Cartesian cross showing a workpiece exampleDigitizing a template

Measuring templates accurately is a fairly simple process once you understand the basics. Every CAD software and CNC machine is working in the same way. They all calculate the measurements and positions from one common point which is called origin or 0-point following the Cartesian coordinate system. That works for 3D (three dimensional) and 2D (two dimensional) spaces. Two dimensions(X,Y) is all we need to worry about when it comes to measure the templates with precision and that works for any shape and angle.

If you only have a rectangle piece of template with exactly square corners then that is very simple to measure as you only need the length(X) and width(Y) to work out the location of each of the four corners. But what if one side is out of square or all sides out of square like in the example drawing above- How do you work out the angle then?

What I'm going to show you even works on curves and radiuses but I'll cover that in another post. For now let's concentrate on how to digitize templates with odd shapes without the help of expensive equipment like a Proliner® or ETemplates. This kind of expensive technology is really not required to measure simple 2D templates.

aluminium straight edges and a big square

You only need a Tape Measure, a Straight Edge and a Square

All you need is good tape measure with an easy readable scale which retracts itself quickly and easily. I prefer black print on yellow background tape measures as they are readable even if the light conditions not so good. Avoid the black print on silver background measuring tapes as they are hard to read in my opinion.

Another thing you'll need is some straight edges. I got myself a few length 6 meter long 76x25 millimeter square aluminium tubes which I have cut into roughly 1,2,3 and 4 meter long pieces except for one which I left the full length.

You'll also need some big squares. I've cut mine from a 10 millimeter melamine sheet on our CNC bridge saw that ensured that they are really square which is very important for accuracy. If you don't have a CNC bridge saw you can router them on your CNC machine if you have router bit for timber as the diamond finger bit will not cut timber properly. Or else get them cut from a cabinetmaker workshop with a CNC router.

A tape measure, straight edges and a big square is really all you need to measure the templates, apart from a dry not so dusty place preferably a separated large room away from the production area. The room should be large enough to allow laying out whole set of kitchen templates as you do not want to measure each individual piece of template separate for accuracy reasons.

The size of room you'll need depends on the kind and size of jobs you are producing in your stone business. A space 8x5 meter is sufficient for most of our jobs here. Ideally this room is in a low traffic area as you don't want anyone walking over the templates and perhaps moving them while you are measuring.

measure a simple rectangle templateLets start measuring

This simple rectangle template is 2000x600 and easy to draw with the rectangle drawing function which you'll find in every CAD program. But for this example we will only use the line function to draw as that is what you will have to use if you have odd shaped templates to measure. As you can see in the image the origin is in the left bottom corner. To draw this simple rectangle you have to insert following coordinates into your CAD software starting at the 0-point with the coordinate:


Absolute dimensions are basically the whole secret. All measurements originate from one common point called origin or 0-point and measured in X and Y directions. To draw the above rectangular you normally would not use the line function, this was only to illustrate how the Cartesian coordinate system works.

template with one out of square cornerOut of square templates

Measuring the length of each of the four sides does not help you much unless you have a big protractor to measure the angles as well. But even so I doubt this will be accurate enough as you can easily be out be just a half a degree which make about 17 millimeter difference on 2 meter length. That would most certainly not be acceptable and the granite countertop may end up in the rubbish bin.

So the better solution is using the Cartesian coordinate system which means you don't have to care about angles. All you need to measure is the X and Y coordinates from the origin in X and Y direction. The X and Y coordinates for the above example are as follows:


I have not written X and Y as most likely you don't have to enter that in your CAD program anyway. I think by now it's clear that the first value represents always X and the second value represents always Y.

The rectangular drawing function in your CAD program will not help you much when you have to draw a template which is out of square like this one. You have to use the line drawing function to input every single corner with the X and Y coordinate from the 0-point.

measure out of square templatesAll corners out of square

Don't panic when you get templates where every corner is out of square. It is as simple to measure as the previous examples. The only difference is now that you have to create your own 0-point somewhere. That 0-point can be anywhere you want. The origin can be somewhere inside the template or even somewhere outside as I'll show you in my real working example in a minute, you just have to determine one point and take all you measurements from there.

All coordinates in the previous examples where positive values but as you can see now there is one corner with negative coordinates which is okay as your CAD software will understand when you type them in as a negative value. It doesn't matter from which corner you start to draw, my personal preference is always the bottom left corner but it does really not matter. The coordinates for this example are:


A real template to be measuredA real world example

This image shows a real template laid out on the floor ready for measuring. As you can see the origin is in the top right hand corner and the template does not even touch the straight edges. As I mentioned before it does not really matter where the origin is located.

Once everything is in position like in the picture it's just a matter of measuring the X and Y coordinate on every corner. That's how simple it is and the best thing you don't have to worry about any angles. This is by far the most accurate manual measuring and there is no need to spend thousands of dollars for a Proliner® or any other digitizer system.

TIP: A grid drawn on the floor helps to measure parallel to the X or Y axis.

A printout of the drawing with cross reference measurementsDouble checking your drawing

Once all the lines have been drawn up it is good idea to double check the drawing before going any further to eliminate any drawing or measuring errors. To do that I normally pick one or two corners in the drawing and put some measurements diagonally across to some corners or other important points like sink or hotplate cutouts.

By doing this procedure you eliminate 99% of all the possible errors which can happen during measuring or drawing. There is always a chance to mistype some numbers into the CAD program or read them wrong from the tape measure or simply write them down sloppy so you can't read them properly.

There are endless ways to make a mistake but with double checking you'll eliminate almost all of them.

A hand sketch of a real template

Adjusting badly made templates

Many of the templates we are getting are not very accurate and need some adjusting. Most of the time a cabinetmaker leaves the templates for us on site. We then go out to check the templates and write any necessary adjustments on the template. The picture on the left shows all the +/- values in red circles which represents all the changes which need to be done after the original size template has been draw up.

Don't try to incorporate these changes into your measuring, which will not work. Measure and draw the original size of the template and then do all the changes afterwards. There are two main reasons for that. The first one is that it is difficult to measure accurately when you try to include the pluses and minuses at the same time. The second reason is that you cannot double check the templates as mentioned in the step before.