Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Reference Ruler

I've always liked Stephen Shepherd's wooden reference ruler he places in his photographs so that readers have a sense of scale. So I decided to make my own out of cherry and bloodwood.

You can cut the 1" pieces by hand, but I used a crosscut sled on my table saw* along with some scrap pieces—one used as a stop block and one to protect my fingers.

The jig I had built to make some picture frames worked well at keeping the pieces square during clamping. A sheet of wax paper between the jig and the workpieces kept the two from being glued together.

The ruler is thick enough to stand vertically without toppling over but thin enough to be positioned relatively close to the object I'm shooting.

After glue up, I handplaned the ruler smooth using my favorite jig.

Cherry and bloodwood when first planed are contrasting in color, but over time, if left in sunlight, will both turn a dark reddish brown. That diminishes the effectiveness of the ruler if you can't see the line of demarcation between each inch.

So, I plan to build a special little box for it.

I just hope my metal rulers don't get jealous.

*Be sure to use the blade guards and safety features that come with your power equipment.


Anonymous said...


Nice Gnomon. I think they are a good idea and I try and put it in every picture I take.

Nothing worse than looking at a photograph and not being able to tell how big the item is without some reference.

Gnomons Rule.


Corey said...

Kari, That's a cool idea, I've often thought that Stephen's reference was neat. One bit of safety, (hmmm, I'm feeling very Normish this morning) I notice your stop on the crosscut sled is fixed with a clamp. That can be a little dangerous because the offcut is trapped between the spinning blade and the stop. A safer alternative is to us a hinged stop that you can flip up before completing the cut. Love the blog, keep it up.

Kari Hultman said...

Corey, Normites are welcome here! I maybe should have mentioned that with using a stop block, I only pass the workpiece over the blade—I do not bring the crosscut sled back toward me. Doing that can make the piece bind between the stop block and the blade. If you only slide the sled/workpiece over the blade (away from you), it cuts cleanly and does not bind. Takes longer that way, because I also turn off the saw with each pass, but it's safer.

Woodbloke said...

Kari - good idea for a ref ruler, but using a table saw in the way shown in your pics is inherently very riving knife and no guard! I appreciate that you switch off the saw after each cut which does decrease the danger, but an exposed, spinny, shiny blade will cause you far more damage than 26 years of softball ever did. I've seen umpteen cases where 'Murricans have had little regard (not saying that you're unaware of the dangers) for the correct way to use the ts...for what it's worth, that practice is illegal in professional 'shops in Europe and the UK. I would have made the pieces using the Jet bandsaw and then use a shooting board to plane them down to and exact size...far safer. Sorry to go on like this, but better said here rather than have you experience kick-back (not ever good under any cicumstances) or even worse, slice off some of those pretty fingers - Rob

Kari Hultman said...

Thanks Woodbloke (and Corey) for your safety comments. I do use a splitter with anti-kickback pawls when I'm not using my crosscut sled. I'm in no hurry to lose any digits!

And for the record...I'm Swedish-American. ; )

Kari Hultman said...

That is, Swedish-'Murrican. My bad.

Anonymous said...

Is that a Gnomon? Like the little travel gnomon in the television commercials? (Ba da bump.)

Kari Hultman said...

Mack, I think you've just given me an idea to do on all my upcoming vacations...