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A meter-stick divided into 1,000 mm and labeled with 100 cm.

A yardstick[1] is a straightedge used to physically measure lengths of up to one yard (3.0 feet or 0.9144 meters long) high. Yardsticks are flat boards with markings at regular intervals. In the metric system, a similar device measuring up to one meter is called a meter-stick.[2]

Yardsticks are most often marked with a scale in inches, but sometimes also feature marks for foot increments. Meter-sticks are usually divided with lines for each millimeter (1000 per meter) and numerical markings per centimeter (100 per meter), with numbers either in centi- or millimeter. Hybrid sticks with more than one measurement system also exist, most notably those which have metric measurements on one side and U.S. customary units on the other side (or both on the same side). The "tumstock" (literally "thumbstick", meaning "inch-stick") invented in 1883 by the Swedish engineer Karl-Hilmer Johansson Kollén was the first such hybrid stick,[citation needed] and was developed with the goal to help Sweden convert to the metric system.


Yardsticks are often thin and rectangular, and made of wood or metal. Metal ones are often backed with a 'grippy' material, such as cork, to improve friction. They are relatively cheap, with most wood models costing under 5 US dollars.


Two wooden yardsticks with brass ends, in inches and division of yard for half, quarter, eighth and sixteenth.
A folding meter-stick carpenter's ruler with millimeter divisions and numbers in centimeters. Fully extended it measures 2 meters.

In countries in which the metric system is used (such as Canada and France), hybrid sticks bearing imperial units markings on one side (three feet3 38 in with inch and fractional inch) and metric units on the other (one meter with 100 centimeters and 1000 millimeters) are common, and are sometimes referred to as yardsticks, meter-sticks or "meter rulers". The spelling meter vs metre varies by country. Sometimes the imperial units are not included.

Although not used as often, meter-sticks can be found in the United States. For example, they are common in schools where there is a desire for students to become familiar with metric units.[3] They may also be used in American science labs.

The folding carpenters' rulers used in Scandinavia are sometimes equipped with double measurements, metric and imperial on both sides, also functioning as a handy conversion table, accounting for its Scandinavian term: Tommestokk/tumstock (thumb (inch) stick),[4] a term with the same meaning that is also used in Dutch: duimstok. Metric only carpenter's rulers are however common.


The yardstick is usually employed for work on a medium scale; larger than desktop work on paper, yet smaller than large scale infrastructure work, where tape measures or longer measuring rods are used. Typical applications of yardsticks are for building furniture, vehicles and houses. Modern carpenters' yardsticks are usually made to be folded for ease of transport.

Yardsticks may be used as pointing devices for posters and projections. Yardsticks are also used as spars to make wings for remote controlled model aircraft that are made from corrugated plastic.


  1. ^ Yardstick | Definition of Yardstick by Merriam-Webster
  2. ^ Meterstick | Definition of Meterstick by Merriam-Webster
  3. ^ Education, Kansas City (Mo ) Board of (1894). Lesson IV; Report of the Superintendent of Schools of the School District Of Kansas City, Missouri. The Board. p. 142.
  4. ^ NRK: Teknologi og design: Verktøyskapet (website in Norwegian)