Tag Archives: chartometer

Map measurer of the month- The Pathfinder Three-in-One

The Pathfinder Three-in-One was a multiple attempt at bringing together a map measure with two other functions. Usually a compass and one other- either pencil, magnifier or plug tester. You will frequently come across examples on the second hand market which is either testament to their robust longevity, or that they were simply thrown in a drawer and forgotten about.

Standard Pathfinder map measure with short handle

Standard Pathfinder map measure with short handle

Purchasers pf the Pathfinder map measure could choose one of two dial options. This is the inch to mile/centimetre to kilometre choice

Purchasers pf the Pathfinder map measure could choose one of two paper dial options. This is the inch to mile/centimetre to kilometre choice

Made in Western Germany, probably mostly in the 1960s, the Three-in-One is based on the stock model Pathfinder map measurer. This is a single needle, dial measure with one of two paper dials inserted in the face. One choice was Statute miles/Kilometres/Nautical miles, the other dial face option was Inches to Miles/Centimetres to Kilometres. Once purchased, the owner could not change the paper dial to the other option. The choice had to be made when bought. There was also the option of purchasing a Pathfinder measure that had two measures, one on each side of the body, each with a different dial scale.

The metal bodied measure has two faces-front and reverse. Map measure on one and if not another measuring dial, then a simple magnetic compass on the reverse. The compass is not liquid filled and the needle fluctuates wildly before settling. However, it works. Cardinal and ordinal points are shown, incorporating 30° intervals, indicated with figures, around the outer edge. Between these, every 5° is included. And that is it. I wouldn’t like to rely on the compass as a primary navigational aid but if such a measure were carried in the glove box of a car then it probably sufficed reasonably well.

This is by no means a unique combination. There are a number of surviving examples of Victorian map measures that also include a compass, so common is the combination that many very cheap and cheerful Chinese made plastic bodied measurers produced today also have a tiny compass included.

Pathfinder with long handle. This has a compass in the reverse face

Pathfinder map measure with long handle. This has a compass in the reverse face and is capable of measuring statute miles, kilometres or nautical miles

Pathfinder Map Measure and compass. Any of the five options of handles could be fitted- short, long, magnifier, pencil or plug tester

Pathfinder map measure and compass. Any of the five handle options could be fitted- short, long, magnifier, pencil or plug tester

A second choice of standard Pathfinder map measure has a long handle. This is a far easier measure to manipulate when following a line on a map, spinning the handle between the finger tips while trundling the measuring wheel along a path or line on a map is a relatively simple task. The same two choices of dial face were available with this as it is only the handle length that has changed. Again, a compass is included on the other side of the measure.

Box and instructions for the basic Pathfinder map measure and compass

Box and instructions for the basic Pathfinder map measure and compass

Pathfinder Three-in-One map measure- with magnifying glass

Based on the basic model Pathfinder, there were three further ‘three-in-one’ options available. These were easy for the manufacturer to create, instead of including a short or long handle with the standard body, one of three alternative handles was attached. The first Three-in-One shown here has a combination that has also been produced by just a handful of other manufacturers. Three Points of the Compass has seen Victorian and later measurers that also offered a magnifying glass as an option however surviving examples of the Pathfinder Three-in-One with magnifying glass are testament to the relatively large numbers produced and sold.

Pathfinder Three-in-One map measure with compass and magnifying glass

Pathfinder Three-in-One map measure with compass and magnifying glass

Glass magnifier on map measure is perfectly functional

Glass magnifier on map measure is perfectly functional

Pathfinder Three-in-One map measure- with pencil

Compass on Pathfinder Three-in-One with pencil

Compass on Pathfinder Three-in-One with pencil

This is a pretty handy little combination. I would think more drivers utilising a map measure on a trip would want a pencil than magnifying glass. I doubt many cyclists or hikers would be using it much as they will not be carrying a map measure on trail.

Twisting the barrel reveals the propelling lead/graphite. Sadly this is not a particularly well made product as the barrels frequently split on this measure, indeed my example is also split toward the end as a result of internal pressure and most I have seen for sale also exhibit similar failure. It still works though and the lead is replaceable.

Pathfinder Three-in-One with propelling pencil

Pathfinder Three-in-One map measure with compass and propelling pencil

Pathfinder Three-in-one showing split barrel of propelling pencil. A frequent point of failure

Pathfinder Three-in-one showing split barrel of propelling pencil. A frequent point of failure

Pathfinder Three-in-One map measure- with plug tester

This final example of the Pathfinder Three-in-One is an oddity these days. I do wonder if it were ever actually popular or of much practical use beyond as a map measure or basic compass.

I confess to never having used the plug-tester. In fact I cannot even find instructions on how it should be used. Even the instructions that come with this model actually fail to give any instruction. Is this because everyone knew how to use these? Three Points of the Compass has quizzed a few ‘old boys’ who run classic cars and has yet to come across anyone either with actual experience in using one of these or able to give any indication on how effective this particular tool is.

Pathfinder map measure and compass with spark plug tester

Pathfinder map measure and compass with spark plug tester

Plug tester variant of the Pathfinder Three-in-One map measure showing the little oblong test window in the handle

Plug tester variant of the Pathfinder Three-in-One map measure showing the little oblong test window in the handle

I am guessing that you simply touch a spark plug or tip of a lead running to one while an engine is running and it lights the little oblong window in the black handle to indicate a proper electrical charge is being delivered to the spark plug. Though I could be very wrong in this. The label on the box says ‘for running order‘, but again, I am not at all sure how this can be achieved or checked with this tool.

