5 Best Tape Measures for Woodworkers (Tested & Reviewed in 2023)
Few hand tools are more essential than the classic tape measure. Tape measures are capable of taking all kinds of measurements, and they’re much more versatile than other measuring devices like rulers.
When it comes to woodworking, having an easy to ready tape measure is essential.
That’s why I put together this list of the best tape measures for woodworkers to help you find the best one for your needs. Let’s dig in!
In a hurry? The Milwaukee 25-Foot Auto-Lock Tape Measure is the best tape measure for woodworkers since it’s efficient, easy to use, compact, affordable, and built to last.
Quick Answer: Here are My Favorite Tape Measures for Woodworkers! 👇
In This Article:
Best Measuring Tapes for Woodworkers
- Milwaukee 25-Foot Auto-Lock Tape Measure – #1 Best Overall Measuring Tape
- Stanley Fatmax 35″ Tape Measure – Best 35-Foot Measuring Tape
- FastCap Lefty/Righty 16″ Tape Measure – Best Value Measuring Tape
- Craftsman Tape Measure 25-Foot – Best Magnetic Measuring Tape
- Craftsman Chrome Tape Measure – Best Chrome Measuring Tape
1. Milwaukee 25-Foot Auto-Lock Tape Measure – #1 Best Overall
- Milwaukee 48-22-0325 Tape Measure, 25 ft L Blade 1 in W Blade, Steel Blade, Black/Red
- Our 25 ft compact wide blade magnetic tape measure has up to 15 ft of reach and a magnet that easily attaches to EMT and steel studs.
- The tape is wear and impact-resistant with nylon blade protection and an additional anti-tear coating on the first 6 in of the blade, reducing tape tear.
Because it’s easy to read, affordable, and built to last, the Milwaukee 25-Foot Auto-Lock Tape Measure has earned its place as the best overall tape measure on my list.
Its magnetic hook allows it to lock on to EMT and steel studs, and a special anti-tear coating reinforces the first six inches of the blade.
It’s double-sided and therefore easier to use, and it has an impact-resistant five-point reinforced frame—so you could drop it from several feet in the air and it’d still work after. Trust me, I’ve tried!
As a professional-grade tape measure, it has an architectural scale, a reliable belt clip, and a case made of alloy steel which I really like.
This tape measure’s reach is 15 feet, and thanks to nylon blade protection this wide blade tape measure isn’t as susceptible to tape tear.
What I Liked:
- Milwaukee backs this product with a lifetime limited warranty
- Magnet holds even when the blade is considerably extended
- Pretty reasonably priced considering its durability & efficiency
- Smooth extension & contraction every time, even after years of use.
What I Didn’t Like:
- Blade material could be stronger, but it’s still durable enough for most woodworkers
- Somewhat smaller compared to others
- Smaller marks can be difficult to see in poorly lit areas
This Milwaukee tape measure is easy to use and read, efficient, durable, and priced reasonably when you take into account everything it has to offer making it the best tape measure for woodworkers. Granted, it does take some getting used to, but once you get the hang of it you can fully utilize its 15-foot reach. I will say, however, the blade could be stronger, and the hook can bend fairly easily. But these two minor issues aside, this Milwaukee tape measure offers exceptional quality at a can’t-beat price, and that’ll always be a winning combination in my book.
2. Stanley Fatmax Tape Measure – Best 35-Foot Tape Measure
- Includes (1) 35 foot tape measure.
- 1 1/14″ blade width, 14 ft. of reach to get measurements on your own
- Durable high impact case with non-slip rubber stands up to jobsite demands
The Stanley Fatmax Tape Measure has the longest blade by far, and it’s also durable and accurate.
But despite having a 35-foot blade, it has the same reach (14 feet) as other tape measures on this list.
And as far as markings go, it has vertical inch, 1/2-inch, 1/4-inch, 1/8-inch, and 1/16-inch markings, but it doesn’t have the fractions more precise tape measures have.
Additionally, it’s one of the heavier tape measures currently available on the market right now (1.57 lbs), even though it has a rubber case.
Still, it can fit comfortably on your tool belt or in your pocket.
Its locking system is reliable and easy to use, but it doesn’t have an auto-lock like other tape measures.
Lastly, it has a reinforced metal hook, but it’s not magnetic like the hooks other durable tape measures have.
