Measuring Tapes: The Hero of DIY Projects

Welcome to our blog post, where we proudly pay tribute to the measuring tape, the often-overlooked yet indispensable hero in the vast world of DIY projects. Throughout this enlightening post, we'll take a fascinating journey through its rich history, exploring the ingenious variations that have emerged over time and delving into its profound significance for craftsmen and enthusiasts alike.

Join us as we unravel the captivating story behind this humble tool, shedding light on its evolution and unrivalled utility in bringing precision and accuracy to the realm of do-it-yourself endeavours.

The Humble Beginnings of Measuring Tapes

In the mid-19th century, the first patented design changed how measurements were taken across industries.

Origin Story

In the world of precision and standards, the measuring tape has a remarkable narrative that began in the mid-19th century.

Before Alvin J. Fellows' revolutionary patent, rudimentary methods and tools like rod, chain, and link were commonly used, posing limitations in transportability and accuracy. However, in 1868, Fellows patented his design of a spring click lock mechanism in a tape measure, a momentous event that forever transformed the measurement landscape.

This invention was a tool and a beacon of precision and efficiency, making measurements more accessible and accurate and laying a solid foundation for modern versions. A simple tool in essence, yet profound in its impact, it catalysed a shift in industries, marking the dawn of the era of do-it-yourself projects.

Initial Designs

The initial designs of measuring tapes were quite different from what we are accustomed to today. Originally, they were fashioned from flexible and pliable materials such as cloth or leather, with rudimentary markings to denote measurements.

While functional, these versions were not the most durable or accurate and thus began a journey of evolution. This insight into the past reveals a profound transformation over time, as more durable ones gradually replaced these humble materials, metal became the material of choice, noted for its durability and resistance to wear and tear.

Today, we see sleek, compact designs that house tapes made from high-quality, long-lasting materials, such as fibreglass and steel, with precise, laser-etched markings that guarantee accurate measurements. This evolution has been driven by the relentless pursuit of precision and durability, underscoring the central role of measuring tapes in DIY projects.

Different Types of Measuring Tapes

Measuring tapes come in various forms, each designed for specific tasks.

Retractable Measuring Tape

The retractable measuring tape, commonly found in most toolboxes, is characterised by its compact, roll-up design and is typically housed in a durable plastic or metal body. This design allows the tape, usually no more than an inch wide, to be wound up inside the body, making it ideal for small-scale measurements such as carpentry, home renovations, or even body measurements.

Simple to use, the user pulls the tape out of the body to the desired length, and the tape locks in place, enabling accurate measurements. Once done, a simple button release allows the tape to rewind into its case, ensuring easy storage and portability. This convenience and functionality make the retractable measuring tape an essential tool in every craftsman's kit.

Long Tape Measure

The Long Tape Measure, as the name suggests, is specifically designed for measuring more considerable distances, making it a common sight in fields such as construction and surveying.

Characterised by its extraordinary length, it is available in variants that can measure up to 500 feet or approximately 150 metres. The physical design typically involves a larger casing to accommodate the significantly longer tape and often includes a hand crank to assist in the winding and unwinding of the tape.

Despite its larger size, it retains the same commitment to accuracy and durability, employing robust materials like fibreglass that can withstand wear and tear. This blend of length and durability makes the Long Tape Measure an invaluable tool when tackling larger DIY projects or professional jobs where measurements extend beyond the reach of their retractable counterparts.

How to Read a Measuring Tape

Reading a measuring tape involves understanding the markings and the difference between metric and imperial units.

Understanding the Markings

Understanding the markings on a measuring tape is an essential skill that ensures accuracy and precision. Each line inscribed on the tape represents a specific measurement. The longer, more prominent lines denote larger units, such as inches or centimetres, while the subtler, shorter lines represent fractions of these units.

For instance, in an inch, the half-inch mark is typically the longest line after the inch mark, followed by shorter lines indicating quarter inches and even shorter ones for eighths and sixteenths of an inch. The same principle applies to metric tapes, where the most extended lines represent centimetres, and the shorter lines indicate millimetres.

Understanding these markings is paramount in ensuring accurate measurements and flawless execution of your DIY projects.

Metric vs Imperial

Measuring tapes can display measurements in two distinct systems - metric and imperial. The metric system, which uses units such as millimetres, centimetres, and metres, is commonly used globally for its simplicity and ease of conversion.

The metric system divides or multiplies by 10, making it straightforward to understand and use. However, the Imperial system, which includes inches, feet, and yards, still holds sway in certain parts of the world, notably the United States. While it may seem less intuitive to those accustomed to the metric system, it is deeply ingrained in American culture and industry, making it an equally important system to comprehend when reading measuring tapes.

The choice between metric and imperial often depends on the location and the nature of the task at hand. Some tapes even incorporate both systems, providing flexibility and catering to a wider demographic.

