At one time we thought no one would need an instructional article on how to use a tape measure. They seem pretty straightforward, right? Actually, many Pros have handed a tape to an assistant or “green” worker only to find that many of the materials they get back are slightly off. Any Joe can measure something, but it takes a true professional to use a tape measure to its fullest potential. Here are 5 secret features you didn’t know about how to use a tape measure.
Incidentally, our own Adam Spafford covered the mysteries of tape measure markings in another article, so for the sake of avoiding redundancy, I’ll leave that subject alone. But for all the other stuff you didn’t know you could do with your tape measure, this is the article for you!
Editor’s Note: Check out our best tape measure article to get our top picks.
Table of Contents
Why Does a Tape Measure Hook Move?
You’ve probably noted that the hook on the end of your tape measure has a little movement to it. Although this may grate at your nerves, don’t go pounding the rivets flat so that the hook doesn’t move anymore. The hook moves for a reason.
That little shift in movement is all about overall accuracy. The hook itself has a thickness of exactly 1/16″, and wouldn’t you know it, the hook actually has exactly 1/16″ worth of movement. When you use a tape, this maintains precision by accounting for the width of the hook from both the inside edge and outside edge of whatever you measure.
Check out the images above. A measurement taken from the outside edge will pull your hook out so that you’re not adding the thickness of the hook to your total. When measuring from an inside edge, the hook presses into the tape to take into account its 1/16-inch thickness and keep your measurement exact.
What is the Slot or Hole in the Hook for?
You’ve probably also noticed the slot or hole in the front of many tape measure hooks. This wasn’t a manufacturing effort to reduce material costs. It’s actually there to accommodate the head of a tenpenny nail or a screw. This feature helps when measuring from the center of a stud. Pound a nail halfway into the middle of a stud, hang the end of your tape from the nail, and go.
This feature also helps with marking out radii. Need to mark out a 6″ circle on a board? Find the center, hammer in your nail, and use the tape and a pencil to mark out a perfect circle.
Using a Tape Measure Hook as a Scribing Tool
Most front hooks have some hard corners to them, and some even include a bit of jimping. This becomes helpful when you’ve forgotten your pencil but still need to make a mark. Basically, you’ll find the point you need to mark, and then scratch a mark in the wood with the corner of your hook.
Extra Large Hooks
Extra-wide hooks with multiple areas for grabbing are becoming the standard. This is a helpful feature, as it allows you to hook from the bottom, sides, and top of the hook. Of course, in instances where you hook onto an edge with the top of the hook, it helps when your tape comes double-sided. Unfortunately, not every model includes this feature.
How to Use a Tape Measure with Inside Corners
Your tape has a measurement value printed on the back or bottom of the housing. This number represents the exact length of your housing.
Just take your measurement with the back of the tape measure housing butted up to the inside corner. Next, add that measurement to the value printed on the back. Viola! You’ve got a precise measurement, and you didn’t have to bend your tape up trying to find it.
If you’ve got any other tips and tricks for how to use a tape, feel free to add them to the comments section below.