How to Rewind a Tape Measure

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A tape measure is a "must have" for any do-it-yourself repair. The tape measure is marked off in inches or centimeters and makes for accurate measurements while working. Everyone has seen at least one kind of tape measure--either those long, snaky metal tape measures that retract automatically, a paper tape measure or a soft tape measure made out of cloth. How you rewind a tape measure is fairly easy using both cloth, paper and metal measuring devices. Sometimes the only complication with rewinding a metal tape measure is safety.

Hold the base of the metal tape measure with the metal tape fully extended and locked. The base should fit in the palm of your hand. Just above the slit where the tape measure comes out is the locking device that keeps the metal tape extended and locked in place. The locking device slide looks like a little grooved bump, about an inch wide, and will be aimed down, holding the tape measure locked in place. If you can't locate this slide, check the face of your tape measure. On some compact tape measures, the locking slide may be a smaller switch located on the side or bottom of the tape measure.

Put your thumb on the locking slide. Don't just unlock it! If your tape measure is fully extended, you want to maintain control of the tape as it zips up into the base in your hand.

Pull back your thumb slightly to release the locking device. The tape measure will start to recoil into the base in your hand. It will move quickly, so be prepared to push your thumb back down toward the locked position a few times to slow the process. While rewinding, you want to keep the tape measure from whipping around or snapping up and hitting your eye. When the end of the tape reaches the base in your hand, it will be one whole unit, with no tape showing. You did it!

Rewinding a cloth tape is done manually. Lift the tape by the far end (the one with the highest number). You'll want to roll it up with the highest measurement inside, the front of the tape showing the lowest numbers.

Fold the end of the cloth tape over itself lengthwise to start the center of your roll. Grasp the center between your thumb and forefinger and use your other hand to continue wrapping the tape around itself. Turn the roll as it's tightly grasped between your thumb and forefinger as you wind the cloth over itself. When you reach the end, you should have a little wheel of cloth tape measure. Pin the end with a straight pin to maintain the shape.

Tips & Warnings

  • Some metal tape measures have no automatic rewinding device and are wound with a winding arm located on the side of the tape measure base. Turning the winding arm clockwise will rewind your tape measure. Paper tape measures can be folded accordion-style, in 3-inch increments from the back to the front. Take the last 3 inches, fold the paper tape back on itself. Take the next 3 inches, fold the paper tape forward on itself. Repeat until you have a neat 3-inch long tape, and secure with a rubber band.

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