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Learn what to look for when buying a tape measure.

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QuestionI'm working to assemble a toolbox of quality tools for use around the home. What specifically should I look for when buying a tape measure?

AnswerI applaud your desire to purchase quality tools for your home toolbox. With a little care, those high-quality tools will last a lifetime. I hope the information here will be of help to you as you shop for a good tape measure.

There are so many tape measures on the market today that it's not surprising that tape measure quality is all over the map—and I am not just talking about the tape but about the case and tip as well. Even the style or design of a tape measure's case can confuse a potential tape buyer.

So where do you start?—The best place to begin is with the tape measure itself. It should feel comfortable the first time you pick it up; so how does it feel in your hand? Is the case too fat, too wide, or too large for your hand? Is the case square or ergonomic in design? Is the case smooth or does it sport rubber grips for comfort? These are questions that you need to answer the first time you pick up a tape measure. So I ask again: how does the tape measure feel in your hand?

The images below show several tape measures that are typical of what you may find. The first tape, (A), shows a tape measure in a standard design with a plastic case encased in a thin layer of metal; (B) features a plastic case with some ergonomic design; and (C) has a full ergonomic design with built-in rubber grips and plastic case.

Starrett Tape Measure, copyright by Leon A. Frechette/C.R.S., Inc.
iit Tape Measure, copyright by Leon A. Frechette/C.R.S., Inc.
assemble a toolbox, quality tools, buy a tape measure, buying a tape measure, learn how to read a tape measure, purchase a good tape measure, compare tape measure styles, comfortable in the hand, EasyPoint ProTape, Learn How to Read and Choose a Tape Measure, copyright by Leon A. Frechette/C.R.S., Inc.

As you explore the different styles, remember the basic rule: A tape measure has to feel comfortable the first time you pick it up. How does it feel in your hand?

The thumb blade lock.—As you hold a tape measure, check to see if you can comfortably reach and operate the thumb blade lock with your thumb as you hold the tape measure in the same hand.

Tape measures are designed to be one-handed tools, with the exception of the blade which is pulled out of its storage case with the user's other hand. Therefore, it's important that the case fit comfortably in one hand while allowing easy reach and operation of the thumb blade lock.

different styles of tape measures, copyright by Leon A. Frechette/C.R.S., Inc.Once the thumb blade lock is in the locked position, you shouldn't be able to pull the blade out. If you can, then the thumb blade lock is not working as designed. Also, if you are unable to lift the thumb blade lock back into the up position after it was in the down locked position, then most likely the factory has installed an incorrect thumb lock for the design of the case.

After evaluating a few tape measures, you'll discover the thumb blade lock can be located somewhere in the middle to high end of the tape measure's case. Also, the thumb blade lock can come in different styles and sizes as you can see in the image to the right.

Consider the case and blade.—As you evaluate the comfort of a tape measure in your hand, you might want to consider an ergonomically-styled case that incorporates rubber grips into the design. The rubber grips provide both comfort and a firm grip.

You may also want to consider purchasing two tape measures: one with a 1-inch wide blade that's 25 feet long and one with a 3/4-inch wide blade that's 16 feet long. Depending on the project, they will both come in handy.

Finally, be sure the blade is easy to read with markings that meet your particular needs and that the tip of the blade has a metal shield on the backside to help support the blade.

Note that the tip itself should be slightly loose. It is designed to slide a distance equal to its own thickness so both inside and outside measurements will be accurate. Look for a blade with a metal shield on the backside of the blade held in place by three rivets to provide support to the blade tip, especially if the blade should retract too fast.

Good luck as you assemble your toolbox! Be sure to check out our tool section for a selection of quality tools ideal for home toolboxes.




Purchase this article to learn how to read and choose a tape measure!

This was a crash course in what to look for when buying a tape measure—the article mentioned below will go more in detail on the subject.

To really learn the ins and outs of reading a tape measure and to gain insights into choosing the best one for you, consider purchasing my award-winning article, "Learn How to Read and Choose a Tape Measure." This article received the 2008 Vaughan/National Association of Home and Workshop Writers (NAHWW) Golden Hammer Writing Award in the Internet Category. 

Available in both .pdf and hard copy, this 8-page article features 21 color photographs and provides outstanding information about using a tape measure to its full potential and purchasing a quality tape measure.

Click here to read customers' feedback. To purchase "Learn How to Read and Choose a Tape Measure," click here!

Copyright © 2008 LAF/C.R.S., Inc. All rights reserved.
Question answered by Leon A. Frechette.



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