Old Reliable - A Rule for the Ages
By David Rael
Since the introduction of Rhino Rulers, a waterproof folding ruler made of fiberglass, many masons are finding even more reasons to stay with this "old reliable." Folding rulers work for this trade because brick masons use their special scales designed for marking brick courses. These scales have equally marked graduations for each brick course and a brick mason uses them for laying out courses within a given overall dimension, such as equal coursing marks between a foundation and soffit, or to lay bricks along a window sill without having to make an unsightly cut. Brick spacing rules are also used when a mason lays a soldier course over an opening and wants to avoid having an unattractive looking cut within a detail area.
Yes, you can buy steel tape measures with brick courses printed on them, but most masons still prefer a folding ruler because it is stiffer than a steel tape. This is important when you are trying to mark courses along a vertical surface such as a door jamb or lead pole; it is very awkward to try holding a steel tape vertical and keep it still while you are trying to make several accurate marks without it moving like a ribbon in the wind.
Another advantage of a folding ruler in masonry is that masons can take an accurate measurement above their heads without climbing a ladder. For example, a mason usually hangs a string line for keeping an accurate corner plumb. If the mason unfolds his rule and bends the first limb to a 90-degree angle, he or she can reach above their head to accurately measure the distance of the string from the wall. This same trick can be used to measure dimensions of soffits or overhangs without climbing scaffolding or a ladder, as long as the area being measured is within a six-foot reach.
The biggest problem with wooden folding rulers is that they are really more suitable for working indoors. Folding rulers made of wood have the numbers and brick spacing graduations painted on; the paint on a folding ruler is subjected to water, mortar, sand and the overall abuse that masonry tools go through. Because of this, the paint peels off, along with the graduations the mason needs. Another thing that happens is that when they get wet, the wood expands within the brass hinge and when the ruler dries it can become too loose in the hinge and cause the ruler to become inaccurate. A wooden folding ruler that has expanded and contracted several times can be pulled out at both ends. At that point, who knows how accurate it is. Wooden rulers are also fragile and can break very easily when subjected to these harsh conditions.
At Rhino, we simply make the same exact tool, but out of fiberglass and with an improved, stainless steel hinge design that does not allow the limbs to "slip" within the hinges. Our graduations are engraved into the fiberglass, so there's no chance of them rubbing off like they do on a painted wood rule. Plus, they are completely waterproof — underwater archeologists use our rulers for taking measurements while deep-sea diving. Although masons may not go to those extremes, we're positive that the durable aspects of a folding ruler far out-weigh those of any other.
About the Author
David Rael is President of Rael Inc. and Rhino Tools.