What I Liked:
- Great for long surfaces that require a longer reach
- Blade extends and retracts smoothly
- Smooth locking system that’s simple to operate
- A sturdy blade & hook give it decent reach compared to others
What I Didn’t Like:
- Priciest tape measure on this list
- Reach should be longer considering total blade size
- Lacks fractional markings
- Blade hook isn’t magnetic, which can make your job more difficult
- Can be too bulky for certain projects
The Stanley Fatmax Tape Measure is one of the best tape measures in terms of overall quality and length. Its blade has superior length, and it’s one of the more durable cased tape measures (despite being mostly rubber). The blade is easy to read, and it can be easily clipped to a tool belt. However, it’s the most expensive tape measure on this list, and its lack of fractional markings prevents it from taking precise measurements. Still, if you need a tape measure with extra blade length, this measuring tape won’t let you down.
3. FastCap Lefty/Righty 16″ Tape Measure – Best Value Tape Measure
- Eraseable notepad
- 16′ Standard and standard reverse rule
- Easy-read fractions to 1/16″
Coming in at less than $10 is the FastCap Lefty/Righty 16′ Tape Measure, the best value tape measure on my list.
The 16-foot, 1-inch wide white blade is made of coated alloy steel, and it has markings down to 1/16 of an inch. The markings are easy to see.
It has a 16-foot reach, which is plenty for most projects.
What’s particularly cool about this tape measure is it has a built-in notepad, as well as a built-in pencil sharpener which can come in handy.
There’s also a temporary hold button on the bottom that’s ideal for taking quick measurements.
Finally, it has a lever-action belt clip, and both righties and lefties can use it to much success.
It’s worth noting that the markings are difficult to read, which is something to keep in mind.
What I Liked:
- Decent 16 foot reach
- Rock-bottom price yet highly efficient
- On the lighter side thanks to the rubber casing
- Easy-to-use belt clip
- Compact, portable & easy to store
What I Didn’t Like:
- Blade is only 16 feet
- Markings are small and difficult to read
- Doesn’t feel nearly as durable as others
Despite its low price, the FastCap Lefty/Righty 16′ Tape Measure is still capable of taking precise measurements, and it’s pretty lightweight as far as cased tape measures go. It has decent reach thanks to a sturdy hook and blade, and its self-locking mechanism holds up even after years of use. Granted, it’s not one of the most durable tape measures and not as long as others. It’s worth noting there is a noticeable drop off in quality when you compare this tape measure to others, but that’s because of the price. But as far as basic tape measures go, you’re not going to find anything else that matches its quality at less than $10.
4. Craftsman Tape Measure 25-Foot – Best Magnetic Tip Tape Measure
- 14 ft. OF REACH*: Retractable tape measure allows for easier measurements when working alone
- MADE IN THE U.S.A. with Global Materials in New Britain, Connecticut
- MAGNETIC HOOK: Ideal for working with metal studs, I-beams, ductwork, and more
The Craftsman Tape Measure 25-Foot is a superior 25-foot tape measure because of its long reach, sturdiness, accuracy, and durability, but it doesn’t hold the “best overall” slot because it’s an expensive tape measure thats size can be too bulky sometimes.
It has a coated metallic blade and a reinforced magnetic hook, and it can reach 14 feet, making it ideal for craftspeople who generally work alone.
And like other tape measures on this list, it has a self-locking mechanism, but it also has a manual lock which helps with achieving accurate measurements.
Speaking of accurate measurements, unfortunately this tape measure doesn’t have 1/16” markings, so it’s not great for woodworkers who often need to make very precise measurements.
For a durable cased tape measure, it’s pretty light, weighing just 0.64 ounces.
What I Liked:
- Sturdy and high quality design
- Longest reach of all the tape measures on this list
- Its slide lock is better than a push-button lock
- Smooth extension & retraction
- Lifetime limited warranty
What I Didn’t Like:
- No 1/16” markings
- One of the more expensive tape measures on my list
- Length and height make it too bulky for some tasks
Because of its durability and superior reach, the Craftsman Tape Measure 25-Foot is more dependable than most other tape measures. Plus, its blade will remain sturdy even after years of use, which isn’t a shock since this product does bear the Craftsman brand. But since it’s a durable tape measure, it’s more expensive, which you may find unjustifiable since it doesn’t have 1/16” markings. But overall, it’s a quality product that’d be worthy of the “best tape measure” slot if it was cheaper and more precise.
4. Craftsman Tape Measure – Best Chrome Tape Measure
- Retractable tape measure has 7 ft. of standout*
- ADDED GRIP: Rubber overmold for added grip
- DURABILITY: Durable blade coating to improve product life
When it comes to chrome 25-foot tape measures, the Craftsman Tape Measure is a great option, since it’s durable, easy to use, efficient, and affordable.