Choosing the Right Measuring Tape for Your Project

The suitable measuring tape depends on your project's scale and the material of the tape itself.

Consider the Material

When choosing a measuring tape for your project, the material of the tape comes into play. Steel tapes, known for their durability, are commonly used; yet it's worth noting they can be prone to rust over time.

On the other hand, fibreglass tapes, while less rigorous in their sturdiness, have the advantage of resisting stretching, ensuring the longevity of accurate measurements. The choice between steel and fibreglass ultimately lies in the specific needs of your project. Consider whether resistance to environmental factors, such as dampness, or the need for non-distortion over time, is more important.

Selecting a suitable material can significantly affect the accuracy and success of your measurements.

Think About Length

The length of a measuring tape is a key factor when selecting the most suitable tool for your project.

For small-scale tasks like hanging a picture frame, checking the dimensions of a piece of furniture, or taking body measurements, a shorter, retractable measuring tape will be more than sufficient. Their compact design makes them easy to handle and convenient to store. However, a long tape measure is essential for large-scale projects involving long-distance measurements, such as construction or landscaping. These lengthy tapes, capable of reaching up to 500 feet, ensure accurate measurements over vast distances, making them indispensable in the toolbox of any serious DIY enthusiast or professional.

Always remember that the scale of your project should dictate the length of your measuring tape; having the right tool can significantly contribute to the precision and success of your project.

Caring for Your Measuring Tape

Proper care extends the life of your measuring tape. This includes storage and regular cleaning.

Proper Storage

Ensuring proper storage is one of the most fundamental aspects of maintaining your measuring tape.

Always keep it in a dry place, as exposure to moisture can cause rust or damage to the tape, especially if it's made of steel. It's equally important to avoid bending or kinking the tape, as this can lead to inaccurate readings. For long tape measures with a hand crank, ensure to wind it neatly, avoiding twists or tangles.

Remember, the casing of a measuring tape is not merely for user convenience; it also protects against potential damage. Therefore, always store the measuring tape in its casing when not used. By following these simple steps, you can significantly extend the life and accuracy of your measuring tape.

Regular Cleaning

Regular cleaning is fundamental to maintaining your measuring tape, contributing significantly to its longevity and accuracy.

After each use, take a moment to wipe down the tape with a dry cloth, removing any dirt or debris that may have accumulated. This simple step prevents grime build-up, which can obscure the markings and lead to inaccurate measurements. Should your measuring tape encounter more stubborn dirt or rust, a spray of WD-40 can work wonders. This versatile lubricant penetrates and loosens rust while displacing moisture, keeping your tape in optimal condition over time. However, keep the tape dry after application to prevent any potential rusting or damage.

Regular cleaning and maintenance are not just about preserving your tool's appearance but, more importantly, securing the accuracy of your readings, which is essential for the success of your DIY or professional projects.

The Future of Measuring Tapes

The future of measuring tapes lies in digital transformation and eco-friendly materials.

Digital Transformation

The digital transformation of measuring tapes heralds a new era of convenience and accuracy, with digital tapes offering easy-to-read displays that significantly reduce the chance of error. These advanced tapes often have additional features such as memory functions, saving measurements, and even simple computations.

The paradigm shift extends to laser measures, devices that use lasers to measure distances with astounding accuracy, particularly over long distances. From home DIY enthusiasts to construction professionals, the digital transformation of measuring tapes makes precise measurements easy and accessible, ushering in a new era in measurement tools.

Eco-Friendly Materials

As the world becomes more environmentally conscious, manufacturers are also responding to the call by exploring the use of sustainable materials in producing measuring tapes.

One promising development in this area is the emergence of biodegradable tapes. Made from eco-friendly materials, these tapes decompose naturally over time, reducing the environmental impact that comes with the disposal of traditional tapes. It's a small but significant step towards a greener future, reflecting the growing trend in industries across the board to incorporate sustainable practices in their operations.

As we continue to innovate and adapt, eco-friendly measuring tapes may soon become commonplace in our DIY kits and professional toolboxes.

Our Products

Our broad range of measuring tapes caters to both professional and domestic needs.

Remember, maintaining the longevity and accuracy of your measuring tapes are key to the success of your projects, whether professional or personal. Regular cleaning following our guidelines will ensure your tapes serve you faithfully for years to come.

Explore our full range of products to find the perfect measuring tape for your needs.


We're highlighting the measuring tape, a key tool in DIY projects, often overlooked yet essential. From its mid-19th-century origins to the multitude of types and uses we see today, it is a fascinating tale of evolution and adaptability.

We explore how to read a tape with ease, choose the right one for your project, and how to look after it to extend its longevity. The future sees a shift towards digital and eco-friendly materials. In conclusion, a good understanding of measuring tapes can enhance the accuracy and efficiency of your DIY projects.

For advice, feel free to get in touch.