Tag Archives: chartometer

Changing the measuring scale in Morris's Patent Chartometer

Map Measurer of the month- Morris’s Patent Chartometer

Morris's Patent Chartometer

Morris’s Patent Chartometer

This months map measure is a wonderful chunky, clunky piece of Victorian engineering invented by Englishman Edward Russell Morris, of the Morris Patents Engineering Works, High Street, Birmingham. It dates from the 1870s and is capable of measuring a wide range of scales due to interchangeable card discs.

Back of Chartometer

Back of Chartometer

The earliest versions of ‘Patent Chartometer’ were patented by Morris in 1873. He produced two versions of this large measure. A simpler device with rotating pointer, and the one shown here, with rotating pointer and totaliser.

The totaliser counts the number of revolutions of the pointer. Small red painted figures, counting from 1 – 10, can be seen through a small window to the right of the rotating pointer.

Face of Chartometer without scale card inserted. Revolution counter can be seen to the right of the hand. The lower stud protrusion ensures an inserted cart is correctly orientated

Face of Chartometer without scale card inserted. Revolution counter can be seen to the right of the pointer axis. The lower stud protrusion, between the words Morris’s and Patent, ensures an inserted card is correctly orientated

Morris's Patent Chartometer and scale cards with leather bound wooden case

Morris’s Patent Chartometer and scale cards with leather bound wooden case

The map measurer shown here is serial number 705 and came supplied in a leather bound wooden case, with silk interior. Scale cards are stored below the measure in the case.

The map measure, or Chartometer, has a hinged glass front opened by a press button catch on the side of the brass case. With the desired scale card inserted and hinged front closed, the measure is held in the hand and the steel wheel at the bottom trundled along the line of whatever requires measuring, be that road, path or anything else. The measurement is then read off against the scale card and any total revolutions of the hand, as indicated by the totaliser, accounted for.

Morris was a member of the Institute of Civil Engineers from 1880 and designed and manufactured map measurers in a range of sizes, this is possibly the largest he produced. A bijou map measure also constructed by Morris was shown here recently. That weighed just 15g, the larger Chartometer shown here still only weighs 80g. The measure is 3 1/8″ tall, or 80mm in new money.

Morris's Patent Chartometer. Cast into the underside of the hinged front is- "THE MORRIS PATENTS ENGINEERING WORKS BIRMINGHAM"

Morris’s Patent Chartometer. Cast into the underside of the hinged front is- “THE MORRIS PATENTS ENGINEERING WORKS BIRMINGHAM”

Scale card measures furlongs

6 inch to the mile scale card measures furlongs. Five turns of the dial will indicate 40 furlongs, or five miles. Dials are 2″ / 50mm diameter

Nine cards, giving 13 direct scales, are supplied with the measure. These are:

  • Scale 1/2500, or 25.344 inches to a mile
  • Scale, 6 inches to a mile
  • Scale 1/500, or 10.56 feet to a mile
  • Scale, 1 mile to an inch
  • Scales, 2 and 4 miles to an inch
  • Scales, 3 and 6 miles to an inch
  • Scales, 5 and 10 miles to an inch
  • Scales, 7 and 11 miles to an inch
  • Scale, 5 feet to a mile
Scale cards for Morris's Patent Chartometer

Scale cards for Morris’s Patent Chartometer

Morris's Patent Chartometer

Morris’s Patent Chartometer

The word ‘chartometer’ was described in Scientific Instruments 1500 – 1900 An Introduction, by Gerard L’Estrange Turner, with Andrew Turner (first published in 1980 as ‘Antique Scientific Instruments‘) thus:

“The opisometer is a small device for measuring the lengths of roads, rivers, walls etc., on maps. It is a milled wheel on a screw thread with a handle. The wheel traces the route, and is then wound backwards on the scale at the edge of the map. The chartometer is the same but has a dial and pointer to give the measure immediately.”

An example of an opisometer from the mid-nineteenth century was shown here earlier and it is clear what a step forward Morris’s Chartometer was for those measuring lines and routes.