While it’s marketed as a chrome tape measure, it isn’t 100% chrome—its case does include some rubber parts.
It doesn’t have the longest reach (just seven feet), but its durable blade and hook do ensure total stability for all seven feet.
Moreover, it’s not the lightest tape measure on this list, but it’s not the heaviest either—it weighs 0.83 pounds, with most of that weight coming from the chrome components.
It has easy-to-read markings, but it doesn’t have the fractional markings more precise tape measures have.
The blade is 1” wide, and its hook is attached well but ultra durable like some other measuring tapes.
Finally, it has a push-button lock, which many woodworkers regard as inferior (when compared to a sliding lock).
What I Liked:
- Very affordable yet reliable
- Durable and high quality measuring tape that will last
- Bold markings on a white surface that are easy to read
- Backed by a Craftsman limited lifetime warranty
What I Didn’t Like:
- Doesn’t have fractional markings which can make more precise measurements more difficult
- Subpar hook & manual lock
If you want your tape measure to have that classic chrome look at a decent price, I suggest purchasing the Craftsman Tape Measure. It’s durable and capable of taking accurate measurements, and it’s sold at a very attractive low price. However, it doesn’t have a considerably long reach—despite having 25 feet of tape—and it doesn’t have the fractional markings needed to take precise measurements. Still, it’s one of the best tape measures in terms of overall performance and price, so choose it if you want good bang for your buck with the classic look and feel.
Types of Tape Measures
These tape measures utilize lasers to take decently accurate measurements (within 1/8”-1/2”). Laser tape measures are usually push-button activated, and most run on AA or AAA batteries.
The laser tape measure is preferred by tradespeople who need accurate measurements quickly, but it’s not the best for carpenters and other tradespeople who rely on precise measurements.
Cased tape measures are the tools most people think of when they hear the term. They use a metal-rubber case to hold the tape blade, and they can be easily fastened to a tool belt or kept in a pant pocket.
Usually these are 25 feet long, and most have a 7-16 foot reach. These are generally more precise than laser tape measures and pretty sturdy, but they wear down over time, especially if used frequently.
D-tape resembles a cased tape measure, but these rely on highly flexible blades that can easily wrap around pipes, poles, etc. Some D-tape even utilizes cloth instead of the traditional metallic blade.
Essentially, this is the kind of measuring instrument you want to use if you have to measure anything circle related. D-tape can be anywhere from 1-50 feet long!
Long or Open-Reel
This is a more niche measuring tool that’s preferred by engineers, contractors, and builders. Some can measure up to 500 feet, and they’re operated using a hand crank.
Most have both feet and meter markings, and some have a bottom spike to ensure stability when measuring at ground level.
Essential Tape Measure Features
This metal measuring strip is the most important part of a tape measure. A high-quality tape measure will have a blade made of fiberglass or steel, and it’ll be coated with a protective finish to ensure durability.
A blade should extend at least six feet before bending, and the hook at the end of it should be well secured. High-end tape measures can extend 14-15 feet without bending.
The tang, otherwise known as the hook, is the clip at the end of the blade that helps to ensure precise measurements. Many tape measures use magnetic tangs because these are more stable.
Usually, the tang is the first component to break. For this reason, when you’re shopping for tape measures, look for products—like the Craftsman Tape Measure 25-Foot—that have a reinforced tang.
A reliable tape measure will have easy-to-read markings, and it may even have imperial and metric markings.
The more precise tape measures will have fractional markings down to 1/16”, and the more versatile models will have double-sided markings so righties and lefties can use them.
Generally speaking, woodworkers prefer precise tape measures with numerous markings because their projects often require precise measurements.
Tape measures that have an auto-lock system are easier to use and safer than tape measures that rely on a manual stop.
The best auto-lock tape measures are slide activated. If you can’t get your hands on one of these, a push-button auto-lock system will do, but these break down quicker and they can be unreliable after many uses.
A tape measure that has a sturdy belt clip is easier to use and less prone to falling. And just because it has a belt clip doesn’t mean it can’t fit easily in a pant pocket.
These days, there are many types of tape measures, but virtually all of them have a belt clip of some kind, which shows how essential these often-overlooked components are.
What to Consider When Buying a Measuring Tape
Length is one of the first things you should consider when browsing tape measures. If you’re frequently working with large surfaces (roofs, floors, etc.), then you should get a tape measure that’s at least 25 feet long.
