Most kitchen cabinets are built using the 32mm system, which evolved just after World War II. It is based on increments of 32mm, the minimum spacing possible between any two spindles in a line-boring machine at that time. All hardware is based on this measurement, and cabinet hinges either surface mount on two 5mm holes spaced 32mm apart or utilize a 35mm blind hole drilled with a high-tech Forstner bit. Many hinges even have a combination of the two, with the door having a 35mm hole and the cabinet side having a row of holes spaced 32mm apart and 37mm from the edge. Shelf supports also go in 5mm diameter holes spaced 32mm apart which, at just over 1-1/4”, gives you a nice spacing.
Today, we are pretty much forced to build cabinets in millimeters because of all the nifty 32mm hardware available—like soft close slides, hinges, etc. These hinges also allow for a large amount of adjustment in order to bring a door square (or the best compromise thereof), even if the workmanship is not so exacting. This is OK because a number of companies, such as True32 and Festool, offer tools and machinery that give precise 32mm spacing for the small- to medium-sized shop. This being the case, when I build kitchen cabinets, the only time I talk in inches is when my wife explains the size and placement of the cabinet she wants. I will then convert the inch size dimensions to the nearest multiple of 32mm and build it.
It was, therefore, a happy day when I learned of the ProCarpenter Series of tape measures offered by FastCap. The concept for these tapes wasinspired by the aforementioned True32 Corporation, a company in Richmond, Kentucky, that builds 32mm production machinery. Possibly the most useful model during the layout process is the 12’ ProCarpenter Metric/Standard tape ($6.95). It’s graduated in inches on the top edge and millimeters on the bottom.
The pièce de résistance is that the millimeter edge has a dot every 32mm that greatly simplifies the layout process for cabinets. Just find the nearest dot to the inch size, and that is the size you build to. Additional handy features include a built-in pencil sharpener and a plastic circular notepad on which you can jot measurements. Pencil marks seem to easily erase from the plastic—at least so far.
Once a sketch or plans are drawn, the handiest tape has got to be the 5 meter-long True32 Metric/MetricReverse model ($7.95). This 16 foot+ tape reads in either direction with the aforementioned dot every 32mm. It also has notations for important 32mm standards, such as base cabinet height at 878mm or 35.57”. Either tape can be ordered directly from the FastCap website.