What Are Major Parts of a Short Steel Tape Measure?

A good retractable pocket-size  tape measure is useful for those in construction, plumbing, or one of many other professional trades.  There are actually five major parts of a short steel tape measure, each of which has an important role in fast and accurate measuring.


5 Major Parts of a Short Steel Tape Measure



The tape blade is the actual working part of a short steel tape measure -- it's essentially a flexible retractable steel ruler. The total length of the tape blade determines the range of measurements you can make.

Markings allow for both metric and imperial scales (sometimes on the same tape measure), while additional markings provide additional scaling information.

On the tape measure, each number corresponds to an inch with each inch subdivided into 1/16 or 1/32 of an inch, depending on the accuracy of the tape measure. The numbers on a metric tape denote centimeters, and the spaces between the numbers are graduated into millimeters.


Spring and Stop

A tape measure retracts because the tape connects to a flat metal spring coiled around a central post inside the tape housing. If the tape gets damaged, you can pull it all the way out of the housing, unhook it from the spring and hook on a new tape, as long as you take appropriate precautions to prevent the spring from retracting. Almost all tape measures feature a lock button to keep the tape extended; the operation of this button is very simple. It simply locks against the tape to prevent it from moving when you engage it.


Hooked Tab

At the end of a short steel tape measure is a metal hooked tab that performs the important function of preventing the tape from disappearing inside the housing, but that isn't all it does. When you need to make an outside measurement, you can hook the tab over an edge so you can stretch the tape. If you're making an inside measurement, the loosely fitting tab slides toward the tape, which is calibrated to allow for its width. It's important to protect the tab when retracting the tape to prevent it from bending; keep your finger on the tape housing when you release the stop and let the tab strike your finger instead of the housing.


Hook Slot

The little slot in the hook is actually designed to help attach the hook to an anchor point and prevent sliding.


Thumb Lock

Short steel tape measures are designed to automatically retract, and the thumb lock is a way to make the tape lock the blade in its existing open position  and remain at the length which is pulled out of its storage case. You can pull more tape out with the lock on, but it won’t retract until you flip the lock off.

Typically the thumb blade lock is located somewhere in the middle to high end of the tape measure's case.

Thumb lock makes you comfortably reach and operate the thumb blade lock with your thumb as you hold the tape measure in the same hand. It's important that the case fit comfortably in one hand and allow easy reach and operation of the thumb blade lock.

If you are unable to lift the thumb blade lock back into the up position after it was in the down (locked) position, it's possible the factory has installed an incorrect thumb lock for the design of the case.


Case is a part of the short steel measure tape. When measuring into a corner, you can add the length of the case (most standard models have a 3 inch long case) instead of trying to fold the tape into the corner.

Belt Clip

Due to the extreme usefulness of having a short steel tape measure on hand. Eastern  understand the need for quick access and include a belt clip on one side of all but the smallest models. Even if you normally use a tool belt with a built-in tape measure pocket, the clip won’t get in the way.

It easily clips on over your pants or belt, and allows you to quickly and easily remove and re-clip your tape measure all day.

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