Moreover, you should get a tape measure that has a 14-15 foot reach. If your projects rarely involve such large surfaces, a smaller tape measure with a six-foot reach will do.
The whole reason for using a tape measure is to ensure accurate measurements, so if a tape measure can’t perform this basic function, it’s best to move on.
And just because a tape measure is accurate doesn’t mean it’s precise; a tape measure that’s precise will have markings down to the 1/16”.
The most accurate tape measure is a comfortable tape measure, since it’s impossible to get accurate measurements if you can’t get a good grip on your tape measure.
Honestly, it doesn’t matter whether you choose a metal or rubber holder—both are easy to grip, and neither is too heavy.
Blade Retraction & Locking Mechanism
A good tape measure will have smooth blade retraction and an efficient locking mechanism, either an auto-lock or a manual lock.
The quality of the locking mechanism in part determines the accuracy of measurements.
Think about it: if the tape can’t lock in place, you’ll have to try your hardest to keep it in place, which is probably going to prevent you from taking an accurate measurement.
As far as manual locks go, slide-activated locks are better than push-button locks.
Durability is an important factor to consider when browsing measuring tapes. After all, once measuring tape begins to break down, it will no longer be able to provide accurate measurements.
For this reason, choose fiberglass or steel measuring tape that’s coated with nylon. This measuring tape lasts longest and typically provides substantial reach.
And when it comes to tape measures, the durability of the case is also important; you don’t want something that’ll split in two from a minor impact.
Metal-rubber cases are best, but those who don’t like scratched metal prefer all-rubber cases.
As far as the measurement system goes, double-check to make sure you have the right tape measure; nothing’s worse than purchasing a tape measure online only to find out days later it doesn’t have the right measurement markings.
If you’re going to need precise measurements routinely, go with a tape measure that includes markings down to the 1/16”.
And if you need imperial and metric markings, choose a double-sided tape measure.
Tape Measure Tips & Tricks for Woodworkers
Keep a Few Tape Measures Around
It’s best to keep a few tape measures around your workshop; this way you always have one when you need to take accurate measurements.
If it’s possible, try to have a few basic ones as well as a couple precision tape measures.
Don’t Break the Bank on a Tape Measure
There are some pretty fancy tape measures out there, but I’ve come to realize it’s best to stay away from the products that are over-engineered with all sorts of bells and whistles.
Not only do these tend to break faster—using them can be a pain. And if you can’t use a tape measure properly, it’s virtually useless.
Always Use a Crow’s Foot
Precise cuts in wood what you’re after? Then use a “crow’s foot” instead of dashes and ticks. The point at which the digits come together is where the cut should be made.
If you’ve been using dashes and ticks for awhile, adjusting to crow’s feet can be tricky, but it’s worth making the change if you want to become an expert woodworker.
Use a Tape Measure to Draw Straight Lines
A tape measure can be used to draw clean, straight lines. The best tape measures, for this purpose, are those that have a sturdy blade and hook.
Especially if the hook is magnetic, you won’t have to worry about the blade moving as you draw the line.
Add Three Inches
Many tape measures—especially the compact ones—are just three inches in length. Knowing this, you can include the case’s length when taking measurements.
For example, if you’re measuring the bottom portion of a window frame, you could press the tape measure case against one side before extending the tape out to get a measurement.
Make Sure the Hook Is Square
Before you start taking measurements, you need to make sure the hook at the end of the blade is square. If it’s not, you won’t be able to take accurate measurements.
And if you don’t want to be squaring the hook routinely, buy a tape measure that has a reinforced hook, like the Craftsman Tape Measure 25-Foot.
Need some help reading your tape measure? Check out the video below!
Pick Up Hard-To-Reach Nails, Screws, Etc.
Isn’t it a pain when nails, screws, washers, nuts, and other metallic items roll under your workbench? Need a way to get these pieces out of tight crevices and hard-to-reach places?
Use a tape measure with a magnetic hook. These hooks are shockingly strong, and a blade with decent reach will be helpful too.
To recap, the best tape measure for woodworkers overall is the Milwaukee 25-Foot Auto-Lock Tape Measure, since it’s durable, easy to use, capable of taking precise measurements, all at a reasonable price.
But if price is your number-one concern when shopping for the best tape measure, choose either the FastCap Lefty/Righty 16′ Tape Measure (best value) or the Craftsman Tape Measure (best chrome).
And if maximum reach is what you’re after, go with the Stanley Fatmax 35″ Tape Measure with a 35 foot blade.