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When I started thinking about it, I realized that starting this feature with a review of an esoteric tool like a Jack plane was probably a bad idea. Almost nobody starts their tool collection with a plane. If I was starting over today, I'd start with a tape measure.
This is the 25' tape measure I keep in the shop, which is probably only one of about six different retractable tape measures we have in the house. Everything starts with measuring, so a decent tape measure is one of the most important tools you can own. Even if you're not going to make anything, you'll probably need one at some point when you are looking at places to live, or at objects to keep there, like furniture. If you are going to make something, measuring your material before you buy it, and measuring your cut parts before assembly, will save you tons of trouble later. It all starts with measuring.
A 25 foot tape is long enough to measure the size of most rooms. It's definitely long enough for most lumber and furniture. This size is a bit bulky, so if you want something that fits in a pocket, you might get just a 12 foot measure. Since longer tapes are usually wider, though, a 25 foot model will be more durable. I'm a definite fan of metal cases for the same reason. I've seen too many busted open plastic tape measures. Most of the other bells and whistles you can get are not necessary, but a good firm lock with a smooth operation is imperative.
You don't have to spend a lot, but while you're shopping you should compare the accuracy of the tape you buy to those around it. Some bargain brands really don't "measure up".
Lastly, as you can see, this one is marked with my initials. Once people find out you have a tape measure, they will want to borrow it. If you ever want to see it again, make sure you mark it.
2010.04.27 at 12:00am EDT
All text and graphics copyright © 2007-2013 Elliott C. Evans except where otherwise noted.