Zima3

Tape measure for a woodworker

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Yesterday I needed to cut some 1 1/2 x 25 x 3/4 stiles. I pulled out my Stanley 16 ft tape measure and measured 25 inches and marked the wood from one end. Since I was going to be making a lot of these I wanted to be very sure that they were cut accurately so I checked it against two metal rulers and found that although both metal rulers (one an old carpenter's square and the other a new machinist's square) and found that although both agreed that 25 inches was 25 inches, neither agreed with the Stanley tape measure. The steel rules were consistently about 1/6 more than the tape measure. I then picked up another steel ruler, this one only 18 inches long and measured 18 inches plus 7 inches. This resulted in the same mark as the other metal rules.

Am I wrong in expect less than 1/16 accuracy over 25 inches of the Stanley tape measure? FWIW, I checked it with a 25 ft Stanley tape measure and it measured the same as the 16 ft tape measure.

I ended up using the mark from the metal rule and then cut all 16 of these stiles to the same length using a stop-block. It was more important that they all be the same than that they are exactly 25 inches. Yet, 1/16 in 25 inches means a lot when you are trying to join multiple pieces together squarely.

Any thoughts by other woodworkers? Is it just Stanley or was I expecting too much from a tape measure?

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I have found the same thing when checking my tape measures against metal rulers. I have several tape measures, Starrett, Fast Cap, Stanley, Festool and a few others I've accumulated over the years and have found that they all have some degree of inaccuracy in them. I remember hearing that if you are creating a project that requires accuracy (not framing a house) that it is best to use one tape measure to do all your measurement and cutting to avoid the inaccuracy from creeping into the project.

Like you said, you weren't as concerned if the 25" was entirely accurate, as long as the measurement is consistent. That's the key. Using a stop block to make sure that the pieces are the same even if they may be 1/16" off.

Just my $.02

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Agreed with @wtnhighlander above. I use a folding rule for a lot of the measurements that are over 2' (size of my largest machinist rule) up to 4-5'. For me the tape measure is an approximate measurement that I'd expect to be within 1/8" or so, but I also only really use it at the rough layout stage.

That being said, usually only a few things in a project are critical dimensions, and everything else can be relative to the other parts.

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3 hours ago, Zima3 said:

It was more important that they all be the same than that they are exactly 25 inches.

My woodworking teacher was a farmers son. He called the tape measure a cornstalk. Or a unit of measure. On tapes the end hook works for both inside and outside measurements. It must slide for either inside or out measure. The slots wear and older tapes are less accurate. Assuming they were good to start and that is not always true. I like my 6'+ wooden lufkin folding rule. You can measure to length accurately by hooking one of the folding knuckles on the end of what is being measured. For measures 6"' and less I always use my lufkin. For thickness when planing and setting fences when a number matters. And a sliding 6" for depth numbers or inside space numbers. I think every woodworker will enjoy a 6' folding wooden rule. If mine got lost or broken I have an old worn one for right now. But I would immediately get a new one!!!

I do like tapes. I have several. Stanley is my favorite. A while back my 10' Stanley bit the dust. I sent it back to Stanley many years later and they sent me a letter apologizing for the failure and no having another 10' to replace it. But would I mind using this new 12'. Made me like them even more. 

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I've never really measured my tape measure.  I suppose I should.  The inaccuracy makes sense when I think about it, but it would be good to know how much you're lookin' at. 

I think just intuitively I've been following at least some of the practices that others have described above, but this might explain the occaisional strange event that has occurred.

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Just solve the problem and use one of these http://www.leevalley.com/us/Wood/page.aspx?p=65359&cat=53200&ap=8

That's a joke but in reality like you said the exact measurement doesn't matter so much as them being the same. For this i use stop blocks or make sure i know all the parts that get ripped to the exact same width. All of those parts get cut before the fence or stop block is moved. If i mistake happens i use the project or project parts to strike a new line and then make sure to either leave or take the line.

For a tape measure that is dead on with my hard rules i use the Stanley FatMax line and so far in the last 6-7 years the one i use near daily is still accurate. Do note that dropping the tape will have a LARGE impact (pun intended) on it's accuracy. If it falls hook down the hook will bend and all of the measurements will be off. I have many tapes but i'd dropped a few and the hook got bent so they get put in my pickup or elsewhere so i can't use them. They are still useful for measuring mundane things but because they don't agree with all my other measuring devices they won't be in my shop.

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I also have never checked my tape's accuracy. I have a couple of the same small Milwaukee tape measures (I think 6') that I use for rough cuts, usually 1/2"-1" over actual. From there I use the work piece or sneak up on it. I also occasionally use it to set the TS fence or sled stop block, if I just need repeatable cuts where the actual measurement is not critical. I never use multiple measuring devices for the same part.

I recently found a few nice machinist rules (mitutoyo, starrett, brown and sharpe) in 6-12" that I'll verify my tape from, just for the sake of checking.

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Tape measure lays out a story stick for me. Doing more sketching up on thin ply per Steve’s oft given advice. Speaking of, where’d he go?

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10 minutes ago, Tpt life said:

Speaking of, where’d he go?

I was just thinking that myself. Sometimes people just need to take a break from stuff. Hope all is well with him.

I'm in the process of switching to metric only, so I got a half metric tape from Lee Valley. I normally hate the half & half tapes, but I will be needing to use both systems for a bit. The tape has a surface that is markable with a pencil & also has a markable surface on the side of the case. Those are nice features that I use a lot, but other than that, it's just an average quality tape measure. I still hate using a half & half tape though.

