114 – Relative Dimensioning

Video - March 30, 2010

This video is an accompaniment to my column in the Feb. 2009 issue of Popular Woodworking Magazine. The video focuses on using center lines to accurately locate hinge mortises. But the article goes into depth on a more general concept you have probably heard me mention before: relative dimensioning. The idea is simple: let the pre-existing parts of your project dictate the size of subsequent parts. And in many cases, this is much easier and far more accurate than measuring with a tape or ruler. I first learned about relative dimensioning way back in my WWA forum days from a guy named Dave Knipfer. Anyone heard from him lately? Anyway, he was an amazing craftsman and his work methods really resonated with me. And so relative dimensioning has been part of my work ever since.

Now some may think of this type of building as common sense. Others may say, “this is nothing new”. And for the most part, they would both be right. Ever hear of a story stick? Cabinet-makers and installers have been using them forever. But I know how much of an eye opening revelation this concept was to me when I was starting out, so I think its important that I pass it on to my fellow woodworkers who may not be familiar with it. So like the article says, “Throw Away Your Tape Measure”!

Download the PDF of the article, courtesy of Popular Woodworking.

I am curious how many of you use this system in your woodworking. Or are you purely a measure and mark type of woodworker?


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