Posted On Wed, Aug 9, 2023

The measuring tape is the world’s most frequently used measuring tool. Reading a measuring tape is straight forward once you understand the markings and divisions on its blade. Here is a simple step-by-step guide on how to accurately read your measuring tape.

Step1: Examine the overall length

Look at the measuring tape to determine its total length. This will usually be printed on the measuring tape’s label. Common lengths for pocket measuring tapes are 3m, 5m ,7.5m and 10m. The FREEMANS TUFF measuring tapes below are of 3m:19mm and 5m:25mm sizes. This indicates that the tapes can measure a maximum length of 3m and 5m respectively. The width of the tape blade is 19mm and 25mm respectively.

measuring tape blog image

Step 2: Identify the graduations on the tape blade

In India, measuring tapes typically display measurements in the metric system (meters and centimetres) which is the official system in the country. This can be seen on the bottom half of the tape blade (refer to diagram below). Printed on the top scale is an Imperial scale, which is only for reference and not for official use. Ensure you know which units are displayed on tape blade.

A close-up of a FREEMANS Measuring Tape Blade

tape blade blog

Step 3: Locate the zero point

The beginning of the measuring tape will have a self-adjusting hook with the number “0” marked on it. This point is where your measurements start.

Step 4: Read the whole numbers

If you refer to the diagram above and move away from the zero point, you’ll see a series of large numbers representing either Inches on the top or cm on the bottom half of the tape blade. Each number represents a full unit of measurement for example 1” or 1cm.

Step 5: Observe the fractional or decimal markings

Referring to the diagram above, observe the smaller lines between the whole numbers. These markings represent fractions on the additional scale (in the imperial system) or millimetres/mm (in the metric system). The most common fractional divisions in the imperial system are 1/16, 1/8, 1/4, 1/2, and so on. For example, a 1/4 mark is longer than a 1/8 mark. In the metric system, each smallest division represents 1mm. There are 10mm in each centimetre (shown by the ten spaces between each cm) and 100cm in each metre.

Step 6: Determine the measurement

To read a measurement, first identify the whole number that aligns with the end of the object you are measuring. Then, check the closest fractional or decimal marking beyond it. If the object extends past a whole number, calculate the additional distance based on the markings. For example, in the image below, the wooden board measures 10inches or 25.4cm.

Measuring a length using a specific object

How to read a measuring tape - blog


1. What is a SOOT?

Soot is a commonly used local term, that equates to 1/8th of an inch. It is used frequently in North, Middle and Eastern India.  1 Soot=3.175mm precisely, but for common use, 1 Soot= 3mm approximately.

what is soot

2. Where can I see a 1-foot marking on my tape blade?

In the diagram above, the red 01 marking denotes 1 foot or 1’. The small red 1-3 marking denotes a 1 foot 3 inches or 1’3” measurement marking.

tape blade with 1 foot - blog

3. Which measurement units should I be familiar with?

We have provided a table below of commonly used measurement conversions.

tape measurement units blog

4. What is the house shaped mark printed at the 16” graduation line on FREEMANS Measuring Tapes?

graduation line - blog

For building thatched wooden roofs of houses in the United Kingdom many decades ago, wooden planks of 16” length were used, as this was the prevailing standard. The house shaped mark, the technical term for this is ‘stud mark’ was added to the 16” graduation line of measuring tapes sold in the United Kingdom as an aid for carpenters and builders in the house construction trade. Our companies very first export client was from the United Kingdom, and the stud mark was added to all FREEMANS printing belts based upon their requirement. We have retained this printing feature on our measuring tapes due to nostalgic reasons.

5. Why is there ‘play’ in the end hook of FREEMANS Measuring Tapes?

The end hook of FREEMANS measuring tapes slide to compensate for their own thickness – in order to give accurate measurements when measuring from the inside or the outside surface of the end hook. The normal range of movement of the end hook is 1mm, which is the same as the thickness of the hook.

Beware! End hooks that do not slide as per the above i.e., those with ‘no play’ will not give accurate inside and outside measurements. These measuring tapes will fail even the most basic tests of accuracy. Please refer to the below line diagram for further clarity.

True Zero - blog


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