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My Metric Holidays In Houston

3283 Views 29 Replies 18 Participants Last post by  sunnybob
Hi There Fraternity

My son and his family live in Houston Come and Take It Texas, and as such my wife and I head over there to partake of the lifestyle, which we enjoy very much. We spend up to four months of the year there as it doesn’t cost any more to stay here, and the weathers better.

The one downside is I get bored five minutes after I land. My beloved workshop and all my precious tools are four thousand miles away.

My son knows what I’m like and presented me with my own space in a corner of the garage, and a Scottish workshop soon started to take shape, but I had a serious problem, every time I went down to the Home Depot. The guys wouldn’t sell me a 2.4m of 75x50mm baton of CLS. Or a sheet of 9mm 2.4x1.2 of ply. No, they insisted I purchase a 8ft baton of 3x2 and a 3/8 sheet of 8x4 ply.

Now as you know we in the UK gave up on the imperial system of measurement in the 70’s and it’s the best thing ever. Building materials are still the same dimensions but now in metric.

On my second visit I took over with me a bag full of metric tapes which I keep there and use. Now what you have to remember is I started my plumbing apprenticeship in 1967 and was taught in the old imperial system and accepted it as norm, but when we joined the European Union that all changed and as a result of almost all nations in the EU were metric, we had no choice. From that date all our tape measures became bi lingual for lack of a better term. They were split down the middle metric one edge, imperial the other. Absolute pain in the backside, you couldn’t swap your tape around to read it as you ended up on the imperial side, ending up with 3ft and 15mm’s. Nightmare. And today in 2018 out tapes have not evolved, still the same. For the last 20 odd years I became a full-time lecturer in construction technology at a college in Scotland and many of the apprentices I taught still used imperial because their journeyman wouldn’t convert. When teaching I had to do both calculations one in each otherwise I left half the class out.

Now I like all my peers in the trade we’re mostly the same thinking, and we ended up measuring in metric, but still converting it in our brain boxes back to imperial, just as you would do with a foreign language, but gradually that concept left you and you are converted and you see how easy it is. There is only one space on your tape measure i.e. one millimetre, nothing else, no sixteenth’s, eights, quarters or half inches.

The other influential factor is nothing you could purchase from that date could legally be sold in imperial weights and measure. I.e. you could not buy a pound of apples, just an equivalent kilo. No gallons of gas, just litres, and so on.

We had 240 pennies to the pound. Now we have 100 pennies to the pound. Everything is calculated around the number 100 and 10.

And what about temperature. 0 is freezing and 100 is boiling, could it be simpler. I don’t regret losing the Fahrenheit. Who thought 32 to 212 was a great idea, Mr Daniel Fahrenheit I presume.

We still have a few concessions, we still use miles per hour and we still drive on the correct side of the road unlike the rest of the EU and USA. I’m not surprised at the EU getting it wrong, but a little surprised at the USA making such a glaring mistake as to drive on the wrong side of the road.

I have included a few photos of my metric work on my visits to Houston. As I taught most disciplines it has allowed me to install all the trades required which resulted in quite a saving on costs. And my son seems to like the results even though it smacked of slave labour, either that or he was trying to hurry along his inheritance.

So far, on my visits I have built the following using a metric tape in temperatures I at that point in time could only imagine with the worst being the erection of the pool house reaching 113 degrees. I have never drunk so much water in my whole life, although to my sons credit my wife and myself were allowed inside when it got so dark we couldn’t see.

The major projects so far are as follows:

The closet shoe racks…… No problems

The Shelving of the loft………. Have you ever tried to work in an uninsulated loft in Houston in summer? My God!!!

The outside kitchen………... I clad every thing in cement board to assist fixing of tiles and prevent any heat conducting to the frame from the BBQ. Also ran house gas supply to BBQ. Electrics ran from spare way in pool house and fitted RCD and all outlets were waterproof. Could not understand why you don’t sleeve your earth in the Patrice boxes. I was worried that a bare earth would contact the phase or neutral when screwing the outlet into place. I went to Home Depot to get earth sleeve and they had never heard of it.

