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Design Without Dimensions: Making Adjustments With Whole Number Ratios

Updated: Jun 6

OverTime 8.1 explains how I used dividers to design without dimensions, and how using whole number ratios to determine my part sizes allowed me to quickly make adjustments to the design when my ripping was off the mark.

When I'm filming The Hand Tool Practice I do my best to show as much as I can without step-by-step narration.

But sometimes there's a nuanced topic that could use some explaining or I get a really good question from a viewer.

This video refers to:

You can find the other OverTime videos from HTP8 here:



The biggest barrier my students tell me they have to getting things done in their shop is “TIME”.

So I created the hand tool practice to help people focus on spending small amounts of time in their shop with the idea that they're just spending time with their tools, not trying to get a big project done. All those small sessions add up to a project if you just spend a little bit of time here and there.

But this is not The Hand Tool Practice. This is OverTime.

Designing Without Dimensions

In the video you might have seen me fiddling with these dividers on several occasions and I've been using a whole number ratios to lay out my part rather than dimensions.

Early in the project the biggest limiting factor in dimensions was the thickness of the stock that I was using to rip my parts out of. So I took that as my height, and I wanted to use a three-to-one ratio between the width of the base and the height of the part. So I started with that larger dimension, divided by three, and that gave me the width of the base.

Making Adjustments On The Fly With Whole Number Ratios

When I ripped my two parts out of the stock, my technique, my ripping technique, was lacking, and I ended up cutting through the layout line on the part.

So I had to make an adjustment midway.

And because I'm using whole number ratios, I didn't have to calculate anything. I just found the spot on the base of the part that was the narrowest place where the saw had cut through the line. And then I took three steps along the height of the part to find my new height.

After that, it was just a matter of cutting the gauge lines and darkening them with a pen so that it's easier to see for you and for me while we're working.

Read A Book

If you want to learn more about using whole number ratios in your design, you can get this book by George Walker and Jim Tolpin.

It's “By Hand & Eye”.

It's printed and sold by Lost Art Press, so I'll put a link at the bottom if you're interested.


Appearing in this video:

Classic Stanley Hand Tools T-Shirt - Dark Grey Heather - L

Classic Stanley Hand Tools T-Shirt - Heather True Royal - L

Starrett 3” Dividers*

Time Timer Home MOD - 60 Minute*

Hamilton Tools 6” Walnut Marking Gauge

“By Hand & Eye” - Walker & Tolpin

Items noted with an asterisk (*) are affiliate links. You'll pay the same price and support my work when I receive a small commission from the retailer.

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