Offsets and the Offset Calculator

One of the handiest, most underused functions of Tinker Tools.
One of the handiest, most underused functions of Tinker Tools.

Right after rotating, configuring an offset is perhaps the most intimidating aspect of figuring out how to use Tinker Tools in particular.  The Offset Calculator was first introduced with Dimension Tools, but it’s functionality has been expanded on so that it can be used to find the distance between two points, it can offset on an angle, and it can even type the offset for you!

Unlike the other sub-menus that we’ve explored so far, the Offset Calculator doesn’t have an Absolute or Relative mode.  There are two drop downs, a text box, and a widget that you can open and close as needed for inputting offset values either into the Move window, or into the Copy and Paste box.

One caveat to the Offset Calculator–you can find the distance between two modular wall pieces, or two corner posts, but some accuracy may be lost, as this tool is for standard building blocks and floor pieces.  Why?  Because the modular walls and corner pieces are not flat on all surfaces, the walls have varied thicknesses at the top and bottom, the corner posts have a curve in the middle of the post that could skew any offset.  As for other items, most things are so oddly shaped that it would be impossible to get an accurate offset, so with many items, manual offsetting is still required.

But before we get too deep into what the calculator does, perhaps we should explain what an offset is:

If I want to set a second tile down against this first one with minimal overlap, I need to offset. The calculator can help me to offset so that there is minimal overlap and no gap between blocks, so that a nice, smooth finish is presented.
If I want to set a second tile down against this first one with minimal overlap, I need to offset. The calculator can help me to offset so that there is minimal overlap and no gap between blocks, so that a nice, smooth finish is presented.

Offsets are not just for alignment of walls and flooring, they’re also vital to eliminate flicker, which is caused when two blocks overlap so closely your PC can’t distinguish between the two so keeps bouncing back and forth.  Sometimes, this is done deliberately.  More often, it’s unintentional, and is very easy to fix–as we saw in the Movement guide.

At it’s most basic, I can use the Offset Calculator to find out how far I should offset to place a second tile that butts right up against this first one.

Something that initially seems like it should be very complicated is actually not.  Now, let’s say I want to offset a building block that’s on an angle.  If the angle is 90 degrees in one or two axes, you can select that rotation from the Orientation drop down.  When you start talking about those odd angles–45, 30,15…12–then you want to select a Transformed (X, Y, or Z) Offset, based on whichever way you want to move the follow-on blocks.

With this example, the tile is rotated 45 degrees in the Pitch, but I want to stack another tile with the same angle on top of it--perhaps for a rooftop.
With this example, the tile is rotated 45 degrees in the Pitch, but I want to stack another tile with the same angle on top of it–perhaps for a rooftop.

In the picture above, you may have noticed that I have the tile rotated in Pitch, but I’ve got a transformed Z offset selected.  Why?  Because Z is the axis I want to move the tile in, and the offset needs to happen on two axes instead of just one.

With the values transferred to copy and paste, using a transformed Z offset worked out perfectly, and I can continue to use that offset until this angled piece is as long as I want it to be.
With the values transferred to copy and paste, using a transformed Z offset worked out perfectly, and I can continue to use that offset until this angled piece is as long as I want it to be.

Using angled offsets does have a limitation in that if I want to rotate the second block, say for making a bridge, or an arched type of structural adornment, it won’t offset correctly, so a manual adjustment might still be required in some circumstances.  But being able to correctly align angled building blocks as perfectly as you can align straight blocks is…invaluable.

Now, on to another use of the Offset Calculator, finding distances.  For some things, using a Dimensional Distance Indicator will get the job done just fine if it’s your choice to use one (I love the distance indicators, myself), but for many other things, the Distance Indicator’s radius is too large, since 5 meters is the smallest you can accurately gauge with it.  Or, you may find yourself without one, and needing to find a selection point central to two building blocks for a particular project.

Here’s how easy it is to find a center point:

If the explanation above sounded complicated, I apologize, because it isn’t.  In approximately four clicks and with no math, you can perfectly find the center of two selected objects and mark that spot so you can always have an accurate distance offset.  That ability will definitely come in handy once we start on the next segment, Copy and Paste, where we’ll be pulling all of the sub-menus together into the most functional area of Tinker Tools.

Happy Building!

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