Best Tape Measure
The earliest patent for a tape measure was awarded in 1922. These early models were imprinted on cloth and were intended more for use by the clothing industry but shortly afterwards, metal tape measures came into being for use by carpenters and other tradesmen, using a spring return patented a half century earlier.
Before the tape measure, carpenters used a folding rule. While effective, it was difficult to perform inside measurements with the folding rule and it was limited to six feet in length. If a carpenter needed to make a longer measurement, he had to measure it in pieces and add them together. Anyone who's ever done that knows that every time you add another measurement, you reduce your accuracy.
Today, we have both metal and cloth tape measures available. Cloth is still in use by the clothing industry, but also for some longer tape measures (50 and 100 feet) used in the construction industry. Metal retractable tape measures have become the standard for construction work, as they are faster and easier to use than cloth ones.
These steel tape measures now come in sizes ranging from three foot long pocket measures to 100 foot long reels. The most common size for the construction trades is 25 feet which is long enough to cross most good sized rooms. Blades are curved across their width, in order to provide them rigidity. The wider the measuring tape, the more rigid the blade which makes it easier for one person to use on their own because if the blade is too flexible, it will buckle as it’s being extended, especially when having to support itself across a span. For the measurement to be accurate, the blade must be straight, not buckled.
The end of most steel tape measures has a sliding hook on it, allowing it to be used with equal accuracy, whether measuring inside or outside dimensions. The hook slides to the appropriate position for the measurement. These hooks are held in place by four rivets on some tape measures, but better quality ones use four rivets.
One very important feature on any tape measure is the locking mechanism. Since the tape is spring loaded to return back into the case, a worker would have to hold the tape in place with one hand without a lock. Not all locks are created equal and any tape measure with a lock that doesn't work well ends up being more trouble than it's worth.
The tape itself is marked in inches and fractions with this varying considerably from manufacturer to manufacturer, with some being easier to read than others. Tape measures designed with carpenters in mind will have an obvious marking every 16 inches for stud spacing. A few tape measures come with both inch and metric markings, but that is rather rare.
When using multiple tape measures on one project such as in construction, always do a side-by-side comparison of their markings before beginning the work. Some may vary from others, causing problems when one person is measuring the place where a piece of wood needs to be installed and another is marking the wood to be cut. Taking a moment to make this comparison can save a lot of wasted material.
Lufkin P2133D Power Return Engineer's Tape
Komelon 7130 Monster MagGrip 30-Feet Measuring Tape with Magnetic End
Stanley 33-725 25-Foot FatMax Tape Measure
Fastcap PMMR-FLAT16 Flatback 16 PMMR ProCarpenter Measuring Tape
US Tape 50035 1-Inch x 25-Foot CenterPoint ProTape
Lufkin started out making folding wooden rules for carpenters and while they still make those folding rules, today most of their business is in steel tape measures. They are a specialty manufacturing company, only making measuring devices which means that you can expect higher quality as well as better form and function.
This is a chrome-plated steel cased tape measure and while plastic cases are rugged, they'll never be quite as durable as metal. The blade hood is held in place with five rivets, making it considerably stronger than standard while the blade itself features a Ny-Clad nylon powder coating, which provides superior wear resistance and should last five times longer than a standard, painted blade.
Lufkin has supplied a longer blade as well, with a full 33 of measurement. The belt hook is removable for use in a tool box or tool belt and the ribbed, non-slip lock button gives you superior control over locking and unlocking the blade.
Komlon calls this tape measure a "monster" and while 30 feet of length is extraordinary, I think what they're really talking about is the unique features they've built into this tape's design. To start, the blade is marked on both sides ensuring that you can read it no matter how you hook it up. It’s also nylon coated to prevent the measurement imprinting from wearing off. The end hook is appropriately a double sided hook, allowing you to connect it from either side as well. Not only that, but it's magnetic, so you can get it to hold itself in place to any ferrous metal object.
You'll probably find more Stanley 25 foot tape measures on a construction site than all other brands put together. The FatMax line from Stanley is 1-1/4 inches wide, rather than the standard one inch, meaning it has some extra rigidity when you need it. In fact, you can extend this tape measure 11 feet in the air, two feet longer than a one inch tape will go. The first six feet of the blade (which is the part that usually breaks) is protected with BladeArmor coating for extra durability.
FastCap has taken a slightly different approach to this tape measure, making the tape flat, rather than the more common concave tape. While this means that it won't stand out in the air from the housing, it makes the blade lay flat on the material you are measuring to help you get more accurate measurements. They also have conventional concave tape measures available but for cabinet work in the shop, this flat blade is superior. You can also use it to measure around curves, something that you just can't do with a concave blade. There's also an erasable note area right on the side of the tape measure, a very handy feature to have.
This tape measure from US Tape has a very unique feature in that it’s designed so that you can quickly and easily find the center of any measurement, even down to a fraction of an inch. Considering how common that is when building something, I'm surprised that more tape measure manufacturers haven't stolen their idea. The one inch by 25 foot blade is housed in an impact resistant plastic case, with rubber overmolded grips to make it easy to hang onto.
Before embarking on the current stage of my life, I spent 15 years as a Manufacturing Engineer in both the medical equipment field (medical electronics) and automotive engineering (city transit buses). After that, I owned a small construction company, mostly doing residential remodeling and commercial tenant finishes. I am no longer in either of these fields, but still get my hands plenty dirty as a consummate do-it-yourselfer; working on everything from remodeling my own home to rebuilding my car’s engines. My hobby (when I can find the time) is woodworking; making everything from toilet paper holders, to shelves, to music stands for my own home. My wife long ago gave up the idea that a two car garage is for parking two cars; it is my workshop.
While I cannot claim to having worked professionally with all types of tools, I have worked professionally with some. This comes from my previous careers, where I had to specify, buy and at times live with those decisions. Additionally, I would have to say that my engineering background has given me a thorough understanding of the construction of such tools. So, while I may not have used a particular type of tool personally, I have the knowledge to cut through all the advertising hype and statistics; in order to get at the truth of how well a tool will operate and last.
In my current career as a writer, I've written over 90 books. This includes my own titles and those I've written on contract. I've also written a complete website on how to build your own home.