The Pathfinder Three-in-One is an interesting range of map measures. The company has deliberately sought to diversify a pretty standard piece of kit. I am not sure that anyone would go and buy more than one of the variants and all are possibly more suited to the motorist rather than the hiker. The name Pathfinder has been used with other makes of map measurer, though none seem to be of any noticeable improvement over the examples shown here.

Electrical contact on Pathfinder Three-in-One map measure

Electrical contact on Pathfinder Three-in-One map measure

Enclosed instructions for Pathfinder Three-in-One map measure

Enclosed instructions for Pathfinder Three-in-One map measure

 

My much used German made map measurer

Map measurers

Map measurer, opisometer, curvimetre, mile-o-graph, meilograph, chartometer, call them what you will, in the era of digital mapping, who uses such an antique analogue object today? Well, Three Points of the Compass still does. I have used a simple little map measure for decades. The  cheaply made one shown above, made in Western Germany,  has been pulled down off the bookshelf hundreds of times over the past twenty years when planning routes. It replaced another that gave equally lengthy service but had eventually died the death.

It never goes on actual walks with me. Though I am one of a seemingly dying breed who still likes, appreciates and takes hard copy maps with me on trail. If I want to measure a distance on the map while sitting in a tent, pub or hostel lounge, I either guesstimate, infrequently use a roamer scale on my compass baseplate, a strip of paper which is then measured against the scale at the bottom of my map, or, most frequently, I use a length of thin cordage. The small hank of 2mm yellow cord in the image below is one of the two I carry for attaching my Katabatic Palisade quilt to my sleeping pad.

Assortment of map measurers from Three Points of the Compasses collection. Some cheap and nasty, some peculiar, one or two beautiful and uncommon

Assortment of map measurers from my collection. Some cheap and nasty, some peculiar, one or two beautifully made and uncommon

Plastic map measures sold to readers of a popular motoring magazine

Plastic map measures sold to readers of a popular motoring magazine

Map measurers can be sweet little pocket watch style affairs that were tucked into the waistcoats of the gentry, or simple little wheeled opisometers, like the one below,  sold in the likes of Stanfords map shop in the mid-twentieth century.

They could be made of plastic, bakelite or metal. Have handles incorporating bone or ivory. Cheap versions were given away at petrol stations, or combined into all-singing all-dancing measurer/compass/thermometers made in China by the thousand. That said, they still work. The cheapest will do the same job as the most expensive gold plated measurer ever made. They even make incredibly expensive digital versions today. I look on them with dismay, much preferring my little analogue measurers.

Simple opisometer

Simple opisometer

Newspaper advertisement for Morris's 'Wealemefna', a 'new design of map measurer'

Newspaper advertisement for Morris’s ‘Wealemefna’, a ‘bijou’ map measurer. The Graphic, 1880

The idea of map measurers is an old one, probably as old as ‘to scale’ maps themselves. Beyond simple calipers, early map measurers, or opisometers were very simple affairs indeed, little wheels on a threaded bar that could be pushed along a line. More expensive designs that incorporated a dial scale didn’t really appear in any great numbers until the later nineteenth century.

Anyone that required a map was also using a map measurer. The military use them, sailors use them, motorists use them, town planners and draughtsmen use them, and still, just a few walkers use them. You run a little wheel along a route, a path, a road, a river, a line on a drawing, then either read off the result or measure against a standard.

 

Box for 'Self-Registering Rotameter', giving detail on how to use

Box for ‘Self-Registering Rotameter’, provides detail on scale and how to use

While a piece of cord or length of paper will simply measure a length, more complicated versions can measure in many units- multiples or sub-units of inches or feet, centimetres or metres, versts, miles or kilometres. Also to different scales- The two-faced French made measurer below has scales for 1:20 000, 1:25 000, 1:40 000, 1:50 000, 1:75 000, 1:80 000, 1:100 000 and 1:200 000. Made almost a century ago, it is still an effective and useful piece of kit that cost me less than a tenner. Not that I ever use it of course, I still pull down the old favourite from the bookshelf.

Map measurer by Henri Chatelain, with Quarter-Inch Ordnance Survey map to The Border, 1935

Map measurer by Henri Chatelain, with “Quarter-Inch” Ordnance Survey map to The Border, 1935

Along with thousands of other hikers I rely very much on my online O.S. Maps when planning my routes. This will give me not only distance but also daily elevation. However I still like to use a map measurer on my paper maps when I can. It forces me to look at the terrain, the twists and turns, the type of country being crossed- across bogs, through woods, traversing moorland, traipsing through the backstreets of towns.

I won’t go in to any great detail on map measurers here. There is an expanding page on my website that gives more information. Over the years I seem to have built a bit of a collection of these little devices, just a small handful of which are shown above. There seems to be a dearth of information on these online or in print form. Perhaps it is because they aren’t that interesting, just to the likes of me and one or two other like-minded souls. So I have decided to share just a few from my collection with you- good reader, over the next year. Twelve, one a month, beginning January. I bet you cannot wait…

The ditty bag/repair kit that Three Points of the Compass carried on the Cape Wrath Trail in 2018. A Leatherman keychain multi-tool formed a vital component of this

The ditty bag/repair kit that Three Points of the Compass carried on the Cape Wrath Trail in 2018. The hank of 2mm cord was often pulled into use as a simple map measurer when considering alternative routes due to weather or resupply necessity.