A few weeks back while perusing Instagram I saw a photo of a wooden tape measure. The poster was trying to find out where it came from and who made it. I have no idea if they ever found out, but that photo inspired me to try it out on my own since I carry a small tape on my key chain! (If you don’t carry a shirt tape, you should. It’s super handy in lots of different situations.) Making this project was just barely an idea a couple of weeks ago when I started up my Twitch live stream to work on a different project. I started the stream and realized that the paint on that project was still wet. There was nothing I could do on it. So I asked the viewers what they wanted to do and threw out some ideas.
The tape measure was one of the ideas and they all got excited to see it! It was a fun build because I hadn’t even thought about HOW to do it yet, so we figured it out together, live. I made a prototype in that stream and learned a lot, so I decided to make another an document the process.
As a tape measure, it works exactly as it did before but this project is a case of taking a thing you use every day and making it better. In this case, it just looks better. That’s ok with me 🙂
I started with a cheap 10′ tape measure from the big box store.
There were two screws to remove to get the case open. Be careful to not open it to fast. The tape is like a big spring under tension.
The tape is a easy to hold in place as long as you get ahold of it before removing one side of the casing.
I wrapped this part in tape until I needed it.
I traced the other side of the casing on a piece of wood to get the general size and shape.
I cut out this shape with the bandsaw.
I figured the final total thickness, then cut off some of this pieces width to get it to the correct width.
Once I had it to final size, I cut it in half.
On the inside of each piece, I drew a line a little off the perimeter and a circle in the middle. These lines give me a reference so I don’t hollow out too much material.
I used an end mill (right) which is NOT the same as a drill bit (left). The end mill cuts on the tip and the sides of the bit, whereas the drill bit just cuts down and has a pointed end.
Using the end mill in my Dremel tool, I milled out the material in the middle of the piece, being sure to not cut too deep.
The bottom surface was very uneven so I cleaned it up with a chisel. I realized at this point that it was not cut deep enough.
I went ahead and used the same process on the other piece, removing the majority of the material but not going full depth.
Next, I moved the end mill to my drill press and set a maximum depth so I couldn’t cut too deep in the pieces.
I increased the RPM of my drill press then used it to router out the remaining material by moving the material around underneath the bit (in a clamp).
I flattened the inside edge surface of each piece on the belt sander so there wouldn’t be any gaps when they fit together.
Then I held them together and marked each piece for a matching slot to allow the tape through the casing.
I used a cut off wheel in my Dremel to cut that slot in each piece.
I also cut a slot in each of the center areas that I’d left intact. This piece holds the center of the spring.
I carefully inserted the tape, hooking the spring into the center slot.
I fit the other side casing on to test the fit and that the tape/spring still worked correctly.
Then I slid a screwdriver inside to hold the tape in place and removed the top casing.
I ran a bead of CA glue around the edge of the casing, then fit the top piece back into place.
I clamped these two together so I could adjust alignment before then dried.
After the CA dried (a minute or two) I used the belt sander to remove the glue squeeze out and begin rounding over the corners.
I moved on to a gentler orbital sander, then to a sanding pad to get the surface and shape that I wanted.
I finished it with two coats of Tung oil finish.