Pool House……………... Only real problem was the 100 plus temperature and had to build up the wall the flue outlet was on to prevent and conduction of heat on to the walls. I flipped the bottom layer of bricks to provide approx. twice the combustion air the manufacturer specified. I also had to extend the concrete plinth another 2 ft to accommodate housing all the equipment.

So that’s it, going back this Christmas where temperatures are a little more bearable.

In case you are interested. One photo is My Son Colin and my Granddaughter Connie enjoying the first use of the bar. Another is my wife spoiling their dog Lance. And the third is us all having our first BBQ breakfast on the day after completion. And the last is the inaugural party of the opening of the kitchen bar with friends, neighbours and family.

Hope you enjoyed this as we love to visit Cinco Ranch

Scotland and occasionally Houston Texas.


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you have talent...
there's no doubt about that...

and since yur here..
when ya gonna hit the other shops...
I saw your mistake immediately Colin. The sheets are 2438.4 and 1219.2. No wonder they didn't have the size you are asking for. If you use those figures I'm sure you'll have better success. Do me a favour please. I'd like a photo of the clek's face when you ask for it.:laugh2:
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Lesson for today: Never knock metric until you have tried it.
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Being Canadian, and being as old as I am, I grew up with Imperial. When our illustrious leaders decided to switch to metric, I protested - well, internally, at least. The best was when they taught "new math" instead of "old math" WTF?? I only knew math.

I still struggle, to this day, with our conversion to metric. If I go to the deli, to order sliced meat (cold cuts, here) I still ask for 1/4 or 1/2 pound - the clerk inevitably asks, "how many grams was that?" I then tell them to slice some up, weigh it and I'll let them know if I want more. If they slice too much, I simply tell them I'll eat the amount that's over what I asked for. Our gas pumps read litres, so I just use a dollar amount. But I can't figure out how many miles per gallon I get from my vehicle.

When I drive down the road, I still have to convert km/h to miles/hour to know how fast I'm going. But at least we still drive on the correct (right) side of the road - perhaps that's because our steering wheels are on the left side of the car. I'm glad they haven't changed that, we already have too many accidents on our roads.

Metric or Imperial, you did a great job. And BTW, you have a nice looking family.
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Very nice work and also a good looking family. Will you venture out from Houston or stay there the entire time?

Hi David
So far we have flown to Las Vegas, then drove back via Hoover Dam taking in some of Route 66. Managed to grab some time in the Grand Cayon and visited Monument Valley. Earlier this year we did New Orleans and had a memorable trip up the Mississippi on a steam boat.

Managed to get in. Few of the bucket list.

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Good looking projects. Cinco Ranch is about 45 miles due west of me straight down I-10! Yeah, I'm on the east side of town.
Hmmm 2.4m of 75x50mm or 2x3 I'll stick with a 2x3 . Much easier to scribble 2x3 on a material list on a scrap piece of 75x50mm or would that be a piece of 2.4m??. Now let see 2.4 m= 94.4881889764 inches or rounded of = 94.88 inches but that is actually shorter than 8 feet. So if I wanted a 2x3 by 8 I would have to add another digit on to get a 2.4384 m or does 2.4 m actually mean 2.4384 m? All very confusing. But with all the crazy numbers you did a really nice job on the projects.
I still struggle, to this day, with our conversion to metric. If I go to the deli, to order sliced meat (cold cuts, here) I still ask for 1/4 or 1/2 pound - the clerk inevitably asks, "how many grams was that?"
Might want to check your phone. My phone ran me around $6 US. Under Tools, there is Unit Converter. Click that and there is Area, Length, Weight, Temperature, Volume, and Velocity. Using that I can tell you that 1/2 pound of meat weighs 226.96185 grams. I had forgotten about this, until this morning, 'cause I don't use it a lot, but very handy when I do.
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Great photos and recount of valuable time well spent with the family. As a former resident of Houston (the far SW corner in contrast to Mike) I'm pleased to hear you enjoy your stays but yes, the weather can be an issue at best.
Very nice work Colin. You earned your room and board for at least another couple of years.
Funny. I've done the forth and back thing .... I moved from metric Germany to metric-but-only-just-converted New Zealand, so everybody was still talking 4x2 studs and 8x4 sheets of (ply, fibreboard, whatever).
So I converted, as it were, to thinking in those sizes. And then, in the 90s, suddenly everything went millimeters. I needed to change back!
Except, when I grew up, things were mostly measured in centimeters and meters, so I had to learn a new way of looking at measurements yet again. Very very easy with the metric system though,
you just shift the decimal point by one, instead of trying to figure out 35/64 or some nonsense like that :p

