Komelon Selflock 16' Tape Measure
The other day I gathered up all the tape measures I could find around the house, just to see how many I had collected. Realizing that I'll never find all of the tapes I own, I was still surprised to see a grand total of seven tapes in that small pile on the table.
It's hard for me to resist buying tape measures. I'm always looking for some kind of improvement over the last piece of junk I bought. The fact is, I find tape measures in general awkward to use. Sure, they have their big advantage—like how else can you carry around a 25-foot ruler in your pocket—but does that really make up for all the other problems that a flexible steel rule causes? Maybe it does. I keep buying new tape measures, but rarely see any improvements in the design.
What I do know about the tapes I own is that some definitely work better than others. It all comes down to how strong the lock-down button is. Nothing drives me more crazy than trying to measure and mark off a board with a tape that won't stay put. I've had plenty of those, and they usually end up in the trash. When I do finally stumble on to a measuring tape that has that one-of-a-kind gripping power, I work that tape to its death.
My biggest gripe is that tape measures are designed for three hands, not two: one hand for the casing, one hand for the tape, one hand for the pencil. So unless you have someone around to help, you have to work it out some other way...like using an elbow, a knee, your mouth, anything you can muster up to take the place of the extra hand.
The other annoying thing about tape measures is its shape . It's concave, which means you have to twist the tape to one side or the other to make an accurate pencil mark. Of course, that usually makes the hook come loose from the end of the board, and that means starting all over.
In spite of all the trouble tape measures give me, I still use them all the time in the shop. Maybe it's because they're cheap. Maybe it's because they're cool little gadgets. I don't know. But lately I've seriously been questioning the real value of a tape measure in a wood shop. I understand how important they can be outdoors; for example, measuring footings for a deck. But I'm not so sure how indispensable they are in a small wood shop.
Nonetheless, I do have my favorite tape measures. Mostly it has to do with the grip button, which has changed somewhat in newer models I've been buying. Seems like all my old tapes worked this way: pull the tape out, push down on button to lock in place, release button to retract. However, now it seems a lot of manufacturers are changing that up. My new tapes are in constant lock-down mode, with just enough slack to let you pull the tape out of the case. That works much, much better. The tape stays put while I mark off dimensions on my board. To release the tape, I simply push the grip button.