I spent some time in Cincinnati earlier this year, first at Popular Woodworking in America and then a week-long class with the boys  at 360 Woodworking. I am neutral. My friends call me Switzerland. If you’re not sure what I’m talking about here, be thankful.

Not being a drinking person, I anticipated having some serious time to kill in my hotel rooms at night. Not that many antiques malls stay open past 6:00 PM. For situations like this I have been trying to find some sort of woodworking project. Chip carving might work but the group scheduled their class while I was away. I was driving so I could have brought my midi lathe. Dust collection might a problem.

What I did have was a 1607 7-Drawer Kit Chest from Gerstner & Sons. I had picked this up at a Stewart-MacDonald clearance sale. Not full-fledged woodworking but woodworking lite. Sanding, gluing and clamping. It’s something.

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Assembled chest awaiting a finish.

Reading over the directions, I realized I could use another small combination square. I had one packed with the tools for the 360 Woodworking class but I didn’t want to breakup the kit. I have a marginal memory and figured I would end up leaving it behind at some point inconveniencing me.  I don’t like being inconvenienced especially by me.

I remembered that my dear friend Patrick Leach of The Superior Works would be there  at Woodworking in America selling pre-owned tools at prices that are high enough to make you stop and consider but not high enough to make you walk away.

Patrick had a nice 6″ Brown & Sharpe combination Imperial/Metric square priced higher than I wanted to pay. But with his big smile and winning ways, I couldn’t say no. I bought it.

It did what I needed it to do while in the area. Last week I was using it at home for some relatively precise, tight layout work and something seemed wrong. Things just weren’t adding up and everything was just slightly off. Things worked correctly when I retrieved my Starrett 6″ combination square. The Brown & Sharpe, not so much.

After about a half hour of stumbling about the shop I grabbed my dial caliper and solved the mystery. I thought I bought a 6″ combination square when in fact I bought a 150 millimeter combination square. 150 mm is 5.90551 inches. 0.09449 might not seem signficant but a tenth of an inch can really muck things up when working below 1/2″.

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When is 6″ not 6″? When it’s 150 mm.

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Ain’t that a shame?

Two lessons come from this episode:

1.Know what you bought, it helps

2.Work from the origin, the 0 end of a rule. Who knows where it ends.