Why I Buy (and Make!) Metric Items - Router Forums
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post #1 of 71 (permalink) Old 05-03-2012, 06:27 AM Thread Starter
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Default Why I Buy (and Make!) Metric Items

In another thread, some members expressed curiosity and lack of understanding as to why someone in the USA would want to buy or make items based on the 'Metric' system of measurements. I felt it best to share the reasons that I not only want to, but do embrace the craft using both systems.

For the benefit of those not familiar with the International System of Units, which is abbreviated SI, Wikipedia has an excellent article on the topic here. This article does a lot better job of explaining why nearly every industrialized nation on the planet except the USA has adopted the SI as their 'default standard'. I do not have the time, energy or inclination to 'convert the masses' to the SI.

It would also be fair to say that on a philosophical level, my personality is inclined to embrace alternative methods and languages far more than it is to reject them. Some minds approach an issue with a 'why' attitude while others take a 'why not' attitude to the same question.

In my mind, the question is why not, and the glass is half full...

That being said, the fact that I haven't won the lottery yet does come into play, and the main reason not to buy imperial and metric versions of every tool I have is cold, hard cash!

While I certainly could take the position of excluding everything metric, there are compelling reasons for me to rise to the challenge and broaden my approach to the craft.
  1. Material costs are lower in some cases,
  2. The math is easier to do in my head.
  3. A growing number of people I exchange plans and ideas with are in Commonwealth nations, already adapted to the SI.

I live in Washington State, midway between Seattle and Vancouver, BC. As such, the 'big box' stores in my area sell a considerable amount of material imported from Canada. A good portion of that material has been milled to metric dimensions.

Cutting 3/16" dado to join with a 5mm ply shelf worked with the help of a specialty plane, but not nearly as well as cutting a 5mm dado does!.

On the simplicity of math topic, dividing whole numbers is easier than dividing and converting fractional numbers. I do an increasing amount of lap and match joinery, experimenting as I work through ideas. Calculating what a third of some fractional value is for a tongue and groove set gets a little cumbersome. That being said, it still isn't that big of an issue to work through, Excel and Visio tear that sort of thing up.

Collaboration with others is a vital part of my learning how to become the craftsman I have always wanted to be. The more adept I become at thinking and crafting with SI based plans and tools, the more benefit I receive from the global community of woodworkers that the internet puts me in contact with.

wbh1963 is flowing with the grain in Arlington, Washington, USA

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post #2 of 71 (permalink) Old 05-03-2012, 06:56 AM
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Very well said but you will find that your country would find it extremely difficult to change owing to cost to retool, education, natural generational resistance and of course, vested big business. All that said, it is inevitable that at some time in the future, the states will have no option but to change. Here in The Great South Land, we changed back in about the early 70's after we changed to decimal currency. Both are easy to work with and fewer mistakes, admittedly our population is less than 10% of yours but its all relevant anyway.
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post #3 of 71 (permalink) Old 05-03-2012, 07:25 AM Thread Starter
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I am very much in tune with how much it costs to 'retool'. I have about 400 to 500 'sized cutters' (bits and plow plane blades) in my tool collection, 95% of which are in Imperial format sizes. When I need a metric sized plane iron, I grind it down from an extra imperial sized one.

There were some fellow users who just didn't understand why some of us in the US feel a need to have both SI and Imperial sized cutters. While i certainly wouldn't be so presumptive as to speak to the motives of all, it wasn't hard explaining why I have been picking up more and more of them.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts.


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Originally Posted by Oziray View Post
Very well said but you will find that your country would find it extremely difficult to change owing to cost to retool, education, natural generational resistance and of course, vested big business. All that said, it is inevitable that at some time in the future, the states will have no option but to change. Here in The Great South Land, we changed back in about the early 70's after we changed to decimal currency. Both are easy to work with and fewer mistakes, admittedly our population is less than 10% of yours but its all relevant anyway.

wbh1963 is flowing with the grain in Arlington, Washington, USA

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post #4 of 71 (permalink) Old 05-03-2012, 08:00 AM
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The more that we who have worked with both systems talk about the benefits of metric, the sooner will Americans start asking for metric items. Mike is currently doing a great job persuading American manufacturers to start producing metric bits and template guides. It's important that all forum members complete the poll, one way or the other.

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post #5 of 71 (permalink) Old 05-03-2012, 08:21 AM Thread Starter
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I took the survey and expressed interest in all four categories when doing so.

I had been planning to take a bunch of cedar that is 'about 5/8"' down to 1/2" for an upcoming project. A side benefit of recent discussions is catching on that I should take it down to 12mm instead....

Half lap on 12mm is pretty simple stuff.....6mm Rabbet...

Tongue & Groove on 12mm is a lot simpler than on 1/2. Center the 4mm groove and call it a day! Now I suppose I could grind up a custom 1/6" cutter to do a centered groove on 1/2" stock....but my fancy Imperial ruler seems to lack lines for 1/6", and that would make it more difficult to remember what I ground it down to..

As always, thanks for your thoughts Harry..





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The more that we who have worked with both systems talk about the benefits of metric, the sooner will Americans start asking for metric items. Mike is currently doing a great job persuading American manufacturers to start producing metric bits and template guides. It's important that all forum members complete the poll, one way or the other.

wbh1963 is flowing with the grain in Arlington, Washington, USA

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post #6 of 71 (permalink) Old 05-03-2012, 09:00 AM
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i am not against using or thinking in SI, but for me, the availability and cost of SI items (including even nuts and bolts) is a show stopper
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post #7 of 71 (permalink) Old 05-03-2012, 09:05 AM
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Not so according to Mike, he says that the metric bits will be about the same price as Imperial ones.

Harry



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post #8 of 71 (permalink) Old 05-03-2012, 09:36 AM
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This is interesting... even tho we were metricated here in the Great White North a long time ago, it's difficult to go to any of the big box retailers and find metric bits on the shelf. Even one of the local specialty woodworking stores would have to order them in as he doesn't sell enough to devote shelf space to them.

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post #9 of 71 (permalink) Old 05-03-2012, 09:52 AM
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Arouund here I use the metric side of rulers alot as stated easier to convert half ,1/3 etc.When I was in school (mid 70's) we learned the Metric system being told that by 1980 the United States would due a full conversion. My opinion its all about money as long as We as a country are dependent on both systems that is more money for big companies to make selling both why else would You need a metric socket on the head of a bolt and american size on the nut on the same piece of machinery

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post #10 of 71 (permalink) Old 05-03-2012, 10:09 AM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris Curl View Post
i am not against using or thinking in SI, but for me, the availability and cost of SI items (including even nuts and bolts) is a show stopper
Prices on some metric stuff are getting a little more competitive but I know exactly what you are talking about, and from experience. I'm certainly not opposed to using SI fasteners on occasions where they price out better, but so far that hasn't happened.

Thanks for joining in!

wbh1963 is flowing with the grain in Arlington, Washington, USA

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