How Many Tape Measures? A Lot

How Many Tape Measures? A Lot

In the last issue, Joanna took the measure of her measuring tapes, and asked how many you own. The consensus seems to be that, like clamps, you can never have too many. – Editor

“Tape measures. I can see three from the computer here, there are two in the beast (my vehicle), one in the wife’s car, two in the storage container, and then we get to the collection of folding rules — from the prized ones that were grandfathers, to Dad’s, then mine — and I think I have one of my son’s rules out there… Lots. And then are mind and my wife’s fabric tapes for sewing … more than a lot.” – Riley Grotts

“Regarding tape measures: I have more than two dozen. Some of them are used hard (one is metric; the other inch). Others sit in a desk drawer as an informal collection. These include  some ‘antiques’ from back in the 50s and 60s. In addition, there are several folding rules (6-foot, 2-meter, and several 2-, 3- and 4- -foot folding rules from the 50s). Not all of them are in regular use, but are great aids to helping me remember the good times when working alongside the folks who gave them to me.” – Tom Zordan

“Let’s see. One in the shop, one in the garage, two long ones in the landscaping shed, one in the kitchen, two in my truck, a seamstress one in my desk, one down cellar in the gun shop, and my wife has one in her purse. That’s nine. I can’t think of anything really unusual that I measured.  Everything was pretty much normal.” – Lee Ohmart

“I am like you to a point. I do not carry one with me everywhere, but I do keep one in my truck and in the wife’s car. In my 20-foot x 30-foot shop, I have an even dozen because when I need one, there is never one close at hand. Every now and then, they will congregate, though, and I will have up to six in one place. Tape measures are about like clamps; a woodworker almost cannot have too many. I have three cats that live in my shop, and I accuse them of hiding my tapes, but then they hide more than just my tapes, too.” – Charles Buster

“I have lost count on the number of tape measures I have. I am sure it must number around a dozen. Anywhere from the tiny metric one I used to carry in my shop apron when I ran printing press for 40-plus years to the 25 footer I used to remodel my house. I have the Bob’s graduated tape I inherited from my father-in-law to the ten-footer I use in my workshop. Also assorted steel rules and calipers. There is a tape measure in the kitchen junk drawer to save the long walk to the shop or garage to find one. Several have the markings worn from use, but I cannot bring myself to throw anything away because you never know when you may need it. The wife even carries a small cloth tape rule in her purse for when we are out shopping.” – Kharve

“In response to your question about how many tape measures I own: I carry one in my pocket at all times. Also, there are three migrating around in my shop. And, I have 20 more to use with home school students when I build projects with them. So, a grand total of 24. Want to know how many hammers I own?” – Bob

At least one reader, like Joanna, also keeps one in his winter coat pocket for measuring snow. – Editor

“I have six metric tape measures: one in my desk at home, one in desk at work, one in the truck, two in the shop –- the one is a new one for precision work, AND one in my winter coat pocket. Like Joanna, the one in my coat pocket is to measure how much snow has fallen in the morning and evening. Our annual snowfall [in northern Japan] is 312 inches! Besides the tape measures, I also have several smaller metric rulers and a couple of one-meter-long measures. I suppose I have three or four feet-and-inch tape measures in the bottom drawer of my tool cabinet –- which I haven’t used in years. It is much easier to see/figure .5 mm (slightly smaller than 1/64). With metric, you do not have to deal with fractions – just simple addition and subtraction. Bravo for all of you that can add and subtract in fractions; I can’t. Maybe because I am spending all my time moving snow.” – Steve, aka Daikusan (woodworker)

Some shared advice on measuring. – Editor

“I certainly enjoy your comments and articles. Thank you! I could not help but take serious interest in your ‘The Measure of All Things.’ Yes, tape measures are extremely handy. However, best a person pays attention to the particular tape being used. Today, I used a 100-foot tape to measure where I was planting mahonias. The total distance measured 163 feet. Great! Now to Excel to determine the spacing of 59 plants. Got the measures, and away I went to lay out each plant’s future home. All of a sudden, I noticed my tape measure did not have the 11 inch marked on it. Turned out I was using a surveyor’s tape, which is marked off in tenths. Back to Excel with some changes made, then back to work. All worked out very well and I ended up putting the 59th plant in the 59th hole. Great use of the tape measure.

“A few years ago, I was commissioned to build a frame for a visiting presenter at a math-sponsored event. I was given the measurements and was told explicitly to be within one-eighth of an inch accuracy. The frame measured something like 54 inches by 72 inches. The presenter, an artist, used dominoes to build a picture of Leonardo da Vinci’s head. I struggled to make sure I had an accurate tapemeasure. At the time, I had 10 tape measures, so I measured out 72 inches on a board and made a mark. I checked all ten tapes against this measure. NOT ONE OF THEM gave the same measure, even when I started at the one inch mark and measured to 73 inches. The result was, a quarter of an inch under on one tape to three-sixteenths of an inch over on another tape. I was shocked and becoming very anxious about how I was going to be within one-eighth of an inch to his desired frame size. I finally chose the tape that was closest to an average of all 10 tapes. I stuck with that tape. As it turned out, I assisted the artist with the dominoes and, to my surprise, there was no need to be within one-eighth of an inch for the stated frame size. There was a lot of room between all the dominoes as the space between them comes close to being the same distance.

“Added note:  I did research looking for what the United States government and international standards were for tape measures. I was very surprised that all my 10 tapes met the tolerance level allowed by these agencies. A strong suggestion: Choose one tape measure and stick with it through the project.” – Bob Gilda

“I measure too much, but that is how I get a feel for lengths. I am getting more in the habit of using story sticks for checking measurements or stop blocks now on my saws and, honestly, my woodworking precision has improved. Dry fits and glue-ups go so much better. I also am getting a habit of using a marking gauge and marking knife for many of my layouts. I have heard this method is more accurate for years, but resisted until I built a more complicated project a couple of years ago. I am sold and offer this advice to all my kids and friends. How many tapes and measuring devices do I have? WOW! One always within arm’s reach in my shop (and shop apron) and three to four in my house. I am also using digital calipers for a lot of work when I need to know a measurement to duplicate. With the calipers, many times I choose the metric scale to get finer measurements without the large fractions.” – Tony Newman

And at least a couple of you (plus some coworkers) also submitted your guesses on the length of Joanna’s dog’s tail. – Editor

“I have at least five metal tape measures. One in my car. I go to Goodwills regularly and am always needing to measure something there. I as well have a retractable cloth tape. And I guess your dog’s tail is 28 inches.” – Steve Wellendorf

“Tapes, you say? I can think of nine: two in the garage where my large power tools are; five in a small shop (shed) where my lathe, drill press and an old 8-inch Craftsman table saw are (three 25-foot tapes, one metric and a cloth seamstress tape); one in the office; and Susan, the love of my life, has one in the laundry cabinet (also in the garage). She also sews and has at least one more cloth tape in her sewing cabinet. And, of course, there are numerous rulers (plastic, wood and steel) in several places in the shop and the house. Oh, yeah: my guess is the dog’s tail is 22-1/2 inches. Sue’s guess is 20 inches.” – Gordon Patnude

For the record: it’s 17-1/2 inches long. – Editor

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