Now I've Seen Everything
Now I've Seen Everything

Clever Ways to Measure Things With Your Body and Everyday Items

Sometimes you don’t have a tape measure or ruler at hand, then use common objects as units of measure for approximate estimating the size of objects. There are clever ways to measure things without a ruler or measuring cup using your body and everyday items, such as banknotes, credit cards and other things.

1. With your body

The human body has been used to provide the basis for units of length for millennia. For example, the length of the international foot corresponds to a human foot with a shoe size of 13 (UK), 14 (US male), 15.5 (US female), or 48 (EU sizing).

For approximate measuring, you can also use the following equivalences.

  • 1 inch (2.5 cm) = the length of the first joint of your index finger
  • 2 inches (5 cm) = the length of your thumb
  • 4 inches (10 cm) = the width of most people’s hands measured across your bottom knuckles (without the thumb)
  • 6 inches (15 cm) = the span from the tip of the thumb to the tip of the index finger (when a hand is spread wide)
  • 9 inches (23 cm) = the span from the tip of the thumb to the tip of the pinkie (when a hand is spread wide)
  • 18 inches (46 cm) = the span from the elbow to the tip of the middle finger

For measuring food portions, follow this conversion diagram:

2. With a bank note (or a credit card)

Using your local bills to measure something can be a good idea since it’s an object that you likely have with you at all times. Bill size varies, depending on the currency and sometimes on value. Some of the most popular currencies are:

  • US dollars: 6.14 inches x 2.61 inches
  • Pound sterling: £5 at 125 mm x 65 mm; £10 at 132 mm x 69 mm; £20 at 139 mm x 73 mm for the polymer version, and 149 mm x 80 mm for the paper version
  • Euros: €5 at 120 mm x 62 mm; €10 at 127 mm x 67 mm; and €20 at 133 mm x 72 mm

If you don’t carry cash with you, chances are you have a credit or debit card in your pocket. In that case, keep in mind that the size of a standard card (sometimes known as CR80) is:

  • 3.4 inches wide x 2.1 inches high (8.5 cm x 5.4 cm)

3. With an A4

Modern paper is defined by the ISO 216 international paper size standard. That means that wherever you go, if you buy paper that’s advertised as A4, it should be this size:

  • 210 mm × 297 mm or 8.3 inches × 11.7 inches

4. With an app

Modern smartphones either come with an app that you can use to measure things, or they allow you to download specialized apps for this purpose. For example, both Google and Apple offer a free app called Measure.

  • Measure by Apple: Follow any on-screen instructions that ask you to move your device around after opening the app. Keep moving your device until a circle with a dot in the center appears. Move your device so that the dot is over the starting point of your measurement, then tap the “Add” button. Slowly move your device until the dot is over the ending point of your measurement, then tap the “Add” button again.
  • Measure by Google: Move your phone around the space to find flat surfaces, such as a tabletop or the floor. Point and tap to start your measurement and adjust it accordingly. When finished, tap on measurements to get a quick reference to unit conversion, copy, and delete functions.

Have you managed to measure something without using the proper measuring tools? What other efficient ways do you use for approximately measuring things?

Now I've Seen Everything/Tips/Clever Ways to Measure Things With Your Body and Everyday Items
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