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Measuring in a pinch with common everyday objects around you

Updated on April 21, 2018
Joel Diffendarfer profile image

Joel's most recent projects include Burning Man 2017, Colorado Hemp Expo, Denver Paper Fashion Shows, Arise Music Festival and more.

Key Tricks & Hacks

The everyday dollar is a folding maze of exact measurements
The everyday dollar is a folding maze of exact measurements | Source

Simple and Fun Measuring Hacks

Over the years, I've found ways in which to utilize what's in front of me but not necessarily in the way with was meant to be used. I'm one of "those" who have found that as the old golf adage states: "Play the course as you find it and the ball where it lies". These simple hacks that follow are a good example of measuring "in a pinch".

Handy Measurements

Knowing some simple measurements can save the day
Knowing some simple measurements can save the day | Source

The Dollar Bill

The exact measurement of a US one dollar bill is: 2.61 inches wide and 6.14 inches long; they are .0043 inches thick and weighs 1 gram. As a hack, I use a dollar bill in a pinch when I need to measure six inches. If you fan fold in into six equal folds, you have one inch. In the woods, I have used a dollar bill to transfer measurements to make a three-foot camp measuring stick to make a very accurate sundial. So now, I had both measurements and the time.

The "Solo" Cup

Even though it is has been purported as just an Urban Legend, the original design of a Solo cup was not purposely designed for exact liquid measurements. However, as it just so happens, the graduations where the cup takes its stacking shape, are equal to popular liquid and dry measure. The Official Red Solo Cup makes a great outdoor measuring cup.

Here are the three primary measurements that can be combined or subtracted from to cover a wide range of ratios.

  • First line: 1 ounce
  • Second line: 5 ounces
  • Third line: 12 ounces

Standard Playing Card

Just like a dollar bill, the measurements of a standard playing card remain constant. The long side measures three and one-half inches and the short side measures two and one-half inches.

If you place one long way and one short way perpendicular to the other, you will now have a perfect six inches. If you hold one on top of the other perpendicularly, the remaining exposed underneath card will be exactly one inch. Again, just another example of simple math and measurements that are found all around us.

Standard Bic Lighter

A Bic lighter is another example of an object that may be in your pocket or purse. The base measurement is one inch. The height measures three inches tall.

I usually keep a lighter in my tackle box. I have found it is a quick and handy tool for not only cutting line but also for measuring fish.

Measuring by eye

Now, this isn't so much a hack as it is a skill. Over the years, I have practiced and measured so many things that I can pretty much look at most objects and give you the exact dimensions to within a sixteen of an inch. Remembering exact measurements of different measurements like in the examples above will train your brain to make instant size comparisons without even thinking about it.

Bonus Hack: Plumb

This is not a measurement hack as it is a fence building trick that saves a lot of time and frustration. It may sound a little complicated, but after you master it, you will find yourself judging the "plumb" of all kinds of things.


Whenever I build a deck or put up a fence, I find a reference point that I know is plumb, like the outside corner of a house or chimney. If I am trying to plumb a fence post for example, I will first loosely set the post in the ground and then stand back a couple of feet and then compare the line of both outside edges should line up. If they don't, I will adjust the post to be in perfect line with the straignt line of the house or chimney. Once you have one post lined up with your intial setting of the first post, you can continue down the line using the previous post as another guage.

Look at the picture the fence plumb with the house or chimney. I say it is not.

Is this fence plumb?


Hack Award

Which measurement hack listed is the coolest?

See results

Your Hacks!

I'm sure you have come across a hack or trick or two. I would love to hear them. Please feel free to comment and share below. Thanks for looking!

© 2014 Joel Diffendarfer


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    • Lady Lorelei profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 

      6 years ago from Canada

      Ha, that does sound like a logical method of measuring things up. I have used yarn, sticks, and a box but never a dollar bill. Love your images. They are wonderful.

    • Joel Diffendarfer profile imageAUTHOR

      Joel Diffendarfer 

      6 years ago from Jonesville

      Thanks, Stephanie...most of my creative writing is birthed by a good campfire.

    • Stephanie Henkel profile image

      Stephanie Henkel 

      6 years ago from USA

      Necessity is the mother of invention, they say! Popping tabs while brain storming around the campfire must have stimulated those neurons! I enjoyed your hub immensely...very entertaining (and useful!)

    • Joel Diffendarfer profile imageAUTHOR

      Joel Diffendarfer 

      6 years ago from Jonesville

      Right in the middle of trying to write something serious, and you make me stop and laugh? Thanks!

    • alancaster149 profile image

      Alan R Lancaster 

      6 years ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire)

      Got nothing against Daryls as such, so I didn't bother voting.

      I used to be in the Scouts, but the only time I went camping (April, 1960) it rained most of the day, every day for almost a week between about 7am and dusk. This was on the North York Moors near a village called Commondale on the Middlesbrough-Whitby railway route. We got up around 6.30am, washed in ice cold moorland water and breakfast was slushy porridge (how the cook passed his cooking badge I'll never know)! It rained on my 13th birthday as well, worse luck. That was midweek in the Easter Hols.

      Another thing, don't mind my ignorance but -

      1. What's 'Cornholes' and

      2. Why do you need to measure the fish you catch? You can tell by laying it in the pan if it's too big (if you know the diameter of the pan, there's a handy measuring device) you can cut it, but that would take ages, cooking fish for a troop of lads. The fish shrink when they're cooked anyway.


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