It's not a new idea, but it's a good one. In 1865, Justus Roe & Sons started making steel tape measures and three years later, a New Haven, Conn., inventor named Alvin J. Fellows filed a patent to add a retracting spring mechanism. It didn't take long for the retractable tape measure to dominate construction sites and home workshops, making the previously popular wooden folding rulers nearly obsolete.
Even today, you won't want to get caught without a retractable tape measure (or two) in your workshop. You'll need this tool for nearly every hands-on project you tackle. A quality measuring tape can last for years. Look for metal measuring tapes that will extend without bending for up to 6 feet (1.8 meters) with an L-shaped end that grips surfaces.
For most jobs, a 16-foot (4.8-meter) measuring tape will suffice, but 30-foot (7.6- and 9.1-meter) lengths are available, too. Whichever length you choose, make sure it has large and easy-to-read markings [source: Christopher].
Author's Note: 10 Must-Have Tools for Any Workshop
Compared to the other presents I'd already opened at my bridal shower, this one was distinctive. It was a plain, white box with a single ribbon. Inside, was something I didn't expect: A hammer. It was a beautiful thing, with a wooden handle that felt like it was designed just for my hand. Arguably the most useful wedding present I received, the hammer was accompanied by a handwritten note from my dad.
Over the years, that hammer has come in handy. It has helped me hang pictures as a newlywed, then build a bench with my son or a bookshelf with my daughters. It's been useful, sure. But it was more than that, too. It was a connection to my dad. A girl needs that now and then, no matter how old she is.
- Brians, Paul. "Crowbar/Wrecking Bar." (July 5, 2013) http://www.public.wsu.edu/~brians/errors/crowbar.html
- Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety. "What Are Common Types of Pliers and Wire Cutters?" (July 5, 2013) http://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/safety_haz/hand_tools/pliers.html
- Carter, Tim. "On The Level: How to Buy a Good One." Chicago Tribune. March 22, 2013. (July 5, 2013) http://www.chicagotribune.com/classified/realestate/sns-201303111800--tms--askbildrctnab-a20130322-20130322,0,960150.story
- Christopher, Stephen. "Tape Measures." This Is Carpentry. May 6, 2011. (July 5, 2013) http://www.thisiscarpentry.com/2011/05/06/six-tape-measures/
- DIY Network. "Innovative Hammers." (July 5, 2013) http://www.diynetwork.com/home-improvement/innovative-hammers/index.html
- Popular Mechanics. "101 Gadgets That Changed the World." (July 5, 2013) http://www.popularmechanics.com/technology/gadgets/reviews/101-gadgets-that-changed-the-world-crescent-wrench#slide-1
- Encyclopaedia Britannica. "Level." (July 5, 2013) http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/337831/level
- Encyclopaedia Britannica. "Wrench." (July 5, 2013) http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/649432/wrench#ref280063
- Mahoney, Doug. "In the Workshop: Utility Knives." DIY Life. March 16, 2010. (July 5, 2013) http://www.diylife.com/2010/03/16/in-the-workshop-utility-knives/
- McKay, Brett. "Screwdriver Basics: How to Use a Screwdriver Correctly." The Art of Manliness. Feb. 18, 2010. (July 5, 2013) http://www.artofmanliness.com/2010/02/18/toolmanship-how-to-use-a-screwdriver/
- McKay, Brett. "Toolmanship: How to Use a Handsaw." The Art of Manliness. Nov. 3, 2009. (July 5, 2013) http://www.artofmanliness.com/2009/11/03/toolmanship-how-to-use-a-handsaw/
- Princeton University. "Duct Tape." (July 5, 2013) http://www.princeton.edu/~achaney/tmve/wiki100k/docs/Duct_tape.html
- Sherman, Max. "How Duct Tape Sealed My Place in History." American Physical Society. Sept. 13, 1998. (July 5, 2013) http://www.aps.org/publications/apsnews/199812/sherman.cfm
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