The old carpenter's adage, "measure twice, cut once," stresses the important role that measuring tools play in reducing mistakes. Whether it's a tape measure for determining which refrigerator will fit in your kitchen or an angle gauge for advanced crown molding miters, there's a tool to help you get it right the first time. Learn about the types of measuring tools available and you'll be able to choose tools for projects that range from design to construction and beyond.
The ruler, also called "straightedge" or "straight-edged ruler," is a long, thin strip of wood, metal or plastic marked with increments of measurement. Rulers feature straight flat edges that aid in measuring and laying out distances in geometry, drafting, design, architecture and more. Rulers range in length from one foot to three feet or more, depending on their application.
The modern measuring tape's roughly palm-sized casing contains a coiled strip of metal marked with increments of measurement. The metal strip, called "tape," attaches to a spring which automatically retracts the tape into the casing following use. A metal clip attached to the tape's end, called a "tang," allows its operator to attach the end of the tape to a stationary object and pull the tape to distant points. Variations include cloth tape measures encased and retracted by reel.
Walking Tape Measure
The walking tape measure, also called "surveyor's measure," records the distance traveled by a wheel. An operator pushes the measure's wheel, similar to a bicycle wheel, by a handle as an attached ticker box displays feet or meters in the same format as a car's odometer.
The laser measure offers point and shoot distance measurement. In its most basic form, a laser measure is a hand-held electronic device with a digital display. The measure's operator points the device toward an object and activates the laser to receive the distance.
The angle gauge, also called "angle finder," measures the angle between adjacent surfaces. The tool appears as two straightedge rulers hinged together at one end. Angles are indicated by a mark that points to numbers printed around the fulcrum of the two rulers—as the rulers swivel, the mark adjusts according to the rulers' positions in relation to one another. This tool is often used in woodworking trades to determine miter cuts.
The term "calipers" refers to measuring tools that determine the distance between opposite sides. Basic calipers feature hinged metal pieces that either expand to press against and measure the opposing sides on the inside of an opening or pinch to close against the opposing exterior sides of an object. Calipers are often used to measure the diameter of round objects, such as pipes.