Here at The Tape Store we pride ourselves on stocking what is possibly the UK's best and most comprehensive selection of high quality tape measures from some of the World's top manufacturers. From Stanley to Bahco and from Fisco to Irwin, we personally assess every single tape that we put on sale. As tradesmen and construction professionals ourselves we know what to look for in a tape so you can rest assured that the tape you're getting from us is fit for purpose.
However, we're only too aware that the sheer variety of tapes available today can making choosing the right one a difficult task. As a result we've put together the following information to make your choice that little bit easier!
What is a tape measure?
A tape measure or 'measuring tape' is essentially a type of ruler made up of a long strip (the blade or tape) of fibreglass, plastic, steel or stainless steel marked off with measurements along its length. These measurements can be metric (centimetres & metres) or imperial (inches & feet) or even both .
All blades are flexible allowing the tape to measure around curves and enabling it to be rolled up and easily carried around in your pocket or toolbox.
Features of tape measures to consider
Accuracy is obviously one of the most important things to consider when buying any tape measure. In the UK tape accuracy is determined by EU standards. The vast majority of those tapes sold on this site are classified as accurate to EU Class I, Class II or Class III with some slightly cheaper models falling just shy of that level. However, this is not something that should ever put you off. As with most things the phrase 'horses for courses' applies with tape measures too. The level of accuracy (and therefore the amount of money you want to pay) depends entirely on what you use your tape for and the levels of tolerance that are acceptable for that application. Whilst we would urge you to check before committing to buy, for the majority of applications almost any tape for sale at The Tape Store would probably be sufficiently accurate.
Short tapes are available with either metric only measurements or both metric and imperial. The measurements or 'graduations' of each tape are clearly noted on each product detail page.
In a short (pocket) tape measure the blade (or tape) is fully enclosed for protection in either a metal or plastic case. Long (or surveyors) tapes are either fully enclosed in a case or produced with an open-reel frame type case where the blade is exposed for ease of cleaning.
Many short tape measures feature a locking mechanism that will catch hold of the blade to prevent it snapping back into the case while measurements are being taken. The lock also has the advantage of being able to mark a precise point on the tape. Long tapes do not usually feature a locking mechanism.
HOOK / ANCHOR
Tape measures frequently have a metal hook (or tang) at the end of the blade that can be hooked over whatever is being measured with measurements being taken from the end of the hook. The simple bottom hook points downwards while readings are taken off the tape from above just as other types of hooks enable measurements to be taken from a variety of angles. Hooks are usually connected to the tape with rivets; more rivets usually making for a stronger connection. Long tapes, by comparison, usually employ a folding hook or anchor that allows the tape to be pinned to the ground thus giving a stable point from which to measure.
Short tapes may also feature a metallic belt clip to attach the tape onto the user’s belt. Some long tapes might also feature belt clips but this is generally reserved only for the shorter, more lightweight varieties.
What type of tape should I be looking for?
There are two main categories of tape, the short (or pocket) tapes and the long (or surveyors’) tapes.
Short tapes are very versatile and can be used in the home for DIY and in the construction and engineering industries amongst others.
Short or pocket tapes usually feature a stiff coiled strip of metal which can remain rigid and straight when extended in use but will retract back into its coil for convenient storage within a protective case.
The tape will have a floating hook on the end that can be hooked onto the edge of what you are measuring. The hook floats a distance equal to its thickness to provide both inside and outside measurements that are accurate.
The mechanism of the tape measure is usually made up of two key parts. The first of these is the spring coil, which provides the retraction force on the tape and the second part is the button. This is usually connected to a U-shaped tongue that can press down on the tape within the case to act as a locking mechanism. A release catch will release this locking mechanism allowing the blade to travel freely once more.
'Long tapes' are exactly as described , tape measures which are usually 15-20m or more in length. Such tapes come in a variety of shapes and sizes for different trades and applications. Only you, the customer, can know exactly which one is right for you.
The blades of long tape measures (otherwise known as surveyors' tapes) can be made from fibreglass or steel with steel tapes usually being produced with 'closed reel' cases. Here, the entire blade of the tape is fully contained within a case to protect it from damage. Unlike a short tape, however, the tape is pulled back into the case by a hand operated crank mounted on the outside of the case rather than an auto return mechanism.
Fibreglass long tapes, however, usually come in an 'open reel' design where the blade is wound around a reel held together by an open frame.
Closed Reel Tape Measures – Advantages
- The outer case protects the tape and mechanism helping to prevent damage
- Larger objects tend not to get stuck in the case - jamming and mechanism damage from large objects is therefore kept to a minimum
- This type of tape is perfect for use when taking measurements internally or in dirt free environments
Closed Reel Tape Measures – Possible Drawbacks
- These tapes commonly have blades made of steel. When steel is extended over long distances has a tendency to stretch, bend or even tear if it snags. This disadvantage can be reduced if the blade is made from a higher quality of steel.
- Operating in a muddy or dirty environment makes it tricky to keep the blade clean for the simple reason that, when the blade is wound back into the case, it draws some dirt back into the case with it. This dirt and debris will build up over time and could potentially jam the reel. It should be noted that this is unlikely to be an issue when the tape is used inside or in reasonably clean environments.
Open Reel Tape Measures – Advantages
- An open reel frame allows the blade to be readily cleaned by being wiped or washed down as it is being wound back in on the reel. Any dirt left behind on the blade is easily seen and then removed. Grit and other debris simply drops out of the open frame which in turn helps to prevent the mechanism from jamming.
- The fibreglass blade is extremely resistant to damage from stretching, ripping, excessive heat or water.
- Most open reel tape measures feature an integral handle allowing them to be carried and wound out with more ease than a closed reel tape.
- Compared to the hook on a pocket tape, long tapes often feature a metallic hook that can be anchored into the ground so the user can secure the end of the tape they are measuring from. This feature can be a real asset when working alone!
Open Reel Tape Measures – Possible Drawback
- Although tapes do not generally experience substantial forces in use, it is possible that open reel tapes may be more adversely affected by significant localised pulls and knocks as both the mechanism and blade of the tape are more exposed to these hazards.
You will also find that the 'hook' is somewhat different to that which you'll find on a pocket tape. Long tapes will frequently have a folding metallic anchor-type hook that allows the user to dig one end of the tape into the ground or object they are measuring from. A useful feature for when you're working alone!
It is believed that the Romans used marked strips of leather as tape measures, after that fabric tape measures were used by dressmakers and folding wooden rulers were used for very many years by carpenters and other construction workers up until the early 20th century An English design of a modern spring measuring tape in circular case was improved upon by Alvin J. Fellows of New Haven, Connecticut, USA, who obtained the patent on July 14, 1868.The basis of his improved design was a new way to attach the spring clip so enabling the tape to be locked in any position until the clip was released.
A later patent for a spring measuring tape was obtained by Hiram Farrand in 1922. In association with the Brown Company of New Hampshire he began the mass production of the product that was later sold on to The Stanley Works, an American manufacturer of tools and domestic hardware. A merger of Black & Decker with Stanley in 2010 resulted in the formation of Stanley Black & Decker.
The longest tape measure – a whopping 6000 feet long - was made in 1956 by Justus Roe, a surveyor who was also a tape-maker by trade