Tape Measure for Woodworking

A Tape Measure For Woodworking?

One of the first tools you need to get started woodworking is going to be a good tape measure. There are a lot of measuring devices for woodworking, but most people don't think of a tape measure for woodworking. Most often, a tape measure is seen as a contractor's tool or for someone working outside building houses and framing. Please stay with me, because this little tool is super versatile. Now let's talk about its design and some of its many uses.

The tab hook on the end of a measuring tape is noticeably loose by design, and for a good reason. Whether the end of the tape is pushed in or pulled out, you get the same measurement. The distance of this "wiggle" should be precisely equal to the thickness of the hook.

Tape Measure16
Tape Measure

Notice the little slot in the tab? This is a "nail hook." If you measure something long and you do not have an assistant to hold the end of your tape, you can put a screw or nail into the end of the board and hook it on this slot.

Need to draw a large circle? You can use your tape measure on a nail hook and pivot the tape to act as a giant compass.

Tape measure Compass
Tape Measure Belt Hook

The belt hook makes the tape easy to hang on your belt, tool pouch, or pocket.

Check Your Tape Measure For Accuracy.

Before you trust your tape measure for more precise measuring, make sure you do this quick accuracy check.

You will need a quality steel ruler. Push the tips of the steel ruler and the measuring tape up against a wall or fence and check to make sure the numbers line up correctly.

Tape Measure
Tape Measure Accuracy Check

Next, pull the tape over the end of the steel ruler, again check to make sure the numbers on the tape lineup with the numbers on the ruler.

Remember, the ideal time to check your tape measure measurements is at the hardware store before you purchase a measuring tape.

Helpful Hint: I have never remembered to bring my steel ruler to the hardware store, so I take one of theirs off the shelf and use it to check tape measures before I buy them.

Get The Most From Your Retractable Tape Measure

There are a lot of ways someone could use a tape measure, but the first place I take mine is to the lumberyard.

Here you can check to make sure the stock you are purchasing is long enough and wide enough for the pieces you need to cut later.

Once you get your wood back to your shop, a measuring tape is a perfect tool for making all of your rough measurements. I use it a lot to make sure I have the correct length and width clearly marked on the lumber. I use a contractor pencil or crayon when doing this measuring.

Tape Measuring
Tape Measuring

I use my tape measure when I'm setting up my bandsaw fence or even double-check my table saw fence.

When assembling a box or casework of any type, the tape measure is your best friend for measuring corner-to-corner diagonals and check for Square.

Tape Measure Check

It's terrific because it easily flexes under clamps and has the handy hook to stay in place on the corners.

Tape Measure

When I do the precise measuring, I'll make sure to "Rock" the extended tape to one side so that it's flush with the wood I'm measuring. I also start my measurements from the 10 or 12 inch Mark rather than from the hook. Just be sure to subtract that 10 or 12 inches from your final measurement.

Another helpful friend of mine is a roll of blue painters tape. When I'm getting precise tape measurements, I'll use a short blue tape piece to hold the end of the tape measure in position. Securing the end gives me a lot more confidence that nothing is slipping while I'm trying to keep the measuring edge flush against the wood.

Thanks For Reading!

After reading this post, I hope you have a better understanding of the different parts of the tape measure. Perhaps you have learned a couple of new techniques as well.

You can learn more about tools you will need in my post "Beginner Woodworking Tool List." I hope you like it!

Here at https://howtogetstartedwoodworking.com, I want you to find answers to your questions.

Let me know what you think in the comment section. I'd love to hear of any other tips or tricks with tape measuring.

I hope this post measured up to your expectations!

16 thoughts on “A Tape Measure for Woodworking?”

  1. I never knew such a small tool had so many different applications. I was always told, during my apprenticeship, measure it twice, cut it once. Thanks for this post, very interesting.

    1. Hi Stephen, Thanks for the feedback! I should have included the “Measure twice cut once” advice in my post. Thanks for including it here! Cheers!

  2. I use my tape measure quite a bit for a lot of things and it looks like I do.
    My father did a lot of woodworking in his shop in the basement and tough me how to use one properly.

    I didn’t know about the purpose of the loose end though. Hmm.

    1. Hey Stewart, Thanks for the comment! I am still learning a lot about woodworking and tools too. It’s amazing to me how many helpful things were designed into the tools we all commonly use!

  3. Have you ever actually had a tape measure not be right when you checked it at the hardware store?
    My brother showed me his “cheat” tape measure the other day which included the 8ths and 16ths. He said he absolutely loves it and it really comes in handy for his job.
    Thanks for the advice for using and buying a tape measure. I never even realized I could use the end of it to hook on a nail for stability. I learn something new every day:)

    1. Thanks for the Comment Jennifer! Yes, I have had a tape measure fail the accuracy check, but it was only after I spent over $20. Some of the cheaper tapes actually out performed the more expensive ones.

  4. Woodworking is a great skill, my gradfather and father and two brothers are carpenters but I didn’t inherit the skill although I worked as a housepainter for several years when I lived in the USA. Woodworking is a very pratical skill that can be used anywhere around the world, such beautiful craftmanship

  5. Hi Gary,
    This is a great post about the use of a tape measure and it’s importance in ensuring that we have the corrects sizes in place for the job that we are about to undertake.
    And yes it’s taken for granted and yet it’s the most important tool in the box.

  6. Thanks Greg. I did learn something, and thanks. I didn’t know that about the “wiggle” . Iv always just come back an inch when i had to make precise measurements thinking that loose end would cause me to be off. Im not that handy at carpentry, but i do like to cut things up and slap them together. And the other helpful tip was the end for making circles, im gonna try that this evening. Thanks for the helpful tips

  7. Greg,
    I do a lot of wood working in the garage. The tape measure is my friend. I have two that are exactly the same, one in the garage and one in the basement. I have used all of the methods you have explained in this article at least once. I still have two of the folding measuring devices that my dad taught me how to use when I was young.
    I have not found a tape that does not measure well, I did find one that the tip was not accurate when moving.
    I like to use the blue tape when I have to measure a lot of times the same length, I can just keep marking without a lot of trouble.

    1. Thanks for sharing your experience John! Sometimes it’s the simple things that help us the most. Cheers!

Comments are closed.

Scroll to Top