it is handier to have a protractor in the kit.

    jtk
    "A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."
    - Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965)

  15. #15
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    Went out to the shop to test drive a Veritas Dovetail Saw. More on that in a different post.

    Thought about my folding/wooden rules so took a photo:

    Folding Rules & Some Others.jpg

    The oldest 36" folder is used the most. The new looking folder was purchased in a hardware store in Portland, OR.

    The 12" folding rule has a caliper with one side in inches and the other side in metric.

    My Lufkin zig-zag with the slider was given away since it was seldom used after making a sliding inside measuring device from some yard sticks:

    Back View.jpg

    This is an old post about making it > https://sawmillcreek.org/showthread.php?151635

    One day my plan is to make a couple smaller sliders.

    jtk
    Last edited by Jim Koepke; 10-21-2021 at 9:52 PM.
    "A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."
    - Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965)

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