Back in the old days, if you had to measure anything longer than a few feet, you used a little tool consisting of a handle and a wheel; it looked sort of like a pizza cutter. The carpenter rolled the wheel along the length to be measured, and because he knew the circumference of the wheel, all he needed to do was multiply the number of full revolutions by the circumference.
Then came the folding rule, which is still used occasionally today.
But the tape measure is the one you’ll probably use most. It’s a simple enough tool, but you should look for a few features when you’re buying one. Do you usually work alone? What sort of lengths will you be measuring? A 1″ blade extends further without bending than a narrower blade.
Do you do a lot of rough construction and framing? Get a long tape (at least 16′), and choose one with stud markings every 16″.
And even if metric scares you, you may want to look at a tape measure with inches down one side and metric measurements down the other. I’ll tell you why next time, when I give you some tips on taking better measurements.
In the meantime, here’s one thing you should remember when using a tape measure. You’ll notice that the tip of the blade is riveted on so it moves slightly back and forth. This compensates for the thickness of the tip when you’re making an inside measurement. Make sure this moves easily, as it will give you an inaccurate reading if it’s jammed in one position.