Expanding on this concept, the notion of a story stick (or in marine work a tick stick) will save your bacon by very efficiently becoming the standard against which all measuring, including joint details, can be done. An entire kitchen can be laid out and cabinets made and fitted from a couple well done story sticks…no rulers required. Story sticks are used to lay out accurate curves of any dimension and can be used to re-create an existing curve that is almost impossible to measure any other way.
Proportions and ratios are applied using the three main reference planes as a starting point for all layout and cutting comparisons. The reference planes are necessary for all project accuracy and eliminate creep or cumulative errors. Usually the 3 main reference planes are left, bottom, and front. Sub-planes, like for drawer or door cutting can be established.
All of the above implies that drawn up plans display the appropriate dimensions from the appropriate starting reference. Most of the time, dimensions are numeric and number sticks are used to quickly approximate the transfer. If dimensions are given as ratios instead, then number sticks become irrelevant. It’s a good practice, I’ve learned, to lay out a story stick from the plans BEFORE any other work on the project. The stick becomes the standard with ALL the details of the project on its various sides. It can be thought of as a “custom ruler” that eliminates most of the transfer issues of number sticks. (think bad memory…)
It’s a whole different mind set to do work without number sticks and at first it seems impossible. Eventually, as one continues to apply the principle in simple ways at first, one becomes a hybrid, using transfers as well as number sticks. Sometime, probably just when one is too old to really take advantage of it, number sticks become irrelevant.
We may be coming full circle, because as CNC machines become popular in small woodshops and the craftsman learns to program, he will realize that all CNC moves are calculated from a single reference point. And it’s interesting to note, that rulers as we know them, are a relatively recent development.