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Nail Sets

Few things are as useful around the house as the common retractable tape measure. Home centers and hardware stores frequently put them on sale to draw customers and offer a wide selection of styles, sizes, and construction. What should you look for in picking a model that is best for your needs? Consider these features:
  • Tape length. Manufacturers have settled on several standard lengths that retailers commonly stock (10, 12, 16 and 25 feet). Naturally, the larger ones are bulkier and less convenient. The 25 foot size is useful for outdoor projects (such as laying out gardens and sidewalks) but for interior projects (such as measure room or rug sizes) the smaller versions usually suffice and are much more convenient to use. Think of what you measure most frequently, and you will probably conclude that almost everything falls in the range of one to six feet. Tape measures also come in three foot lengths, such as key chain versions, which can be handy to slip into a pocket or purse for your trips to the store.
  • Tape width. The longer the tape, the wider the steel blade in order to provide rigidity when extended. The standard widths for mid-range tape measures are half inch and three quarters inch. Where the same lengths are available in both widths, the trade off usually comes down to the readability of the markings printed on the blades or whether you are frustrated by blades that “kink” when extended without support. The smallest tape measures use quarter inch blades, which have virtually no rigidity and are very limited in what can be printed on them.
  • Blade printing. Tape measures come in a wide variety of what is printed on the blade (and the packaging often allows you to pull out the blade to see what it is before you buy). Choose a model that is most helpful for your own uses (do you really need inches on one edge and metric units on the other?). For precision, you need to use the very edge of the blade, so it is handy to have just one scale with the same marking lines on both edges. Be sure to check the clarity of the printing; sometimes, manufacturers include so many small increments that they make the measure hard to read. Since house construction is usually based on 16 inch increments (for example, the distance between wall studs), tapes usually note those distances with special markings. Also, check the first several feet of the back side to see if the blade includes any reference information, such as common nail sizes, decimal conversions, and the like.
  • Construction. Don’t think that a loose hook at the end of the blade is a manufacturing flaw. The hook needs to shift slightly to be more accurate according to whether you are pulling the tape (as in checking the length of a board) or pushing the tape (as in checking the inside dimensions of a drawer). The amount of the shift should equal the thickness of the hook itself. In other respects, however, tape measures do come in a variety of quality that affects their durability as well as usefulness. For example, make sure the tape measure has a decent way to lock the blade when extended, and if you will frequently use it for inside measurements, make sure that the case offers an easy to read “add on” dimension to allow for the distance between the back of the case and what is visible on the blade face. Consider also whether you want a case that will withstand being dropped frequently, and don’t overlook the advantages of easy to spot colors (such as optic orange).
Most household have several tape measures on hand because (like any other tool) it makes sense to have a variety of sizes and features to cover the widest range of applications.
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