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Tape Measure accuracy checking and adjusting...

2528 Views 20 Replies 15 Participants Last post by  virgilex
This tip was included in the Woodworker's Journal internet report email…
... I thought you might like to see it…

Tape Measure care in handling... and
checking its accuracy...
Minor adjustments to get accuracy.
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I have three tapes that all measure slightly different. :-(

Definitely got to stick to one from the beginning of the project to the end! :)
MT... YES, that is a woodworking RULE…

BUT, you might apply the tips in the short video and maybe you can get them in synch! :)
I always choke an inch then forget to subtract it.
That's funny... If you're getting OLD like me, THAT's the PITs... I'm doing good to remember the first reading! :)

Actually, when I get to the Real Project Building, I use a folding wood rule…

... just use the Tape measures for the rough stuff… :)
This is a good tip Joe. I have been doing this for years. And I always use the same tape measure for the entire job. I'm pretty much like you, I use a 18'' steel ruler for most of my projects.
I ALWAYS stick my finger in between the tip and the case when it retracts.
This will make your tape last many years,
as long as you don't cut the end off on the saw….don't ask!
MT... YES, that is a woodworking RULE…

BUT, you might apply the tips in the short video and maybe you can get them in synch! :)

- Joe Lyddon
Joe, That guy was using the same tape measure as mine. :) It's a 12 footer so not bulky.

Mostly, I use a Lufkin folding ruler I have had for many years. Made in the USA! :)
MT… I have a couple of 16' Tape Measures from Woodcraft that I really like… Better than all of the tape measures that I have… What I like the most, is that you pull the tape out and it will NOT slide back as soon as you let go… it stays, making it very easy to work with… When done, you push a button on the Bottom Front, and it will close… you can let up on the button & it will stop… Very cool…

I got my wood rule from my dads estate when he passed… Younger, I couldn't see how anyone would like them… As I got older & more into woodworking, I eventually realized how good they were… My favorite now.
Hi, Joe! I am guilty of letting the tape snap back into the body of the holder, sometimes repeatedly while I think about what I'm doing. Oops! The tab is supposed to be a tad bit loose to compensate between inside and outside measurements.
Here is another video that explains a few other features on a tape measure…
I only use tapes for rough dimensioning phase of project.

I would never use a tape for laying out joints, etc.

Put that tape away and use a ruler!!
Dont have anything on me. I use dial calipers. I am the man…until the humidity changes.
I use a block of hardwood with a dado cut through as shown in the sketch to check the tape reading. Place the tape in the groove and ensure the 2" mark lines up with the block. Bend the hook with pliers if not. The block allows you to check your tape frequently.

Rectangle Handwriting Parallel Font Slope

Dimensions are not critical except for the 2.000" dimension. The closer, the better.


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I take a different run at measuring. I use a single source then it really does not matter. I find that if you use multiple tapes etc, you can get bit because no way that are all perfect, it just not realistic.

However, if you use one, then if it's a few thou off on 12" does it really matter!

I also tend to start and measure to the piece. Early in my experience (lack there of), I cut all my pieces to final dimension, then after getting most of the way through, found an oops and it hurt. Its like doors, I make to fit the opening.

Now I get it started and use the piece to tell me the dimensions. If I get a case together and it's a 1/16" diff here or there then I just adjust the piece thats being cut.

I have never had someone come back and tell me, that top was supposed to be 24" and it's 23 15/16". No if it flows it works.

As the one and only Charles Neil says "looks good is good'
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"Sneak up on it" ... "Trim to final length (size)"

Typical Charles Neil quotes used used in almost EVERY project…

Charles is da man!

Very good advice...
When I use a tape measure I begin measuring from the 10" mark. I think most of the I accuracy in tape measures comes from the sliding hook at the end because you don't begin measuring exactly from the 0 mark. I also use the measurement as a general guide. It's rare that I need to make something to an exact length or width as long as the corresponding parts are the same.
I carry a free HF tape measure in my truck and our Chevy Traverse. Their sole purpose is to have on hand when shopping for lumber or whatever. No need for exact measurements.

However, when the rough cutting is over and done with, the Lufkin folding ruler takes over from there. I use it to set the table saw for ripping or cross cutting., measuring for shelves, drawer bottoms, etc.
Just sayin'
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Accurate measure devices are a must, that's for sure.
My tape measures sit on my cutoff table, for just about any and all measuring I do, I use a folding rule. I hate the rules that have the numbers ordered on the top of the rule, it is hard to find the good ones that have the numbers on the inside of the rule so it will go flat to the table with the ,measurements facing upwards, I will have to do a blog about it. For very accurate stuff I use a metal rule that starts at zero or calipers. Getting very accurate measurements is key to fine joinery and tape measures just can't pull it off. They are good for rough 3rd class cuts though. I worked in construction for years and know how to work a tape as accurate as possible, but it just can't give me the accuracy I need for my joinery. I will try to write up a blog by the end of the week about it. Have a great day all!
On the subject of tapes, spend the bucks and get a solid steel heavy duty one. How many times can you say you pulled it out to 25 feet for woodworking. If you can find a good 12 footer go for it and take care of it and it will work good for you, I like to carry a less expensive one when I am working that I don't worry about junking up and keep my good ones at the cutoff table. "Burning an inch" is a rule off thumb for me on short accurate cuts. Thanks for the thread.
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When I buy lumber, I know the bdft I need plus 20% for scrap, so measuring isn't necessary. The lumber is always RWL and normally "Blank" grade. The lumber is stacked on the forks of a forklift which are usually 4' long. If the boards are + - 8' long are laid out onto the forks, a full layer of wood would equal 32 bdft + - a foot or two. If I need 100', 2 1/2 layers will get me near or over what I need. Unless I need one or two specific sized boards, the suppliers employees have have a tape measures, so I use theirs to measure and get what's needed.

At the shop, like Glen, all my measuring from then on is at the 10" mark. I started doing it that way while working in aviation. All dimensions are numbered as "inch stations". Station 0 is the front end of the probe protruding from the nose of the aircraft while in prototype stage. On the planes I worked on, that probe was just over 100 inches. When we were to install something inside the aircraft, the print would state, station 867. You don't want to make any mistakes on a 50 million dollar corporate jet, so using the 10" burn made it a lot easier for me to keep track of what I was doing than burning 1 inch and doing the math to keep things in order.

I do see all the pros on the TV shows mark their cut llines using a dull pencil, and they end up making a mark that looks like it's 1/8" wide. They make their cut, then say, "Purrfect"..... Cracks me up. I was told swipe the pencil once leaving a fine line, not a line that looks like it was done with a brush. .................. Jerry (In Tucson)
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