How To Read a Machinist Ruler

One may think that you can easily substitute a regular school ruler when doing some machine work since essentially, all you need is the unit of measurement. But, machinist rulers are specifically designed to measure very small increments since machines need to be very precise for the gears to move and the parts to lock. Knowing and learning how to read a machinist ruler is quite simple but it takes a while to get really used to the tiny units of measurement. This article has several tips for you to apply when you are faced with the task of reading a machinist ruler.

  • Positioning your machinist ruler. The first step you need to take is to try to place your machinist ruler as close as possible to the object that you want to calibrate or measure. In some cases you can place your ruler right next to the object but more often than not, you can just come close up to a particular distance. Make sure that the ruler is parallel to the object if it is not directly next to it so that your measurement will be as accurate as possible.
  • Knowing what system of measurement you want to note. Next you need to check if what type of measurement you need and make sure that it is the side of the ruler closest to the object that you need to measure. For example, if you need the measurement in metric then make sure that is the side of the ruler facing your object. The same thing if you want the measurement to be in English (inches). You should also take note of how big of an increment you are going to use so that if you just need the bigger ones then maybe you can substitute the machinist ruler with a regular one (in case you lost yours or does not have access to one).
  • Reading the measurement. Now that you know which side to use, carefully look and match the measurement up to the ruler. Double and triple check if the starting or zero point is placed correctly. If you cannot get the ruler to move to your desired starting point then just compute the actual measurement manually. Make sure that your ruler is not moving and so is your object. If possible, make a temporary mark on your ruler with the use of a crayon, pencil or chalk so that it can serve as a confirmation of the measurement. If it is still not exact enough then you would need to add the increments yourself.

Just remember that when taking measurements, you need to have good lighting for you to see the actual reading. You must also be on stable footing so that your ruler will not move. Keep the ruler as straight as possible and try to do the measurement many times so that you can eliminate accidental mistakes in measuring. If you are not able to see the tiny increments then it may be possible to need a magnifying glass to help you read the measurement. If none is available, ask someone else to look at the reading for you just to be doubly sure.


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