The Slightly Confused Woodworker

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A few more reasons why the Metric System sucks.


A few weeks back I posted my feelings on the Metric System. Though I was mostly joking, I had some people agree, and some people disagree. I’ve found that most Metric supporters feel that it is superior to the Imperial System in every way. Whatever. Here is what I do know. Maybe the metric system is superior, but it doesn’t work for everything. Case in point, here are a few instances where the Imperial Mile is used. I will convert it to Metric and you can be the judge.

Let’s start with music. The classic 1983 Plimsouls hit, A Million Miles Away, when converted to Metric becomes, One Million, Six Hundred Nine Thousand Kilometers Away. Maybe I’m wrong, but that really doesn’t have the same ring to it. How about Eminem’s, 8 Mile? In metric it becomes 12.875 Kilometer. Once again, not the same ring.

Okay, so if music isn’t your thing how about movies? The 1999 Tom Hanks film, The Green Mile, which was based on a novel of the same name by Stephen King, becomes The Green 1.609 Kilometer. I don’t know about you, but I feel The Green Mile has a little more dramatic cache. How about Poetry? Robert Frost’s Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening contains the famous phrase, ‘and miles to go before I sleep, and miles to go before I sleep’ Roughly convert that to Metric and it becomes ‘And Kilometers to go before I sleep, and kilometers to go before I sleep.’ I’m no poet, but the Metric version really doesn’t roll of the tongue in a poetic manner, does it?

I could go on and on but that would be redundant. My point is that maybe mathematically the Metric System makes a little more sense. I’ll give you that. But the Imperials System just sounds better. The Imperial System is cooler. We got the Mile High Club. What do you got?



  1. bloksav says:

    We have got a unit called kubikkilometer (cubic kilometer) That sounds good due to the alliteration. We use the unit for measuring e.g. contents of water reservoirs.
    I suppose that you could have a unit that was called cubic mile, but that doesn’t sound as good to me.

    My guess is that it has got more to do with the rhyme and the fact that kilometer has got four syllables which makes it a bit harder to fit into any song.

    When I watch American movies with soldiers in it, they often refer to “clicks”, And I think that is short for kilometers. That wouldn’t sound right with “mlicks”

    I remember a movie called 8 mm starring Nicholas Cage. that wouldn’t sound right as 0.315″.

    By the way, I actually think that the metric system is superior when it comes to woodworking because it is so logical. But that could be because I am not so smart as the Americans πŸ™‚ So I need something easy to be able to understand it.


    • billlattpa says:

      I would reluctantly agree that there are cases when the metric system makes more sense mathematically. However, there are times when logic doesn’t always “feel” right. The phrase “The journey of 1000 miles begins with one step.” when substituted with kilometers just doesn’t have the same emotional impact.
      I wouldn’t worry about being as smart as an American. That isn’t something that happens overnight. Still, I would bet that you are smarter than just about every professional woodworker in the United States. That has to count for something πŸ™‚

  2. Kees says:

    The quickest people in the world, without any mechanical appendage are the 100 meter runners. That sounds a lot better then the 109.7213 yards run.

    I have read a bunch of literature about alpine adventures. I’ve dabbled a bit in that myself, so it interests me. One of the big things in alpinism are the 8000-ers. There are 14 of them, all in the Himalayas and they mean a big price for the summit collectors. When you are reading English books about the subject it tires quickly to convert all the feet to meters and loosing your idea of where they are suffering at which altitude.

    If the Amercians were so smart to adopt, they would make new poetry quickly enough.

    • billlattpa says:

      American poets were smart enough to know that the metric system doesn’t work for poetry πŸ™‚ We used to have the 100 yard dash, though, that has a nice ring to it I think. And wouldn’t a yard seemingly make more sense in terms of racing than a meter, as a yard was originally derived from the length of a human being’s stride?
      I think I’ve made a small point here.

  3. dzj9 says:

    At first I wasn’t convinced, but Eminem tipped the scales.

