Reading a Tape Measure

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In order to read a tape measure, place the zero carefully and line up both ends before taking down a reading. Find out how to read the units on a tape measure, whether they are in inches or centimeters, with help from a science teacher in this free video on measurements and tools.

Part of the Video Series: Physics & Electromagnetism
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Video Transcript

Hi, I'm Steve Jones and I'm going to explain how to read a tape measure. Now the most important thing is that this is while it's a simple device, it can be used very badly and very often is and people get wrong results because they don't use it properly. The first thing to do is the sensible thing. The first thing to do is you've got to look and see how big you think it really is. And if the actual size that you measure is very different from that, it's obvious you've made a mistake. The first thing to do however, once you've made this estimate is to place the zero of the tape measure at one end of the thing you want measure and get the lines exactly in line. Remember the zero of a tape measure, sometimes is the end of the brass; there's usually a brass into it; at other times it's not. So be careful; make sure you know where the zero is. Place the zero carefully at, at one end and then, you look along to the other end. Obviously here it's where between 20 and 30. So get to understand 10, 20, 30, so you need to get to understand where they mark off. If this is 20, then this is 25, because that's 30. This therefore is 21, 22, 23, 24. The next job and here is the point, the next job is to decide exactly where it comes. Well, this is actually on the fourth line; so this is 24; whatever the units are. It could be centimeters; it could be inches as well. It doesn't really matter. The problem is, if we write down okay, 24; but it's not actually on the line, we then have to guess and our guess is going to be something like this. If that's where the end of the object comes to and this is 24 and this is 25 and there's no lines in between; it doesn't mean they don't exist. We have to guess. And there's 5 and I need four divisions; 1, 2, 3, 4; so this is 24.1, .2, .3, .4 and that's .5, we won't bother doing those; then I've got 24.2, so I now put 24.2 and even there it's a little bit further and I can put a number between 1 and 10; I think it's 2. So this gives us so much more accurate way of doing it. One or two precautions to take; now when you actually put the tape measure on, because tape measure's tend to be quite flexible, you have to make sure it's flat and straight and not twisted. And if you do those things, you will know how to read a tape measure.

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