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Thread: Switching to Metric in the shop, Is it even practical?

  1. #1
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    Switching to Metric in the shop, Is it even practical?

    I've been making some items in our metal shop the last few days and utilizing metric dimensions. Once I got used to metric, it seems incredibly easy to use. Of course, I wouldn't be able to tell you something was 200 mm long at a glance like I can in the Imperial system but that would come with usage. For those of you that work in metric in your shop, some questions...

    Did you switch to metric at some point, or did you set up your shop as metric in the first place?

    If you switched, what did you do with your imperial tools? Specifically, I have an heirloom Starrett Combination Square with a set of rules 8 thru 18" that is dead accurate and of great sentimental value to me. Does this need to become an ornament or is there a way to incorporate those into a metric workflow?

    Has anyone taken one of their existing rules, for example a 48" and stuck a Metric adhesive tape to one side as a temporary solution while saving money to acquire metric tools?

    Any other thoughts I may have overlooked?

    Thanks
    Lisa

  2. #2
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    You can purchase new scales for your vintage combination squares.

    I haven't made the switch to metric in my shop though I'm not uncomfortable working with metric.
    Lee Schierer
    Captain USN(Ret)

    My advice, comments and suggestions are free, but it costs money to run the site. If you found something of value here please give a little something back by becoming a contributor! Please Contribute

  3. #3
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    I've bought a number of Woodpeckers metric rules, T-squares, etc... Much easier to work in metric. I really wish they made a 6" metric ruler which I would use a lot.

    My Felder jointer is set for metric, as is my Grizzly wide-belt. I use digital calipers in metric all the time.

    That being said, the numbers don't have the intuitive meaning to me that Imperial ones do. So much for indoctrination through schooling.

    The funny thing is that weight comes naturally to me in metric now after a career in medicine. But length doesn't. I intuitively have knowledge of the significance of a 210kg patient, but not that his height is 178cm.
    - ďItís not that Iím so smart, itís just that I stay with problems longer.Ē Ė Albert Einstein
    - Welcome to Florida. Where the old folks visit their parents

  4. #4
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    I was fully immersed in the metric world at Caterpillar for decades. My basement shop is all imperial. Technically we could build everything with a stick and no numbers what so ever. I'm sure the pyramids weren't done with scales with numbers on it. Pieces of string and squares maybe, but not rulers. I'm also a little old school with measurements. I need a heavy 13/16". or a light 3/4". But I always have a digital veneer caliper close by. So whatever works for you is the moral.

  5. #5
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    I completely understand what you're saying Richard. Having been in the machining world my entire life, even as a child, I have to work at it to not thick in thousandths of an inch. I often think of measurements as "heavy" or "light" also.

  6. #6
    I don’t think you have overlooked anything. I don’t like metric and won’t use it. Sometimes I will decipher it to get data I need .
    Some who use metric ignore all the increments except the millimeters. That does not impress me , indeed it makes me refuse to hire
    anyone who mentions it to me. But I don’t mind if they use it on their stuff.
    Last edited by Mel Fulks; 11-21-2022 at 5:11 PM.

  7. #7
    I work in both systems, tending toward metric for woodworking/furniture and imperial for home repair things. Here is what I find useful/necessary in this context:

    + Scales on rip fence and cross cut fence set-ups that read in both imperial and metric
    + Metal rules that have both markings (Lee Valley has excellent ones).
    + One each, tape measure that's metric only, imperial only and metric+imperial
    + DROs and electronic calipers that toggle between the two systems (I think all do)
    + Combo squares with blades that read in both or squares in each (the latter is a little better since the desired markings on a blade that features both sometimes fall on the "wrong" edge or read off the "wrong" end for the work at hand).
    + Printed out table of conversions between decimal inches (measuring in thousandths), fractional inches and millimeters (measured in tenths/hundredths of millimeters). Handy.

    It's basically an easy and cheap transition to make from the measuring tools standpoint. Nor is there any reason to get rid of your existing imperial stuff, as it will still be perfectly useful for many things or even preferable for some things (particularly given the reality that some supplies and much tooling will be sized to imperial standards).
    Last edited by David Stone (CT); 11-21-2022 at 8:58 PM.

  8. #8
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    Harbor Freight sells digital calipers that have both Metric and SAE.
    You just push a button and go back and forth from one to the other.

    The only drawback is - you have to take the battery out after you're done using it, otherwise it goes dead.
    My granddad always said, :As one door closes, another opens".
    Wonderful man, terrible cabinet maker...

  9. #9
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    For me, itís not practical. Imperial tools are more common in my realm, plus I have to discuss measurements with clients in imperial. My brain really struggles shifting back and forth, so I just lean into the imperial and try to imagine that thereís no better way.

  10. #10
    I see in thous. Though glasses needed and introduce new grief. Easy to see a number on a tape and how much under or over it is over a fine line and see it in thous and be pretty close. Easier still on the metal rulers, one that was my grandfathers lines are super fine.

  11. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by Richard Coers View Post
    I was fully immersed in the metric world at Caterpillar for decades. My basement shop is all imperial. Technically we could build everything with a stick and no numbers what so ever. I'm sure the pyramids weren't done with scales with numbers on it. Pieces of string and squares maybe, but not rulers. I'm also a little old school with measurements. I need a heavy 13/16". or a light 3/4". But I always have a digital veneer caliper close by. So whatever works for you is the moral.
    We used to call them fat or skinny, light or heavy, whatever got the point across.
    To me, it doesn't't matter at all. I've worked with both, the only time it's irritating, is when you have both on the same machine, vehicle or piece of equipment. Then it can be a PITA.

  12. #12
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    I have no use for Metric. I work in Imperial and my brain thinks in Imperial. When someone gives me a metric dimension I have to convert it in my head to get a feel for how big it is. Since I was in college I've worked in decimal inches and that's plenty accurate. Some say that Metric is easier to work with than fractions because of the base 10 math. I don't disagree. On the other hand, when you memorize all your decimal equivalents you don't need fractions.
    Sharp solves all manner of problems.

  13. #13
    The areolith buggatti was scaled off the gas cap if I remember correctly. This panel is 25 gas caps long

  14. #14
    Iím looking forward to going to England even though I donít know when thatís gonna happen. While Iím there I will not tease them about
    driving on the wrong side of road. The way we do it should be the world standard, that would make sense. But Iím just not a but-in-ski. l
    respect the way other countries do stuff. English is the language of the world, but Iím tolerant of the few holdouts and never make. fun of
    them or demand they conform. Just trying to live right and serve as an ambassador of tolerance.

  15. #15
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    I fully converted the shop (well except for some drills) about two years ago after decades of half and half. Wished I'd done it long ago. Decimal inches would probably work just as well, but none of the tooling I have does that easily. 50 year of lab work and I think first in metric for length, weight and volume at least. Other units are a mixed bag. I seriously don't miss dividing 17/32 by three.

    My one strong piece of advice is never convert units. Work in one system or the other. Conversion is so fraught with error it's just not worth doing. If the plans are in inches I either draw new plans for a similar item in metric or work in inches. Just ask the space telescope guys how conversion goes.

    In terms of thinking, a centimeter is about the width of your (pick the appropriate one) finger, and a meter is about as long as your arm. A tall beer can is around 500 ml. You don't need much more than that.

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