Tape Measure Tips And Tricks (Secrets To Know)

Most people have used a tape measure at some point in their lives. We commonly use them for simple measurements without thinking too much about them. But tape measures are chock full of features that if we learn about can ensure we use them properly and get accurate measurements.

The tips and tricks of tape measures are features and uses that construction professionals and others know about but the average user may not. I’ll break down and explain each part of a tape measure so you’ll be using one like a pro too.

1) Why Is The Tape Measure End (Hook) Loose?

  • The end or hook is loose on purpose.
  • The hook is designed to be able to slide or move along it’s rivets exactly a 1/16 of an inch.
  • The hook is 1/16″ thick.
  • The tape measure is actually 1/16″ short.
What does all this mean?
It ensures an accurate inside or outside measurement.
If you place the hook on the outside edge of  a piece of wood it slides out 1/16″.
If you place the hook against an inside edge such as a wall, It slides in a 1/16″.


2) What Is The Slot In The Hook For?

There is a slot or hole in the hook that comes in handy especially if you are taking measurements alone.
  • The slot is called a nail and screw grab.
  • The slot allows you to place the hook over a nail or screw head to hold it in place. Then you can take your measurement.


3) Why Is There A Serrated Edge On the End Or Hook?

Many tape measures have a serrated edge on the hook.
  • This is a simple tool to scribe or etch a mark on the surface.
  • You can use the serrated edge instead of a pencil if one is not handy.


4) Why Is A Tape Measure Curved?

The curve or concave shape is a simple design that allows the blade to remain rigid and keep it straight.
This is useful when extending the blade to long lengths and one person is trying to make a measurement.


5) Why Does A Tape Measure Have A Diamond On It?

Most tape measures have a black diamond or triangle marking every 19 3/16″.
  • These marks are called ‘truss marks’.
  • The marks are commonly shown for special engineered floor trusses that use this spacing.
  • They are stronger or can support more weight than traditional lumber and so can be spaced wider distances.
  • This allows you to have 5 of these trusses per 8 feet exactly. Traditional lumber is spaced at 16″ or 24″ segments which give even spacing per 4 feet.

6) Use The Base Length In Your Measurements

  • The base of the tape measure lists the length of it.
  • This is handy if measuring an inside length.
  • Add the length of tape to the length of the base for a total distance.
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Parts Of A Tape Measure

Parts Of A Tape Measure
  • Blade – The blade or tape is the working part of the tape measure. It has measurements printed along it’s length.
  • Hook – The hook is attached to the blade at it’s end. It is used to assist in holding the blade in place.
  • Thumb Lock – The thumb lock holds the blade in an extended position for taking measurements.
  • Case – the case simply houses all the internal components of the tape measure.
  • Belt Clip – One side of the tape measure has a belt clip to attach and carry purposes.

Brief History Of The Tape Measure

The Smithsonian National Museum Of American History states that James Chesterman (1795-1867), who was a metal worker in England, invented the spring rewinding tape measure. “In 1821 Chesterman received a British patent for a method of using a spring to rewind measuring tapes automatically.

Today, The National Institute Of Standards And Technology(NIST) sets standards that are used to make and calibrate tape measures. Many makers of tape measures send a master copy of their tapes to NIST to have their accuracy checked.
They report they can obtain measurements of +/-500 nanometers per meter.

They also state that a “six-foot-long tape used for commerce must be accurate to within 1/32 of an inch.”

What Are The Lines On A Tape Measure?

The tape measure markings are explained below.

For a tape measure displayed in feet and inches, it is as follows.

  • The longest mark between each inch shows 1/2″ as it is halfway.
  • The second-largest mark shows 1/4″.
  • The next is 1/8″ and finally the shortest is 1/16″.
Lines On A Tape Measure


While it’s true many of us use a tape measure from time to time, not everyone knows all of its secret functionality. These handy functions of a tape measure such as knowing why the hook slides as well as just knowing how to read the markings will make for accurate measurements.

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