  4. Gilgaron says:

    Once when traveling I disappointed an Aussie fellow talking about the imperial system and gas stations. I explained that we measured our gas in decimals of gallons, and when his face fell I knew he’d been imagining a pump with little ounces and tablespoon dials on it.

    That said, if I had to do science in imperial I would be as upset as if I had to do my woodworking in metric.

  5. billlattpa says:

    I’ve never been to Australia, and I know that they use the metric system, but I always imagined that they would just love the Imperial system. I’ve met a handful of Aussies, and they always seemed almost “American” to me. There was no culture clash if that makes any sense.
    I feel the same about electrical work. In fact, I don’t even know if there is an imperial conversion for electrical units; everything is taught in metric. It’s something I’ve never even considered.

  6. Jay C. White Cloud says:

    Hey Bill, et al,

    It has been a while, but since I get your updates automatically…it just seems like I always know what you are thinking…(agree or not)…:)

    I let the other “metric” post go by…as I read it quick…I thought you had been , more joking then made…yet understood you just don’t care for metric. Fair enough…many don’t here in the US of A.

    As for which is better. Well that too, I suppose in subjective. I will say that since billions of folks out there have “chosen” metric over other systems, I believe Americans are in the minority on this topic. From Science to Construction, to Cartography…METRIC RULES…Even the Japanese (which has a foot measurement called a “shaku” which is our foot almost exactly (99.9% of it) yet it is broken into 10 unit inchs called Bo…so…metric was quick and easy for them to adopt.

    I design, build, and teach to the metric system…always have…Even our timber frames are designed and cut to the 0.5 mm and you can get most of the folks around that switch over to even say a single nice thing about “imperial rules.”

    So, I guess this is all from our subjective view points…I know many like you, yet for me and mine (most of the world now I would add) I find my metric tape, calipers, and rulers much easier to use and understand. Though I do (as I live here) and can go back and forth for clients all the time.



    • billlattpa says:

      Good to hear from you. Believe it or not, I actually have nothing against the metric system in the least. I’ve used it in some way, shape, or form nearly every day on the job for the past 20 years. My posts are really just a little jab at some of the metric users around the world that are also kind enough to read my blog.
      In fact, when I was taking my electrical courses, we used nothing but metric, 6 hours per day, 5 days per week for almost 18 months, so even if I wasn’t familiar with the system before hand, I would have been one way or the other. But the funny thing is that all of the carpentry measurements and blue prints were in SAE during those courses.
      But I do honestly like the Imperial System better for woodworking. I like fractions, because they help me visualize the cut/ratio better. Now if I had only used the metric system for my entire life and was introduced to Imperial later I probably wouldn’t have taken to it. But truthfully I could use either. I just don’t understand how people look at the Imperial system and are so mystified by it.

  7. Jay C. White Cloud says:

    Bill wrote: “…But truthfully I could use either. I just don’t understand how people look at the Imperial system and are so mystified by it…”

    And that…Dear Brother…is the true reason it should be taught (or versonsions there of) along side the metric system in our schools more often and thoroughly…FRACTIONS!!!…Most of the world (minus Asia) is sorely lacking and wanting in factorial mathematics…and we are now slipping fast behind in this country educationally on many fronts. That is why so many are “bewildered” while you and I (and those like us) are not. We know and use both rapidly and interchangeably, as I still use, for example, square and cubic foot over square and cubic meter for wood volumes.

    Till Later,


  8. Fact is I’m to thick for imperial, unless it’s in units of 10 i’m screwed. Perhaps we should look to metricate the recording of time, 20hrs in a day, 100 second in a min, much easier πŸ™‚

    • billlattpa says:

      I always thought that the Imperial System was still somewhat common place in England. Either way, I think it works great for woodworking. Of course, the metric system works, too. But the Imperial system is so very American, and stubborn. That’s what I like about it πŸ™‚ Thanks

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