When doing a home improvement project or craft, at least one instrument used to measure length will be used. Further, more than one instrument may be needed for completing length measurements for various tasks. Before beginning a project, become familiar with these tools, as well as where they are best used.
Scales are used to convert the length of a drawn object (such as a blueprint) into its actual, real-life size without a lot of work. They come in two basic types--engineering scales (which are metric) and architectural scales (which use traditional measurements). Scales often look like triangular rulers. This is because they are actually three to six different measuring tools in one. To use a scale, first determine the current scale (as in proportion of the drawing to reality) of the original drawing. Then find the appropriate side of the scale and measure. This measurement is the actual size of the real-life object.
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Architects, surveyors, engineers and estimators determine the length of a long distance through the use of a measuring wheel. This tool records the number of times its wheel completes a rotation (or partial rotation). Measuring wheels are available in both mechanical and electronic varieties. Mechanical wheels are easy to operate. Electronic wheels have the ability to convert between various measuring units automatically. However, they are also battery-powered, which may present a problem if the battery runs out in the middle of a task.
A measuring tape is used to calculate a simple length over a relatively short distance. It is a variation on a ruler, though it can measure much longer distances than a ruler (though much less than a measuring wheel). Measuring tapes come in two varieties. One type is made of cloth or plastic. This is used by those needing a flexible instrument with which to measure length, such as a tailor or anyone measuring the circumference of an object. The other type is a steel measuring tape, used by carpenters and other construction workers. Steel measuring tapes are durable, and can take a bit of a beating before becoming unusable. Steel tapes also typically come with a hook for a belt, making it easy for craftsman to carry around hands-free.