Once upon a time, cabinetmakers used a story stick to record dimensions. This practice is not used much anymore, but there are still carpenters who prefer not to use rulers for some operations.
In the bathroom job we just finished, I measured for the door trim and went out to cut the pieces. When I brought them in the sides were 10″ short. I should have realized how much I was cutting off of the 7′ pieces while I was doing it, but I didn’t. My mind was elsewhere, apparently. I usually cut the mitre and then measure down from the short point. Since it’s not possible to hook the end of the tape measure on an obtuse angle, one way to do this is to hold the inch mark on the short point and measure from there. Using this method, you have to remember to subtract that inch – hence the term “burn an inch”.
While I avoid rulers in the shop, I rely too heavily on them in the field. Why were my pieces 10″ short? Because of a bad habit – instead of “burning an inch”, I usually burn 10″. I found over time that I have a weird form of dyslexia specifically with numbers. Instead of subtracting the inch, I’ll sometimes add it instead. I found that adding 10″ to my measurement and setting the 10″ mark on the short point works well for me.
Except when it doesn’t, and I have to run to get more trim.
What I should have done was brought the pieces in, marked them against the door, and brought them out to cut them. This eliminates measuring mistakes entirely. And that, friends, is the moral of this story.