Highland Woodworking Wood News Online, No. 160, December 2018Welcome to Highland Woodworking - Fine Tools & Education Learn more about Highland Woodworking View our current woodworking classes and seminars Woodworking articles and solutions Subscribe to Wood News
The Down to Earth Woodworker
By Steven D. Johnson
Racine, Wisconsin

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Confounded By Fractions?

We North American woodworkers are locked, it seems, into the Imperial system of measurements, with no foreseeable hope of ever converting to the much, much easier metric system. So, we deal with fractions… 3/32, 7/64, 5/8, etc. And when we have to do things like add mixed-denominator fractions or halve odd number numerators, we struggle. In the past I recommended a nifty little app called "FractionPlus" by Digital Alchemy and downloadable for free from your favorite app platform store. But, once in a while, I run across a task that perplexes me and the app doesn't help. For example, my funky little digital caliper will sometimes give me a measurement like 83/128". What the heck is that? And how do I use my tape measure to transfer that measurement to a board or pick a drill bit?

Well, if you are proficient at math, you can do this: Reduce the denominator to 32nds by dividing 128 by 4. But then you also have to reduce the numerator, 83, by the same factor of 4. 83 ÷ 4 = 20-3/4.

So, in this example, the dimension I need is 20.75/32. I can round that up to 21/32 or round it down to 20/32. But that's a lot of math to do in my head. Thus, in Excel, I created a spreadsheet that does all that math heavy-lifting for me.

Simply enter 83/128 in the indicated cell, and the conversion is done in 16ths and 32nds, both rounded up and rounded down, if necessary.

The "Round-up Round-down Calculator" can also be used to convert fractions that are not common to woodworking tapes and rules. For example, if you stumble on a measurement like 7/13" (and I have), simply enter that exact fraction where indicated, and the answer will appear in both 16ths and 32nds.

When combined with the FractionPlus app, my Round-up Round-down Calculator should make your work with imperial fractions easier.

You can download the Round-up Round-down Calculator from my web site by clicking here.

To make digital downloads available on my web site, I used an "off-the-shelf" e-commerce system, but please don't let that scare you. You simply place whatever you want to download into the "shopping cart" and proceed to the "checkout." And you really shouldn't let that scare you either! Enter your name, address, and email address… the checkout will not require any credit card information because everything on my web site is FREE. As soon as you complete the checkout process, you will be emailed a link where you can download the document(s) you requested. And, I promise, any information you enter will never be shared!

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Steven Johnson is retired from an almost 30-year career selling medical equipment and supplies, and now enjoys improving his shop, his skills, and his designs on a full time basis (although he says home improvement projects and furniture building have been hobbies for most of his adult life). Steven can be reached directly via email at sjohnson@downtoearthwoodworking.com

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