Tool Time

Welcome to the first of our weekly Do It Yourself columns presented by Build it, St. Francis. We hope that you gain some information from these columns going forward.

If you have anything that you would like the team at Build it, St. Francis, to explain in a column, please feel free to get in touch with St Francis Today..

For the first column, we’re delving into measuring and marking.

Measuring & Marking

Accurate measuring and marking are the secrets of success for many projects around the home and garden. Measuring and marking out help you to work accurately and are essential in the costing of large jobs around the house and garden.



  • Tape Measure
  • Pencil
  • Craft knife
  • Steel Rule Protractor
  • Set Square
  • Combination Square
  • Sliding Bevel
  • Spirit Level

If you are measuring a large area, have ready-cut pegs to hand for driving in at the crucial points. When measuring for smaller projects, try to work on a clean surface in good light with all your tools. This is often better than re-ordering or spoiling the job by skimping.


It is essential to check the right angles to measure the diagonals to ensure complete accuracy. Where the diagonals are equal, your base is said to be square. The large, irregular shape area can be approximated by measuring square or rectangular regions within it and adding the measurements of these areas together. Make an allowance for the small, irregular areas left at the edges.


Straight edges are mainly used to accurately transfer measurements across areas longer than the rule. Another use is to check that your material or surface is flat. Straight edges are long metal rules that may be calibrated or plain. The best way to check that a straight edge is accurate is to hold it by one end and look down it. Any curve will be apparent. A straight edge can also be used to cut against with a craft knife, such as when cutting paper, leather or plasterboard.


Measurements can be marked in various ways, depending on how accurate they need to be. A felt-tipped pen is easily read and can be used where accuracy is not too critical. A carpenter’s pencil is also ideal for easy-to-read measurements. It can also be quite easily rugged out when required. For very accurate timber marking, use a marking knife or a craft knife. These mark and sever the fibres very slightly to enable further cutting to be very exact. The severed fibres leave a whisker-free cut edge.


Steel rules are handy, but they tend to slip on smooth surfaces. So hold the ruler down well with your fingers spread wide along it.


The simplest way to divide the work equally is to hold your rule diagonally across the surface and decide how many divisions you want to make. Be sure that the end of the rule is level with the edge of the material to ensure that the divisions fall equally. This is very handy for marking out dovetails and other joints.


Squares are used to produce a line at right angles to an edge and to transfer one measurement to the opposite side of the material. The most basic square is the set square. Use a pencil or marking knife to mark your line against the steel edge.

The set square is also used to check that faces are at 90° to each other. The stock of the square is laid flat against one face of the work, and a check is made visually to see if there is no gap/light. If none appears, the faces are then 90° to each other. A combination square has several uses. Most can be used as either internal or external set squares, mitre squares, depth squares, depth gauges, straight edges and steel rules. They are usually fitted with a small spirit level. They are also handy for marking parallel lines.


The sliding bevel is a specialised type of square that is infinitely adjustable and used for marking and transferring pre-set angles. This is useful for setting out angles for corner cupboards, steps, dovetails and multi-sided picture frames. It is usually set either from an existing angle or using a protractor. When using the sliding bevel, it is essential to ensure the stock of the tool is held firmly against the edge throughout the marking procedure.


These two gauges are often combined in one tool, although they can be purchased separately. Each gauge consists of a block that slides along a bar. The marking is done with a sharp steel point for a single line or a pair of adjustable points to mark out a mortise. The stock of the tool is held against a flat square face. The tool is pushed along the work away from the user, allowing the steel point(s) to score the wood. When adjusting the gauge to the width of the mortise you need, set the points directly from the width of your chisel. Tighten sliding bevels well and occasionally check that they haven’t moved in use.


Retractable rulers can sometimes snap back quickly, so take care. When marking with a knife, keep your fingers away from the blade and do not apply excessive pressure.

Should you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact Buildit St Francis Bay through their Facebook page

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phone – 042 940 6779

or come visit at:

Cnr R330 & Tarragona Road, Sea Vista Industrial

St Francis Bay