Hart Tape Measure with Magnetic Tang
Finding a good tape measure is like finding a good truck. You tend to get really familiar with it, and soon you use it for everything. That's how I now feel about the new magnetic tape measures from Hart.
It all started when my brother-in-law decided it would be a great idea to put a 60′ x 33′ foot metal building on his 5-acre property. This is a building that the supplier says should take a handful of guys three days to build, but which will invariably take us three months. In our hands it’s like an erector set for men who are used to playing with Lincoln logs. Needless to say, with a building that big the need for a magnetic tape measure suddenly begins to be more of a necessity than a “nice-to-have”. Serendipitously, Hart sent us two of their newest tapes—which just so happen to have a magnet on the front of the hook. I grabbed the 16′ and gave the 25′ Hart tape measure to my brother—he was going to need it with all those steel spans and sheet metal.
The tape measure is an interesting tool. You really can’t get away from it. Nothing is as integral in home construction or renovation, and there is probably no tool which gets more regular use. Hart Tools is on a roll of late, and has done a good job blowing my socks off (figuratively speaking, of course) with some of their incredibly ergonomic and thoughtful products which have recently come to market. This new Hart tape measure fits in quite nicely. It has, among other things, a magnetic tang that can allow you much easier measuring of steel studs and other metal applications—great for assembling our monstrous steel building. Really, though, I’m just excited to review a new tape. I think it’s therapeutic. In any case, I’m no stranger to reviewing tapes, having done a tape measure shootout last year where we compared 12 different models for durability, features, and (of course) standout.
Hart Tape Measure Quick Feature Overview
The rare hook magnet on the Hart tape allows you to fly it across gaps, grab onto steel studs and beams, and make measurements that would typically require a second person. Vertical inside measurements particularly benefited from this handy feature.
The blade brake is so conveniently located, you almost don’t need to know about it in order to use it. Where your hand naturally grips the tape tighter during a retract is where the brake sits. That means it’s a very simple matter of using the tape normally while you control the retract speed and avoid injury or inconvenience due to the tape snapping back at you or cutting your hand due to excessive speed. I threw the metal tape out of the case several times and used the brake to gently guide it back in, slowing it naturally and mindlessly. You don’t even have to think about it.
The belt clip on the Hart tape measure is perfect. It’s how the clips on all tapes should be made. The clip holds securely to a belt (pants or tool belt) and there’s enough of a gap at the base of the clip to allow you to slip it over the loop on carpenter pants, or anywhere else you can catch an edge. Most tapes I use have those flat clips that actually contact the casing and form a “pinch point”. They require two hands to guide onto anything, and they’re really not all that user-friendly. Most of the time you end up loosening them up with a flat head screwdriver to make them a bit more pliable. I started to nickname this tape “Goldilocks” because everything was “just right”.
Grip and Handling
There is a nice rubberized grip along the top of the Hart tape that wraps all the way down the back of the tool and across the bottom, stopping at the blade brake. It lets you hold the tape very securely in your hands, regardless if you’re wearing gloves, or you have greasy or oily palms. The tape lock is also rubberized, making it easy to activate at almost any angle. This is just a well-thought-out case that yields a tool that is easy to hold, difficult to drop, and which is sized perfectly for the hand. In terms of durability we didn’t do any destructive testing, but the plastic shell looked about as solid as any I’ve seen made from the same or similar material. Between the metal clip and the rubberized coating, it looked like it could take a beating and come out swinging.
Standout, Accuracy, and Other Features
The Hart HTM16 tape has an easy 8′ 8″ standout, but it feels more secure, and (like other tapes) you get more distance when you extend your left hand under the tape to steady it at its farthest point. Standout is the “go-to” test for tape measures, but there are other considerations that would make me choose a tape with a shorter stand-out over another with a longer range. For one, the Hart tape is under an inch wide, so that standout is accomplished without having the tool that’s as wide as a roll of duct tape in your hand. While the current Hart tape measures are red with black accents, these new models are exactly the opposite, sporting black plastic cases with red and white detail. Scratch the shell and it reveals a light colored under-color, but who demands their tapes look pretty? I just want mine to work.
Scale on the Hart tapes is perfect, with a double-sided solution that works equally well for both horizontal and vertical measurements. There are red inch marks to tick off anything over 12 inches, and the reverse side features an architects scale that is perfect for converting 1/4″ = 1′ plans on-the-fly when you’re at the job site and need to verify a measurement. A colleague of mine noted that the numbers seem bit faded, however there appears to be a coating over the tape (on both sides) to give it a bit more life. I can’t tell you how many tapes I’ve worn down where I can no longer read anything under about 16 inches. Hopefully, the Hart will last a bit longer in the field.
Accuracy was dead-on to within +/-.0005″. We tested the scale with the Lixer Gage Block tape measure calibration tool that is NIST certified and a great way to test how accurate each side of the tang is for both push and pull.
There’s no doubt that Hart is really hitting the market hard with this new tape. We’ve used both the 16′ and 25′ models extensively, and I believe this will be a very popular tape for construction professionals. As a whole, this is now one of my favorite tapes, and I see no reason it won’t get a similar response when people begin to pick it up and hold it in your hands. By the way, that’s exactly what I recommend you do. Pick it up. Hold it and use it to see if you like the features as much as I do. My guess is that you will.
About the only bad news I can come up with is that these tapes are not yet available at The Home Depot. Look for them online come Spring. The 16′ Hart magnetic tape measure will retailer just $10 and the 25′ model will be priced at $13. At those prices I don’t know why everyone wouldn’t want to pick one up!