Your Choice

Imperial or metric?  Which measurement system do you use?
Did you begin your senior education prior to 1971, or following it?                  Why 1971?

Because 1971 was the year that Great Britain/UK adopted the metric system.
I am fortunate, because my educational development was, to all intents and purposes, completed before 1971.  So I have the choice whether I work using the Imperial measurement system or the metric one.  And admittedly, it is often convenient to be able to switch easily from one to the other.
I ask, because the question sometimes arises when framers (of my generation), congregate and chat.  And the question seems to arise because whilst GB/UK has embraced the metric system for in excess of 40 years, many items/articles are referenced still using the Imperial system of measurement.  In fact some articles are referenced using a mixture of the two systems. Imperial in one direction and metric in the other. Or offered as alternatives to one another.  Woodworking tools are a classic case in point. Traditionally, chisels were always designated by 1/8th of an inch increments of width to 1″ and then quarter of an inch increments above 1″.  Now, instead of having 5mm – 10mm – 15mm – 20mm – 25mm, we have instead metric equivalents of the Imperial sizes:  so 6mm – 10mm – 12.7mm – 19mm.
Purchase a panel saw, and it will be a 20″ or 22″ or 24″ blade x the number of teeth (points) per inch.
And the art world is no exception.
Many photographic printers still use the Imperial system:
You order a 6″ x 4″ or a 12″ x 8″ or a 30″ x 20″ photo.
Similarly with artwork prints on canvas (giclée)
And stretcher bars for canvases.
And a mountcutter is traditionally a 40″ or a 48″ or a 60″. (admittedly they are sometimes nowadays referred to as 1000, 1200 or 1500mm.) :-D

My Morso F (mitre guillotine) is a 50 years old model.  Still going strong and unerringly accurate.
And, of course, it is calibrated in Imperial inches; in quarter of an inch divisions.
No margin rule or accumulator on the measuring arm, just simple inclined scribed lines on the right hand extension arm, and a 45º stop block.

I do all of my framing work using Imperial measurement. Working to 1/16th of an inch.
It works very well for me.  I can convert to metric. But often, if I feel the need to do so, I have to pay particular attention to ensure that mistakes don’t occur.

For myself, I don’t mind which system I use so long as whatever I use is effective.  If I am working with someone (an artist/a contemporary/a customer) who prefers to (or is only able to) use the metric system, I am quite happy to comply with their directives: but given the choice, when framing, I always use Imperial, but when wood-turning or doing bench joinery, I will always use metric.

Funny old world, isn’t it?

I was taught, as a teenaged apprenticed bench-joiner, to learn to carry out any operation, if not perfectly, then at least to the very best of my ability, and to ensure that my ‘best’ was very good.  It was later explained to me that if I was capable of good quality work, but could also recognise all of the various levels of quality, down to ‘cheap & cheerful’, I would then be able to make my own choices about the quality of work that I produced ~ whereas the ‘cheap & cheerful’ worker had no choice – because he knew no other way to work.

I was also taught, when learning to turn wood on the lathe, that the ability to be ambidextrous was a real advantage, because by being able to use the chisel in either your left hand or your right hand meant that you could approach difficult to reach operations more easily and effectively; thus producing better work.
In other words, being able to work left or right-handed provided me with a choice of approach, which enabled me to perform better.

And, have you noticed how the choices a person makes, will tell infinitely more about that person, than their natural abilities and talents.


2 thoughts on “Your Choice

  1. I love that story about the ‘pyramid’ bowl Jack.
    As I said elsewhere, articles like that, the content of which means next to nothing to me, yet kept me transfixed from start to finish will garner this site a myriad of viewers/visitors. Call us what you will but we will be back.
    And we’ll be telling our friends.