Tricks With a Tape Measure

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A tape measure is even more useful when you know the tricks.
A tape measure is even more useful when you know the tricks. (Image: Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

A tape measure has long been an invaluable tool for carpenters, woodworkers, cabinet makers, handymen and more. There are tape measure tricks that go beyond measurement to create a surveying tool, calculate age and year of birth and provide amusement for a few innovative construction workers and the many Web surfers who have witnessed their online measuring tape antics.

A Measurement Trick

A retractable measuring tape has a metal end designed to move the thickness of the metal itself to allow for an accurate measurement of the inside of an opening. The idea is to push the metal piece against one side, hold the tape in place, and measure to the other side. The thickness of the metal tip is thereby eliminated from the final calculation. Unfortunately, after many uses the tip can move too far and throw off your measurement. A trick to eliminate the problem is to hold the metal end of the tape with your thumb to keep it from moving while you perform the measurement.

A Plumb Bob Holder

An old, retractable measuring tape can be converted for use as a plumb bob holder. A weight used to measure plumb, or vertical straightness, is attached to a string that can become easily tangled. Pull the measuring tape all the way out and remove it from its attachment hook while holding firmly to the hook to prevent it from retracting. Tie the plumb bob string onto the hook and allow the mechanism to retract. Your plum bob string is now organized and protected and ready for its next use.

Surveyors and others checking for plumb know how frustrating a tangled plumb bob string can be.
Surveyors and others checking for plumb know how frustrating a tangled plumb bob string can be. (Image: Jupiterimages/BananaStock/Getty Images)

A Calculation Trick

You can calculate age from year of birth or the reverse without the use of mathematical computation. All you need is a 10 foot long measuring tape. Pull the tape out until the metal tip rests on the inch measurement of the current year. For 2011, the metal tip would be folded to rest on 111 inches. Both sides of the tape should have measurements marked upon them. If you were born in 1985, find the 85 inch mark on the tape. Turn the tape over and line it up with the 85 inch mark. The number you see on the reverse will provide your current age in years. A person born in 1985 will be 26 at some point during the year 2011.

Online Fun

Look for a video uploaded to the Internet by some playful construction workers. (See Resource 1.) A self proclaimed "Tape Measure Master" will entertain you with tricks performed using a retractable measuring tape. This particular construction site is not all work and no play. Hopefully, the guys were on break when this video was shot.

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