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Woodworker's Gazette
Gazette Archive 3/25/02

Woodworker's Tape/Rule
A Tool Review by Larry Layne

After getting over the shock of actually winning something, I set aside a little time to give full attention to evaluating this tape. The casing is a yellow plastic approximately 2-3/4 inches at the base, 2-7/8 inches in height and 1-3/8 inches in width, and which has been molded with an ergonomic design. That is, finger indentations have been molded onto the bottom of the casing and a black rubber covers the upper 2/3 edge, providing a firm and comfortable grip. In fact, so good is the grip that those prone to a temper will find that they can heave the thing into next week with plenty of momentum left over. A metal belt clip is provided on one side and a 5 inch lanyard on the back.

The tape itself is 16 feet long, is approximately 1 inch wide with the inches scale on both edges of the tape. The first foot is incremented in 32nds, and 16ths thereafter. Inch increments are clearly marked and sequentially labeled, as are feet and 16 inch spacing labels. It is provided with a "double hook", which means you can hook the end of the tape in the classic fashion and also from underneath - a feature I have already taken advantage of. The tape was able to support its own weight consistently out to 7 feet horizontally (5 trials). The lock button is plastic, easy to reach and operates smoothly. The spring in the return mechanism is not so strong as to send the end of the tape zinging back at you like a bullwhip, but certainly strong enough to reel all of the tape in.

I compared the inch markings on both sides of the tape to a 48 inch metal rule I have. My metal rule is also labeled with an inches scale on both edges. The tape and the rule inch markings matched well in all of the various combinations. In fact, over the 48 inch length the two did not vary by more than about the width of the inch demarcations on the tape - excellent!

Now for the part that makes the "Tape/Rule" different - the rule for measuring surface area/board feet of hardwood. (This is also where the double hook is quite helpful). The rule is found on the underside of the tape and extends out for an 8 foot width. Instructions for its use are included. Also included is an information page about how hardwood lumber is measured and graded in general. Not being an aficionado of measuring board feet, after several readings of the instructions I was still vague on its use until I figured out that you measure the WIDTH of the board with the rule (Doh!). Perhaps a graphic of how to place the rule on a board would be helpful for the ignorant - like me.

I tested the rule on a couple of 3/4 inch boards, playing like they were 1 inch thick. For an 8 foot board, 12-1/4 inches wide, I came up with 8 board feet using the rule and 8.2 board feet by calculation. Likewise for a 9 foot board (7-3/8 in. wide), 5.5 with the rule and 5.53 by calculation. To test the rule further I noticed on the instruction card that it says "Easily and Accurately measure anything, including board feet!", so I did and discovered that the surface area of my wife is 25 sq. ft. and contains 16.7 board feet. The rule works!

One minor improvement would be to put a "burr" on the inside of the hook to help grab and hold on to the material a little better. Another would be a couple of complete examples for computing surface area and board feet.

If I had seen this tape in a store and the price was right I would probably buy it just to try it. I can see how having a tape and a rule all in one would be helpful to the professional woodworker, and how it could also help educate the garage woodworker for learning the mysteries of board foot calculations. Having used the tape measure a bit, I can recommend it to anyone looking for a 16 foot tape measure.

I've already replaced the tape measure I was using with this one. Why? Because I like it.

Larry Layne

Second Review
by Sandy Altizer

This is a standard 16' tape measure with a twist. It has a board foot table on the back of the tape. With a little practice, it is easy to quickly "measure" the board feet in almost any board.

The quality of the tape is acceptable. I prefer tapes with a metal case, primarily because I can be very abusive. The plastic lanyard is not necessary, and in fact broke before the first time I used the tape. I was going to take it off anyway. However, a plus with the plastic case is the rule is lightweight. On the primary side of the tape it is very standard. The back of the blade is what makes this tape special.

The table that runs the length of the rule is designed to allow quick surface measure on any 4-quarter stock. Detailed instructions on the use of the table come with the rule and can be found on the company website at: www.tapeandrule.com. Essentially, the width of the board is measured with the rule. Note: the tape has tab on both the top and bottom so it can be hooked on a board with either side showing. Buy measuring the width with the back of the tape, the user gets a direct surface measure of any board that is 8', 10', 14, or 16' long. These are the lengths set-up in the table. The 12' long board can be quickly measured using the standard side of the rule. For board lengths less than 8', use the existing table. Find the measurement in the table that corresponds with twice the length of your board, ex: 8' for a 4' board. And divide the given surface measurement from the table in half. Boards that fall in between values on the table, 9', 11' , 13' and 15', use the values from the board length on either side, 8' and 10', for a 9' board. Take the two measures and average them.

I know this all sounds very complicated. I am not a technical writer. It is better-explained and shown with pictures on the website. It takes some getting used to but as soon as you get the hang of reading the table calculating surface measure of almost any board is very quick and easy.

This tape measure is advertised as the "first tape truly designed for the woodworker." It is a quality tape and a reasonable price. I personally will continue to use my small 12' rule when working around in my shop. But, the "woodworkers rule" will definitely accompany me on all my future trips to the lumberyard.

Sandy Altizer

Editor's note: More than 25 years ago, yours truly spent over a year working at a hardwood lumber yard. We sold wholesale, random-width lumber to cabinet shops and other lumber yards. I spent all day pulling delivery orders and waiting on customers.

We had two tools we needed almost constantly - a tape measure to tell us the length of the boards and a yard stick to scale the width and give us the board footage. These yard sticks were expensive and fragile and one of us out in the warehouse was breaking one every few months or so.

Though I don't have one of these Tape/Rules (yet), it's safe to say that it should replace yard sticks if only for the improved efficiencey of only needing one tool instead of two. The expected longevity of using a flexible tape instead of a thin strip of wood is another plus in it's favor. I wish I had one back then.

Is the Woodworker's Tape/Rule right for regular woodworkers? That depends. Have you ever dragged a beautiful board up to the yard office only to have your jaw drop when the guy behind the counter measures it and tells you it will cost more than the last router you bought? The Tape/Rule won't make your lumber cost less, but it will cut back on the sticker shock, at least a little.

Jim Mattson

P.S. Darrell Rich is selling the Woodowrker's Tape/Rule for $12.95 plus shipping and handling. You can get more info from The Tape/Rule website. Bonafide members of the WWA can get them discounted ($10.00) by mentioning a special code you can get from me or Chuck. Let us know if you want the code.

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