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Incremental Steel Rules Uses and Buying Guide

Machinist and incremental steel rules

Hand Tools

Incremental Steel Rules Uses and Buying Guide

Incremental Steel Rules Uses and Buying Guide

Incremental rules, also known as machinist or precision rules, can make small, precise, and close-quarter projects easier to measure.

I initially started using steel rulers for their most common use, in a machinist style work setting measuring small parts, which I still do for various articles on this site when creating specification lists.

Over time I have also found many uses for these steel rules around the home, especially for building projects. These rulers are so economical and compact, while proving useful, I have several throughout the home and garage as a go-to measuring tool.

  • Common size range from 1-6″ in length.
  • Small and detailed increments down to 64ths or mm
  • Some models have a conversion scale on the opposite side
  • Clear markings

When I’m doing detailed trim work around radius wall corners, I find these compact steel rules with metric markings to be quicker and more accurate than a tape measure.

We wrote about how the Sola Cordinat level can aid in easily measuring the gaps when hanging close proximity pictures, but these short rules work very well too, compared to a much larger and more clumsy tape measure.

A steel rule can be laid flat or on edge, and doesn’t have the hook, which can get in the way for certain measuring.

Steel ruler used for trim work

Steel Rule for Multiple Picture Hanging

These are just a few examples of where I tend to use a steel rule opposed to a tape measure. There are often times during building projects where I rely on my steel rules, and you may just find yourself doing the same thing to make your jobs easier.

Being such a simple tool, I don’t suggest overthinking this one. The tolerances should fine from any brand and model for home how-to-projects.

Machinist and incremental steel rules

Manufacturers: Empire, General Tool, Incra Precision Tools, PEC Tools, Shinwa, Starrett, Westcott

**Check your local home improvement stores and craft (e.g. Michaels) stores for availability.

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