Almost everyone on earth has used a measuring
tape at one point in their lifetime. Measuring
tapes are common tool but choosing one can
sometimes become a small challenge. With
measuring tapes having many options available,
it can be overwhelming. Throughout this article
we are going to look at the different options
available and help you determine the best
measuring tape for your needs.
|First we will discuss
the different types of housings
available. The housing is what the
measuring tape coils in when it is
retracted. There are two different types
of housings, open and closed. An open
housing is ideal for outdoor use. It is
easy to clean any debris that might get
caught in the tape and most open tapes
can be cleaned with soap and water. Some
open models, like the Keson long tapes
(also known as Reel Tapes),
feature a rubber shovel handle for extra
comfort and a sturdy grip.
Closed housing measuring tapes are ideal
for indoor use. It is compact and you do
not have to worry about debris. A closed
housing keeps the tape protected when
not in use. Most feature a belt clip and
a lock so you do not have to worry about
the blade retracting during use. Some
even feature rubber grips for extra
comfort. If you need heavy duty housing, a
metal housing is much sturdier than
The next thing to consider is the “blade”.
This is the actual tape the measurements are
marked on. The two most popular types of tape
material are Steel or Fiberglass. Both of these
options have pros and cons. Most pocket
measuring tapes have metal blades. They are more
durable and have a longer life expectancy then
fiberglass. Metal tapes will not stretch but are
affected by extreme heat. Most have nylon or
lacquer coating to protect the tape from rust
and wear. The higher the number of coats, the
longer the tape will last.
Keson metal blade with nylon coatings
Keson fiberglass blade
Fiberglass measuring tapes are less
expensive and will not rust. They will stretch
if excessive pulling force is applied. Tapes
with a high number of fiberglass strands are
stronger and will return to its original size
after the force is relieved.
(Remember: To keep your measurements as accurate
as possible, don’t pull too hard on your tape.)
A Few More Things to Consider when
Selecting a Measuring Tape
-If you are working around electric
hazards, it would probably be best to choose a
fiberglass blade because metal blades will
-If you are working in a windy
area. The longer the blade is extended, the more
it could be
affected by wind. Also, thinner blades
are lighter and less affected by wind.
-“Stand out”, is how far a tape can
be extended before it "breaks" or bends down on
Units of Measure
-Imperial (English) =
feet and inches, usually to the 1/8th
or 1/16th. Official unit of
measure in the USA.
-Engineers’ (Tenths) =
feet, 10ths and 100ths. Most commonly used
by Engineers, in this unit of measure
the foot is divided into 10’ths and
-Metric (SI)= meters,
decimeters, centimeters and millimeters. Official unit of
measure in every country except Liberia,
Myanmar and the USA
you need more than one unit of measure don’t
worry about converting it. Some tapes feature
two different units of measure, one on each
The Tape End
Measuring tapes have different “end” options
for different methods of use. The Hook can
attach to corners and edges of boards. Most
hooks feature a small notch so it can hook onto
a nail. On some tapes the hook will slide to
adjust for the width of the hook. A ring end is
another great option. It can be placed onto
poles, stakes and nails. It is also less likely
to get caught in debris.
Some measuring tapes do not have zero start at
the end of the blade. Sometimes it will start a
foot back. This is called an offset zero or a
“dead foot” (because the first foot of the blade
is unmarked). This is useful if you are not able
to place the end of the tape directly at the
start point. You can set up a stake a foot past
the start point and line zero up with where you
want to start measuring.
Long tapes have a crank handle to retract
the blade once it has been extended. Some Keson
long tapes feature a 3 to 1 speed rewind. This
means for every rotation of the handle the tape
is rotated three times. This is not only easier
but faster as well, saving you time and effort.
When using a speed rewind do not rotate the
handle as quickly as you would with a normal
rewind. The gears are moving much faster than
the handle. Rewinding at a high speed can cause
the gears to wear. Wind the tape slowly. Also,
do not use the handle to put tension on the tape
this will also cause the gears to wear.
For added comfort, some reel tapes
feature a padded crank handle.
Specialty Measuring Tapes and Devices
Keson Pocket Tape
This compact closed
housing measuring tape fits in a pocket or
on a belt. The large lettering is perfect
for photographs that require scale. Ideal for
law enforcement and insurance adjusters.
tapes are made of a hard material, such
as wood or fiberglass, which fold closed
in a zigzag pattern. It does not have
housing. It lies flat on work surfaces
and will hold up well under extreme
weather. Ideal for engineers, plumbers,
masons and mechanics.
Designed to measure seismographs a weight
can be attached to the end of the gauge and
lowered to the point you need to measure.
Design for easy depth identification this
gauge features markings on both sides and a
handle at the end for pulling taut.
"Makes an ideal drag
chain for rough surveying measurements.
Numbers are graduated from the strap handle
upward to the end of the rope." Also
features a handle for pulling rope taut.
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