 

 

Bux Measure

Map measurer of the month- The BUX map measure

The plastic Bux map measure frequently comes up for sale on the second hand market. This is a little surprising as it is amongst the simplest of map measurers ever manufactured. Often described as being made of bakelite, it is probably more likely to be catalin.

Bux measure works most easily with a 1″ to 1 mile map

Cheaply made, probably in the 1960s, the Bux measure was made in England and attempted to rival the far more expensive, more robust and certainly more accurate metal cased opisometers available from France, Switzerland and Germany.

Almost nothing seems to survive today that explains the origins of this little measure yet they were likely produced in their tens of thousands.

Each measure came in a small flapped paper envelope. This is printed with the simple to understand instructions on how to use.

Despite this type of measure having been used for many purposes- namely, with any undulating line that required measuring, the instructions that come with the measure only indicate use with maps.

THE BUX

MAP MEASURE

The measure is marked for scale 1″
to 1 mile. For 1/2″ to 1 mile simply
multiply the reading by 2; for 4
miles to 1″ multiply by 4 etc.
Before commencing a reading it is essential to 
see that the dial is at zero then to wheel the 
instrument lightly but firmly along the route
in the direction indicated by the arrow on
the case.

 

Bux map measurer in the envelope in which it was supplied

Bux map measurer in the envelope in which it was supplied

The Bux measure is very simple in construction. The small measure is moved by hand along a line on a map, pressing firmly onto the map when moving rotates the small metal wheel at the base. This has a fine toothed brass cog attached at its spindle, this in turn rotates another brass gear that engages with the plastic dial that rotates through the small window in the front. The gearing moves the dial through one fifth of a mile increments per inch of travel along a line on a map. Be it mapped path, bridleway, river or road.

Red and black numbering and incremental markings on Bux dials

Red and black numbering and incremental markings on Bux dials

A change was made in the colour of the plastic measuring dial at some point during its production. Numbering and increments on the dial changed from red to black, or vice versa. The dial is marked in five mile increments, so one full turn of the dial represents 50 miles of travel on a one inch scale map. Accuracy of measurement is pretty good.

So why is the measure called the ‘Bux’. Nothing seems to survive in print today to explain this. I can only hazard a guess, aided by the text that appears on the face of one of the examples that I have. This says ‘BUCK ENGLAND’. Buck almost certainly refers to the English County- Buckinghamshire. This Home County borders Greater London and was likely where the manufacturing was carried out. The word ‘Buckinghamshire’ is normally shortened to ‘Bucks’, and pronounced ‘Bux’.

The lighter plastic cased measure weighs 7.5g. The darker bodies, with a slightly different casting, weigh 8.2g. Three Points of the Compass has identified four generations of this little measure. These have one of the following:

Front of case Rear of case
text text
1″ = 1 ML

BUX

MADE IN ENGLAND PAT. PEND. large text, around case, no case recess
1″ = 1 ML

BUX

MADE IN ENGLAND PAT. PEND. small text, in case recess
1″ = 1 ML

BUX

  blank case recess
1″ = 1 ML

BUCK

ENGLAND

MADE IN ENGLAND PAT. PEND. large text, around case, no case recess
The rear of four generations of case castings

The front face of four generations of case castings

The rear of four generations of case casting

The rear of four generations of case casting

These little measures do not stand up there with the finest of scientific measuring instruments produced in the UK. They are a poor replacement for the finely made precision measurers made some fifty years prior. What they have done is bring such measures within reach of the pocket of just about anyone. They must have cost just pennies when new. Yet all four examples that are shown here still work, probably fifty to sixty years after manufacture.

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 of 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

Pathfinder de Luxe

Pathfinder de Luxe, this measurer features map reader, compass and a magnifying glass that swivels out for use

Pathfinder de Luxe, this measurer features map reader, compass and a magnifying glass that swivels out for use

An uncommon variety of the Pathfinder map measurer was the Pathfinder de Luxe- ‘combined compass . map measure . magnifier’. Based on the short handled variety with map measurer on front face and compass on the rear, this also features a magnifying glass that can swivel out from in front of the map measurer dial to be used while perusing maps etc.

The paper dial on this example will measure inches-to-miles and centimetres to kilometres.

The magnifying glass on this measure can be easily switched out to a different strength magnifier if required.

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.