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15 minutes ago, drzaius said:

I was just thinking that myself. Sometimes people just need to take a break from stuff. Hope all is well with him.

Oddly enough, so was I just thinking about @wdwerker, too.  @..Kev as Admin you wouldn't have any info suitable for public knowledge would you?

 

I've thought about going all metric, too.  But it's harder to find the measuring tools in the US, and it's like doing your woodworking in latin, you're forever translating.  I did buy one of those half and half tapes, but it's not my favorite.

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Early on I read an article on Stanely's quality control and decided that my Stanley tape would be my standard (not counting the hook which can be damaged).  Everything that I Have bought for measuring since, I have compared to the tape for accuracy ( to the eye). If it didn't match, I didn't buy it. Now I have confidence that my steel rules, squares, etc all read the same.  After reading the responses above - I am thinking that maybe I was just lucky but that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

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I do mostly relative dimensioning once the project gets going but one important thing to remember is what ever tape measure you use, use the same one all the way through a project.  Don't switch back and forth during the project. 

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6 hours ago, Mark J said:

Oddly enough, so was I just thinking about @wdwerker, too.  @..Kev as Admin you wouldn't have any info suitable for public knowledge would you?

 

Unfortunately, no.  I'm as in the dark as everyone else.

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If the tape has ever been dropped, the “hook” may be bent back, changing the reading. Also, over time the rivets that hold on the hook can loosen up, also changing the measurement. The easy answer is already listed here, just use the same measuring tool for everything and it will turn out fine. 

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When I first started woodworking I thought I was just dumb and didn't know what I was doing because my cuts were always off when using tape measures. I was unaware that it should not really be used for precise measurements.

Like everyone else says, I've learned to adjust to relative dimensioning. 

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On 6/14/2019 at 9:06 AM, Mark J said:

I've thought about going all metric, too.  But it's harder to find the measuring tools in the US, and it's like doing your woodworking in latin, you're forever translating.  I did buy one of those half and half tapes, but it's not my favorite.

Sorry for being a bit off topic, but I must comment. If one is going to "go all metric" you should, indeed, go all in including making mental adjustments. And, I have found, that the latter is the most difficult part. I have acquired metric measuring tools including tapes, and rulers, that meet most of my needs so that conversions are not necessary. They are not difficult to find (Lee Valley has a lot). Granted, until the rest of the U.S. goes metric, you will have times when fitting non-metric hardware (for example) may require some conversion. But, If I'm doing a metric project, I commit to it and avoid conversions unless forced into it. As I said, the mental part is the most difficult. It is hard to learn to "think" metric. From experience, you can hold up your fingers and show me about how much 12" is. Can you show me how much 10cm is? Your first metric project will be difficult because of this; not because of the measuring tools. Once you get used to "thinking" metric, you will probably like it. The arithmetic is a lot easier than using fractions. Of course, you can use decimal inches if you like. But, I've found that instruments with those increments are more difficult to find.

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10 hours ago, Wimayo said:

Once you get used to "thinking" metric, you will probably like it.

I think you are spot on for learning metric. But I am happy with fractions. And I think age has something to do with it. Since google conversions are easy. Blum hinges are metric. I go blum because I like the hinges. Conversion is easy enough. My festool domino tool is in metric. I can manage but you think they would offer a unit in non metric as that is their biggest market. Still like the tool. I do not like the metric system on bolts. I like the American bolt system better.

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I wish someone made a dry-erase, blank measuring tape. Usually, I use a tape to record the dimensions that a piece will fit into. With a blank tape, I could forget units of measure completely, and just create a spring retracted story stick each time I began a new project.

Anybody want to invest in a company that produces blank tapes?  :D

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2 hours ago, wtnhighlander said:

I wish someone made a dry-erase, blank measuring tape. Usually, I use a tape to record the dimensions that a piece will fit into. With a blank tape, I could forget units of measure completely, and just create a spring retracted story stick each time I began a new project.

Anybody want to invest in a company that produces blank tapes?  :D

I think you are too late. See this. Not blank, but you can write on it.

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On 6/16/2019 at 10:39 AM, wtnhighlander said:

Slick! But still has all those silly numbers on it ....

http://www.leevalley.com/us/Wood/page.aspx?p=65359&cat=53200&ap=8

I linked it earlier in the thread. Lee valley did it as an April fools gag but then people wanted to actually buy it so they now sell it. I'm not sure what the material is but i'd bet that marker would clean off it one way or another.

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On 6/15/2019 at 9:58 AM, Wimayo said:

The arithmetic is a lot easier than using fractions.

I never understood this argument. For metric i need a calculator for fractions halving and doubling is easy math. For example 22 5/8 is very easy to halve 11 and 5/16 i can do it without thinking but 574.5mm wold require a calculator....

Fractions with odd numbers are just as easy 23 5/8 is 22 and 13/8 halves to 11 and 13/16. Much faster than trying to find my calculator... speaking of that where is my calculator?

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2 hours ago, Chestnut said:

I never understood this argument. For metric i need a calculator for fractions halving and doubling is easy math. For example 22 5/8 is very easy to halve 11 and 5/16 i can do it without thinking but 574.5mm wold require a calculator....

Fractions with odd numbers are just as easy 23 5/8 is 22 and 13/8 halves to 11 and 13/16. Much faster than trying to find my calculator... speaking of that where is my calculator?

I've been dealing with metric for decades when it come to speed, weight, highway distances and temperature, but in the shop it's always been imperial. For the last month or so I've been using metric exclusively & it is like my brain has been let out of jail. I spend less time doing math & more time making sawdust.

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