How to Get the Most from Your Tape Measure
How to get the most from this trusty tool
Synopsis: Accuracy is the most important feature of a tape measure, and the most accurate, most convenient tapes on the market are not necessarily the most expensive. Find a tape measure that you can trust, and you’ll use it in countless ways for woodworking, from measuring boards at the lumberyard to laying out individual parts, marking rough lengths and widths, laying out joinery, and checking machine setups.
The tape measure is largely a contractor’s tool, but every woodworker needs at least one. Mine travels with me to the lumberyard and stays in my pocket for a host of tasks around the shop, from rough layout to setting up machines for milling lumber. It has endless possible uses—and there are a few tips and tricks that will help you make the most of it.
I can’t count all the ways I use my tape, but the first is at the lumberyard when checking stock against my cutlist. At home, I use it to lay out parts, marking rough lengths and widths with a lumber crayon. I use it at the chopsaw, when I cut those boards to rough length, and at the bandsaw when ripping them to rough width. Later, as a piece develops (and I need to build doors and drawers to fit, for example), I use my tape to grab measurements and lay out rough stock.
But rough work isn’t the only reason I reach for my spring-loaded buddy. Since I know my tape is accurate, I use it to lay out joinery on big pieces, like dadoes in bookcase sides. I trust it for machine setups, too—especially for measurements that are too big for a combo square, like when I’m working with plywood, or setting up a stop block in my crosscut sled. Even…