Oh, and when I go to buy any sheet material I still need to check if I am getting metric or imperial sheets. We find both 1200x2400 and 1220x2440 on sale. Most recently I've bought a lot of 1220x2440 of
(metric!) Russian birch plywood to build the kitchen furniture for my new house ... will the wonder ever cease? Mind you, I like the little excess, because it allows me to trim the edges and true up the corners
and still have a 2400x1200 sheet to work with. 24 sheets so far, as well as several thousand dollars worth of euc. saligna, purpleheart and jarrah, but I'm almost done :)
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Colin it seems your not wanting for something to do with all those projects you have completed. All of them look well done.
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As an English ex-pat of (slightly older but) similar age to Colin I have done my best to convert to metric, especially since moving to an always was metric country.
When I worked out my first timber order I used my metric only tape measure to get the size of the existing timber I needed to extend the fence.

So because I also have a language barrier to overcome I carefully wrote the numbers down before I went to the woodyard.
I needed 145 mm x 55 mm x 3 metres. I showed the piece of paper to the Cypriot wood yard guy. He looked at it and got very puzzled, then the light bulb went on behind his eyes and he said "oh! you want 6 x 2 planed"

Colin... There is the answer to your tape measure dreams. Axminster sells this tape. Metric only, coming and going, front AND back. Its smagic. versa dual reading tape measure
Colin... There is the answer to your tape measure dreams. Axminster sells this tape. Metric only, coming and going, front AND back. Its smagic. versa dual reading tape measure
Considering we're supposed to be a metric country it's amazing how hard it is to find a metric-only tape like that. I've never found one in a store -they're always dual metric/imperial. Thank goodness for the internet. Time was the only way to get an all-metric tape was to smuggle it in from France!
Andy, that tape is a close kept secret. I've owned one for over a year. When i saw colins post i tried to find the link on axminsters site. It does NOT show under tape measures, or any other combination of words. You have to know the VICE VERSA name.

Its now my only tape. I'm disappointed that the reverse side numbers have worn off quite quickly, but the main side is still fresh, and I use it constantly.
Just to add to the confusion, try working in tenths of a foot. I first became acquainted with this approach when I signed on as a carpenter on a dam project under the Bureau of Reclamation in the mid 1960s. One of the inspectors was kind enough to give me one of his old tapes so I could get up to speed on day 1. I was going to add a photo of that one but it's hiding in the shop somewhere so the attached will suffice. Enjoy

The bottom edge is marked in traditional feet and inches, the top, in tenths of feet


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First class work Colin. Back in April 2010 I started a thread titled "The utter stupidity of the Imperial system" It finally ended in October 2017 with 1045 posts.
It gets worse.....
i just bought a load of timber for a pergola extension.
All my measurements supplied in mm.
remember, i live in a metric country.
I got the invoice and could not work out what they had charged me for.
Finally I got it...
The invoice, from a Cypriot company in Cyprus, quoted board sizes in inches.
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