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Tape measures are flexible and portable hand tools used for measuring the distance between objects. They typically have markings along the tape’s edge in either inches and feet or centimeters and meters. Wider tape measures are typically sturdier and easier to read.

Diagram of a Tape Measure

Tape Measure Diagram

Essential Tips:

Attachment Point: Some measuring tapes are designed with an integrated thru-hole that can be used with a lanyard/tethered loop attachment. It is ideal for use in applications where height is a factor.

High Visibility: Color and markings play an important role in determining which tape best fits your needs. For increased visibility in applications where lighting is limited, select tape measures that have easily readable blades and markings.

Standout: The tape measure’s standout is the distance a blade can extend before bending. Wider blades typically extend further without any support. Many tape measures indicate the standout on the packaging.

Blades feature the markings for measurement. They are typically made from fiberglass, steel, and stainless steel. The blades are typically concaved for strength, rigidity, and standout. Blade coatings and blade reinforcement are commonly added to the material to extend the life of your blade and tape. The most common tape measures come with blade lengths in a range of sizes: 10, 12, 16, or 25 feet.

Blade Readability: Wider tapes (over 1”) tend to have larger graphics to make it easier and faster to read. Most tape measures have lines or inch marks that go across the entire face of the blade.

End Hook (Blade Hook or Tang): At the end of the blade there is a hook, which is riveted in place, allowing for accurate measurements. Some hooks are removable and/or replaceable.

  • Nail and Screw Grab: A slot/hole is located on the end of the blade hook. It is used for holding the tape in place on the material being measured by either nail or screw.

  • Scribing Tool: Some tapes come with a serrated edge typically located at the bottom of the blade hook. It is used for marking the material if a marking tool is unavailable. Not all tape measures feature a scribing tool.

Lock Button (Blade Lock): Most tape measures longer than 6’ have blade locks that will secure the blade when taking a measurement. It is important to control retraction speed to protect the blade for longer life.

tape Measures Image

Coatings are designed to make sure that your tape measure lasts for as long as possible. While this does not affect the function of the tape measure in any way, it does protect the actual tape from damage and will last a lot longer than uncoated ones.

Tape Measure Cases: A strong case will protect the blade and internal spring mechanism that controls the recoil. Use ABS plastic or die-cast metals for high-impact applications. Tapes with molded rubber bumpers or guards provide additional protection against impact and offer a better gripping surface.

Fiberglass is made of glass fiber strands mixed in plastic. It is flexible, non-conductive and has a high tensile strength. Fiberglass blades are ideal for use on softer materials and in tight spaces.

Steel is durable and can be used in areas where chemicals and solvents are present.

Stainless Steel is resistant to highly corrosive environments, specifically oil gauging.


Graduation is the smallest unit of measurement divisions within a series of marks on the blade of the tape measure.


Adhesive Tape Measures are used in applications where frequent measurements occur. They can be cut to any length and have an adhesive backing that allows for the tape to be placed on any surface.

Diameter Tape Measures are used for measuring circular objects including pipes and cables. They are designed so a zero falls in the same place on each side of the blade. The conversion from diameter to circumference is made turning the blade. They make use of Pi, which is the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter.

Tape Measure Replacement Blades are ideal for when the blade breaks during an application. They are available in several styles.