I was watching Norm today - he was measuring up a piece of lumber, and he
used a tape measure. I couldn't tell what brand, but it made me think about
the worthless tape measure I have in my shop - that I try to avoid using.
Why? Because the end of it is loose, and if you don't push the tape back
toward it, the measurement can be off by nearly 1/8".
I was in Lowes today, and checked out their tape measures - even on the more
expensive ones the end of it was loose! One was even worse than the one I
I've mostly used a folding carpenter's rule with a metal insert for 1" - 6",
because the tape measure isn't reliable.
What does everyone else use?
worthless tape measure I have in my shop that I try to avoid using.
Hey Nick, that looseness might be to allow the tape to measure both inside and
outside spans. See if the distance the tape moves on the end is the same as the
thickness of the end. Good luck. Tom
Someday, it'll all be over....
That is a "feature" that is actually by design on most tape measures so that
you can take accurate inside measurements.The amount of slop should be equal
to the thickness of the hook ... generally about 1/6th or so.
The "accuracy" of a particular tape measure is completely irrelevant as long
as you ALWAYS use the same one.
AAMOF, tape measures aren't even necessary in woodworking. Many furniture
and cabinet makers go with a stick with the project measurements marked off
linearly. It's called a "story stick" and is much more accurate than using a
tape measure. Save the story stick and you can build another project with
the _exact_ same dimensions as the original 50 years later ... you can't do
that with a tape measure unless you use the same one.
The moral, because tape measures to come in handy, is to buy a well made one
that will last a long time and use it exclusively ... again, the "accuracy"
of the tool is irrelevant.
That was a laugh out loud one! I'm sure there are european trained
furniture makers who can and do keep story sticks for 50 years. Me,
I'm with Todd. If they'd just put a "page" function like on
portable phones, on pocket tapes ...
Actual "measured" lengths aren't that important (unless you're
doing built ins. Its far more important that all parts that
are supposed to be the same length are in fact the same
length. If I need parts to fit between A and B I put two
sticks - with sqaure ends, in the space, slide them to fit
the desired distance and clamp them together. On the SCMA
I use the sticks to set the stop and cut all those parts at
the same time. As long as the parts fit properly I don't
care what the tape measured length is.
This is true, unless you have to send your measurements to someone else.
I found that out the hard way once when I ordered a glass table top
based on a tape measure measurement. Unfortunately, my tape and their
measurement device did not agree. (I suspect theirs was probably the
I checked by tapes and rulers. The straight-edge rulers were very
accurate. However the tapes were all over the place. After all, they're
made for construction work, usually for fairly long lengths, and a
tolerance of plus or minus 1/16 is acceptable (except for finish work).
My newest tape, a Stanley "MaxSteel Contractor Grade", 3m/10ft, is off
3/32 in the first 24 inches, resulting in a short cut. My Craftsman 16ft
tape is off 1/32 in the first 24, but cuts long, so if the error causes
a problem, I can trim the piece to the correct length.
My next purchase will be a steel hook-end ruler from Lee Valley.
Done that. Now when ordering glass, particulary if it is to be inset into a
frame of some type, I either have the glass cut first and build to it, send
a template, or take the piece to the glass shop and let them measure it.
Most glass cutters cut to +/- 1/16" tolerance, which, as you noted, can be
problematic when measuring with two different measuring devices..
Tolerances used to be that way down here, but with the advent of
"carpenters" named after Mary's son, and who hail from places with no wood
whatsoever, the framers seem to think 1/2" is close enough, and the finish
These days, it's the painters, with their caulk guns, who make things fit.
Hum...it is my understanding that this is hardly a new thing.
Back when "drywall" was actually "Plaster put on by skilled workers"
the attitude of the carpenters was "get it pretty close and the
plasterers will fix it".
Not around here, at least until the last 25 or so years ... with the
proliferation of unskilled labor, poor wages, and lack of supervision,
workmanship is suffering badly in the building industry in these parts.
The traditional framing carpenter's job was to make the house plumb, level
and square ... hard to do that when 1/2" is now "close enough".
The traditional finish carpenter's job was to make the parts, windows,
doors, trim, etc., fit and "look good". IOW boards meet where they're
supposed to and planned gaps consistent from end to end ... hard to do when
1/4" is now "close enough".
... enter the modern painter and his caulking gun, absolutely necessary to
make the work of today's 'finishing carpenter' "look good".
I know this to be a fact because I just finished building a "custom" home
with a highly touted, supposedly top notch crew, and had to continually
fight shoddy work, with the practice of the above tolerances in daily
application (when they could get away with it) ... work that you wouldn't
have seen in a tract home 30 years ago.
Me, either, but a guy I know who owns a cabinet shop may be setting his up the
same way the previous owner, his father did: he has an entire wall devoted to
hanging story sticks, each with name and date neatly written on them. One job
per nail, mostly, except for really small jobs. I'd guess that JR has about 45
years of such sticks now, since he's been running the business about 20 years
after his father retired. He'll hit the 50 year mark soon.
"I am a marvelous housekeeper. Every time I leave a man I keep his house." Zsa
I always know where my tape measure is. It's right where I put it down
the last time. Of course, sometimes I have trouble remembering where I
put it down the last time :-)
"Wherever you go, there you are"
I wear a shop apron. This allows me to know where my tape, saddle
square, and 6" combo are 99% of the time. I use the same 18' center
finding tape for all my woodworking.
Of course, my wife recently figured out that the tape is in the apron,
so all bets are off. <G>
Not true. Not true. Hear that all the time, but it is not
true. I often give up and send my wife to look and it is
often where I first looked, and seldom where I last looked.
Let's get rid of this supposed logical statement, because it
just isn't true.
From what I understand the end should slide the thickness of the tab
thingie. This allows you to make inside and outside measurements
without needing to compensate for the end of the tape's tab thickness.
John, in Minnesota
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