poetry and prose about place

measuring my space

with 6 comments

Niche space can actually be measured.  Biologists and others apply a technique called ‘niche width analysis’ to determine the characteristics of a niche.  This analysis defines aspects of ‘niche’ such as climate, food use, temperature, moisture, and so on. 

One of the characteristics of my niche is – I love collections.  My favorite collection is my handful of jointed rulers.  I might not be able to measure every aspect of my ‘niche width’ with my collection of rulers, but I can measure any aspect of its linear distance!

My collection of jointed rulers was given to me by my Dad.  He and Mom loved to go to country auctions and they often bought items for me and my sister and brothers.  Dad gave me my first jointed ruler for Christmas and then, over the years, added to my collection, one ruler at a time.  The rulers were especially meaningful because my Dad was a wonderful carpenter and came from a long line of carpenters:

  • my great-great-great grandfather, ‘killed-by-lightning’ William
  • my great-great grandfather, ‘shipwrecked’ William (see my post ‘Briar Island Rock #1, #2 and #3′ of December 2, 2011 under the category ‘family history’)
  • my great-grandfather, ‘kneeled-on-his-beard-and-couldn’t-rise’ Esau
  • my grandfather Robert
  • my Dad
  • my brothers and sister and me (my husband and I built our own house). 

I keep my rulers in a box made of conventional rulers, and I love to take them out and look at them.


Jointed rulers have existed for a long time.  They are listed in the 1813 book The Circle of the Mechanical Arts by Thomas Martin (London). 

a Plate from Martin, 1813, showing a jointed 'rule' (item # 38)

Jointed rulers are not used very often by carpenters of today since the tape-measure is so much easier to store.  However, plumbers still use folding rulers because they can measure twisting pipes.


Most of my jointed rulers are made of wood with joints of brass.  They can be folded away quite compactly when not in use, and unfolded when they are needed.  Unfolded, they have a spidery quality.    One of my favorites has a leveling glass built in…

They are precisely made and have the combined beauty of varnished or painted wood, painted numbers, shiny metal and ‘mechanism’.



Great Blue Heron and reflection

on water, bent legs unite two images

of heron, brass connections

varnished wood


jointed rulers unfold, legs

disconnect, images detach

concentric circles swell 

distance and diameter measured

between droplets

and trailing toes

©  Jane Tims  2011

Written by jane tims

December 17, 2011 at 8:36 am

6 Responses

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  1. What a great collection! And the box you keep them in is perfect. 🙂



    December 23, 2011 at 6:10 pm

    • Hi Robin. I love the box too. It isn’t old (found it last year at Winners!) but it fits them perfectly and I can find them easily. Jane


      jane tims

      December 23, 2011 at 8:01 pm

  2. This is a wonderful post. I can feel your family attachment to the jointed measures and love the photos and story you share. The connection to Great Blue Heron is perfectly done. Thanks for this wonder-filled post!


    Carol Steel

    December 17, 2011 at 11:19 am

    • Hi Carol. I’m glad you like the post. Finding connections is an aspect of poetry I love. Jane


      jane tims

      December 18, 2011 at 6:50 am

  3. This is BEAUTIFUL!!!!I am so moved by your words, photos, objects and composition! Lovely! It’s so nice finding things like this one wordpress. I have only just realised that art and illustration blogs are where I want to look most! Thankyou!


    Gigi Galore

    December 17, 2011 at 9:36 am

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