HOW TO CHOOSE A TAPE MEASURE

When it comes to accuracy, I'm a little anal. Not all "inches" are created equal because different manufacturers have slightly different measurement (I don't know why. Probably for brand loyalty. Maybe). In this post, I will show you how to choose a tape measure that will give you an accurate measurement with other measuring tools in your tool set.

Not just different brands have slightly different spacing on their tape measures. Even tape measures from the same brand will have some discrepancies between one another. Let's take a look at these two.

The ones on the left is regular DeWalt 25' tape measure sold in a pack of 2 for $19.98 (July 18, 2020). It's like $10 a piece.

The one on the right is the "premium" DeWalt 25' tape measure at $24.98 a piece. 1 and a half time more expensive than a regular one. But is it better thou?

In order to compare the accuracy of each tape measure, I use a straight ruler from another aisle as reference.

I simply hook the tape measures to one end of the ruler and stretch it out to see if the markings on the tape line up with the ruler's.

Let's start with the Premium one. I stretched it out to about 30 inches then try to line up the marking on the tape with the ruler as much as I can.

As you can see in the picture below, the markings on the tape is about 1/32" off the ruler's which is not a big deal but the devil is in the details, especially in doing kitchen finishing, sometimes a little bit more or less is kind of a big deal (to me at least).

Another thing I noticed with the "Premium" one is that the printing is pretty poor. Looks like someone got a bad deal on printer and ink. I just don't like the thick markings even thou it's easy to look at. Obviously, this is not the kind of tape measure you will use in detail works like trim work or jobs that require dedicated measurement. However, it will excel in more general construction works where 1/32 of an inch is within tolerance like framing or deck building. Also the materials which the blade is made of is sturdier than the regular one's. It can extend 13' without breaking as oppose to 10' (more like 9') of the other one.

Now let's take a look at the regular $9.99 apiece.

I did the same exercise like the other one: hook it up to the ruler, stretch it out and verify the markings which line up perfectly with the ruler. Also the markings are printed nicer than the "premium".

This tells me that if I use this tape measure to calculate a gap between a cabinet and the adjacent wall and then use the ruler to transfer that measurement to a piece of filler, I know with confidence that my ruler will say the same thing my tape measure did. It's important that I can cut a piece to the exact dimension it should be. Human eyes and brain are attracted to bad things. The more negative, the more attention people will be drawn into. A gap of 1/32 sometimes may go unnoticed. I can just caulk it and the gap will disappear. Some times it's a pain in the ass, especially if the filler I need to do is at eye level. It will never go away.

I learned this lesson a couple kitchens ago when I used a Craftsman tape measure to calculate some space and cut it with a DeWalt table saw. Gave me some discrepancies all the time I made the cuts. Then I stopped for a while and think. I realized that my measurement was good, my cutting was good. The only problem was that the tools I used gave me slightly different measurements. I figured "I may as well get all my measurement tools in order, find the ones that speak the same language with one another then I won't have this problem anymore." I stopped looking at expensive, fancy things with lots of features and cool looking ones. I developed a wiser approach when it comes to tools: "Does this tape measure say the same thing like my table saw does, or will it agree with my laser level, try square, speed square, you name it?"

Talking about speed square, since I'm in this aisle, I picked up an aluminum speed square from Empire and check for discrepancies with the regular tape measure. It gives the same measurement so I know I'm good to go.

You may say "well Loc, it's a small little detail anyway, who would notice a gap of 1/32 ?" No, people usually don't notice. I don't. When we walk into a house, we don't pull out our laser level and tape measure to calculate random stuff. It's just unrealistic to carry a laser level everywhere you go just to check if stuff is leveled and plumb. Same for tape measures.

The reason why I do this is because I know I will have this kind of discrepancy if I don't take the time to calibrate my tools. Them tools will stay with me for as long as I can keep them so better pay close attention to what I use to make a living. Also, I enjoy being at the home improvement stores. My wife says "I can spend 2 hours in a Sephora and you can spend a whole day at Home Depot." Maybe it's just a guy thing.

Loc

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