Furniture Without Measuring Tapes?

Furniture Without Measuring Tapes?
Triggered by the recent acquisition of a Festool DOMINO, which is ALL metric, I’ve been investigating the “32 mm System”, developed, naturally, by a German - right after World War II (The War to End ALL Wars?). With a huge demand for cabinets and a severe shortage of wood, to say nothing of a shortage of skilled workers (wars are not good for furniture, forests or men between the ages of 14 and 70 - hell, wars aren’t good for people in general, to say nothing of its other problems), there was a real need for a quick, and efficient way to make cabinets that didn’t need many highly skilled workers or a lot of sophisticated machines and tooling. Naturally, it was an architect who came up with a method of building “knock down, ship flat, assemble on site” cabinets out of, let’s just say “not solid wood”, to meet a need of the Post War period - “The 32mm System”.
The 32mm System relies on standardized parts with standardaized holes of two standardized sizes, with standardized spacing for both assembly as well as hardware installation, the hardware also being standardized. Very efficient, and very simple - one “side panel”, one “top/bottom panel” - join a pair of each and you’ve got four sides of a box - with predrilled holes for drawer guided, door hinges, . . . All very slick and surprisingly flexible (options wise, not structurally) - WITH the right hardware.
Anyway - the Festool DOMINO is all Metric, so I’ve been converting back and forth between metric and emperial (Interesting ‘ “emperical” - “empire” - British Empire - but didn’t they use metric? I’m getting a headache.). So I’ve been playing with 25.4 (25.4 mm/inch) and 0.0397 (inches/mm), along with 16mm (very close to 5/8ths of an inch) and 19mm (very close to 3/4 of an inch) and a host of other conversions from The 32mm System back to the more familiar inches and fractions of inches, including decimal fractions.
Now the metric system has a lot of nice features - especially if you want to do calculations, or scale things up or down by a factor of 10. Calculations using fractions is pretty messy - divide 1 and 15/16 inches by three for example, or add 1/8 plus 3/16 plus 9/32 inches. On the other hand, doubling 1/16 and doubling it again is trivial - 1/8, 1/4. Going the other way by halves is just as easy 1, 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, ...
Now all this converting back and forth, and thinking about “measuring” in general, got me wondering.
What would furniture be like if there were no measuring tapes, metric or emperial? What if all you had for measuring was a length of string and maybe a pair of sticks (slip sticks)? Parts would be “ABOUT this long, ABOUT this wide and ABOUT this thick” - no Rules, no preconceived, or given - stock sizes. “Parts that have to fit between other parts” is the only “need to MEASURE” constraint. Want the middle of something that's "this long"? Take a piece of string "this long" and, hold the ends together and find the bottom of the resulting "loop" - done - no reading a tape, dividing by two then finding the nearest fractional line on the tape.
Take a BIG piece of paper and sketch a full size drawing of a piece of furniture - with no preconceived notion of measuring, available stock size or how you’ll make it. What would YOUR chair, table or dresser look like? Throw away One Size Fits All and think in terms of a Specific Need for the piece. If you’re tall, or short, what would you change in the chair you’re sitting in? If you’re “slender” or “rotund” would that change what YOUR chair would look like?
Now imagine you have all the tools and equiptment you currently own - and could make the parts of your next piece any thickness and length you want - and imagine that didn’t involve a lot of physical labor. Most important, imagine not having to read a measuring tape or anything with little lines on it? “It” just has to be “This Long”, about “This Big (or Small)”.
How much does your tape measure - and readily available stock dimensions - affect your design considerations? What if you knew a sawyer just down the road?
charlie b
(returning to trying to figure out the underlying reasons for the “presets” on the Festool DOMINO mortiser)
Add pictures here
âś–
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
While I was in New Zealand (for almost 6 years) I became very fluent in Metric. I still find myself switching back and forth in the shop today...Just remember...6 mm in about 1/4...12 mm is close to 1/2...100 mm in 4 inches...hehehehehe
John the Toymaker

Add pictures here
âś–
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Story sticks are the best "measuring devices" known to man. Good enough to design and build the pyramids and good enough for cabinets. That is, unless the pyramid builders had help from elsewhere and them guys used a laser. Hmmmmm..... Gene
Add pictures here
âś–
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
DZIN formulated on Monday :

If they did have a laser they didn't know how to use it very well. The pyramids are amazing (and yet they are nowhere near the best of Egypt as you might suppose) but they are not as accurately positioned or angled as might be thought. The for sides of the base have a mean error of about 55 mm. The amazing thing is, that they are as close as they are without modern engineering tools.
As for having 'outside help' the 'bent pyramid' proves that theory wrong. The 'bent pyramid' was begun and half constructed when the engineers realised that the angle (55 degrees) was all wrong and would collapse if they continued with the original plan. So they changed the plan to have a more gradual incline (43 degrees) half way up. Any engineer with 'outside help' should/could have figured this out early on in the design process. How do we know it was a mistake in the first place? The same king who built the bent pyramid (Sneferu) built the red pyramid straight after and made it 43 degrees all the way up.
Mekon
Add pictures here
âś–
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Have you checked out the info at http://www.bobsrule.com/? Makes more sense than either the metric or imperial system.
I have to agree with the story stick or other "rulerless" methodology of building things. Some years ago my wife and I were wandering around a shop up in PA and came accross some end tables we like. Measurements consisted of so many hand spans plus 3 fingers by up to the bottom of my pants pocket by wrist to elbow. Top overhangs base by one palm. Used some scapwood to make up gauges to those measurements then made up a sample from some more scapwood. Turned out great. Have since made another half dozen using the same gauges.
I like to follow the idea of not measuring with a numbered device unless you absolutely have to. When you cut something of a given length or width cut everything of that given dimension at the same time. It might be wrong but everything will be wrong by the same amount and it will all work out in the end.
Ed
Add pictures here
âś–
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

HomeOwnersHub.com is a website for homeowners and building and maintenance pros. It is not affiliated with any of the manufacturers or service providers discussed here. All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.