Solve Your Measurement Problems with a Construction Calculator

Why did I struggle these many years with our horrible and outdated measurement system, here in the States, without knowing about the soul saving power of the construction calculator. Trying to add an awkward series of measurements in feet, inches and fractions? A construction calculator can help you with that.

Best of all, you can get a construction calculator in the form of a free app for your tracking device, errrr, I mean “phone.” I downloaded the free DeWalt Mobile Pro Construction Calculator, available for both iPhone and Android devices. You can purchase carpentry, masonry and electrical work add-ons but the free version is good enough for most simple, homesteady projects. In addition to handling those pesky fractions, the basic version also does metric conversion. It will also help you calculate your sheet good needs. I added the carpentry module since I’ve found myself doing a lot of incompetent carpentry these past few months.

I’m old enough to remember the failed attempt to convert the U.S. to the metric system in the 1970s which would have made most of the features of the DeWalt Mobile Pro Construction Calculator unnecessary. But we can’t have nice things here. My attempt to use metric measurement around the house, several years ago, proved futile since it made trips to the hardware store extra confusing and could lead to the sort of conversion errors that nearly brought down an airliner and contributed to the loss of a Mars orbiter.

Counterintuitively, when doing any kind of carpentry or woodworking you should actually try to avoid measurements as much as possible. Instead, hold up parts, use full size plans, cut things to fit or use story sticks. But for estimating materials, you’ll still need to measure and do the sorts of calculations a construction calculator facilitates.

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  1. I have made several story sticks, and I did not know it was a thing. Of course, mine were not that long. For sewing, I have done something similar on paper.

    On my blog today, I talk about something I want to learn. Your post reminded me I might have to use a calculator. I really hate a calculator. I learned to use a slide rule when I was 16 and fought learning how to use a calculator until I was in 42 and forced to get one for algebra. I prefer pencil and paper.

  2. Canada changed over to metric in the 1970’s. However, most lumber and other construction material is still measured in inches and feet. A 2×4 is still a 2×4, not a 5.08×10.16.

    The policy of most national newspapers is to use metric in all cases which can lead to ridiculous results. A householder who unexpectedly encountered a 6 foot alligator in his backyard, reportedly called out to his wife: “Molly, there’s a 1.8288 meter alligator in the yard!”

  3. The DeWalt construction calculator does look like a nice full featured app.

    I have, however, been using an fraction calculator for my iPhone called Fraction & Triangle Calculator. This calculator is super simple for doing quick fractional equations plus I can see it when I’m working outside.

    I work in the electrical trade so the triangle solver helps me solve angles and sides without having to convert back and forth between fractions, decimals, and fractions again.

    • Thanks for the tip. And a friend of mine earned the nickname “Sparky” on his first day on the job working for an electrician.

  4. My son was in elementary school during the 1970s push to convert to metric. His teachers had supplementary lessons in the metric system that the school had obtained.
    He did fine with the lessons, which was fortunate for both of us, as I was unable to assist him, since (aside from trips to Europe) I had no experience with the metric system.

  5. I was in grade 4 when Canada switched to the metric system, so my brain was already used to Imperial measurements. For LONG distances I use the metric system (kilometres instead of miles–and km/h instead of mph), but short distances still come to me in yards, feet, inches and fractions thereof (vs metres and centimetres). Temperatures feel slightly more natural in Fahrenheit (vs Celsius). My dad did a lot of carpentry projects when I was a kid, with which I sometimes helped him, so the Imperial measurements stuck! In the kitchen, cups/tablespoons/teaspoons feel more natural than millilitres and litres, although food weights make more sense to me in grams and kilograms–yet we still order a pound of wings at our local pub!
    PS In Canada, and elsewhere in the world, we write “metre” and “litre”.

    • Do younger Canadians think in metric measurements or do some things still linger in the Imperial system?

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