When you need to check the size of something, you don't always have the best measuring tools on hand. Here are some tips on doing the job with and without rulers:
* Use your own body for fast, approximate measuring. The first joint of an index finger is about 1 inch long. When a hand is spread wide, the span from the tip of the thumb to the tip of the pinkie is about 9 inches; from the tip of the thumb to the tip of the index finger, around 6 inches. It's about 18 inches from the elbow to the tip of the middle finger. Of course, check these dimensions by measuring yourself first.
* If you're ever at a loss for a ruler, look in your wallet. Laid out flat, a $1 bill is 6 1/4 inches long. Folded in half, the bill is 3 1/8 inches; folded in half again, it measures almost exactly 1 1/2 inches. Folded lengthwise, the 2 5/8-inch-wide bill gives you a measurement that is very close to 1 1/4 inches. Also, a penny is exactly three-fourths of an inch across. A standard paper clip is 1 1/4 inches long; a giant clip, 1 7/8 inches.
* Snip off a 6-inch section of an old tape measure and keep it in your wallet. You'll find it handy for checking the size of small items in hardware stores.
* For quick and easy measuring, tack a yardstick or glue a metal ruler to your workbench. To measure on the run, glue a smaller ruler to your toolbox.
* To measure an inside dimension, use an old sliding curtain rod. Cut off the elbows on the rod, stretch it to fit the space, wrap tape around the point where the sections of the rod overlap to keep them from sliding out of position, then remove the rod and measure it.
* If you don't have a ruler handy, slip a thin rubber band around a straight stick. That way, you'll have a sliding marker that will preserve your last measurement. Don't use a rubber band that's so large you have to double it over to make it snug.
* You can also use a scrap piece of metal to transfer a measurement. Just mark the place with a small rectangular magnet.
* Here's a spill-proof way to measure out a small amount of stain or other liquid. Dip a plastic straw in the liquid just deep enough to get the amount needed. Then place a finger on the top end of the straw to hold the liquid in until it reaches its destination. Mark often-used measures on the straw. Test the amounts a straw can hold in water first.
* Always read a ruler straight on. If you're off to one side, your reading will be distorted. For more accurate measuring, hold a ruler on its edge rather than flat against the surface.
* To see a point you've marked more easily, draw a "V" instead of a straight line; let the point of the V serve as your marked spot.