Measuring tape case

Length of Project:
Project theme:
Suitable for grades:
Tools & Materials
Material List
  • small tape measure (new or used, 6' or so)
  • block of wood, about 3/4" larger in each diameter than the original case
  • wood glue
  • two 1/4" wood screws
  • non-toxic wood finish
Tool list
  • screw drivers
  • masking tape
  • bandsaw
  • drill press
  • Forstner bit (slightly larger than your internal measuring tape reel)
  • small hand saw
  • awl
  • clamps
  • table sander
  • sand paper, various grits
  1. Take apart your used measuring tape case, and remove the roll of tape and the spring mechanism. Be careful to hang onto the end of the tape so it doesn’t fly out, as it will be under tension. Using the masking tape, gently wrap the measuring tape and spring assembly so it stays wrapped up.
  2. Decide the orientation of grain you want on your block of wood, and then use the empty case as a stencil and trace the side outline onto your wood.  (Your final product will be stronger if you orient the end grain to the top or front of the case, instead of the sides).
  3. Cut out this shape on the bandsaw.
  4. Next, cut off a 3/16” slice from the side of your block to access the middle where the tape will go. You now have the body and the side of the new case. At this point, you may want to clean up the faces of this cut with a planer or sander to make a smooth fit when you glue it back on.
  5. Make a centre space for the tape reel: choose a Forstner bit that is at least ¼" in diameter larger than the internal measuring tape you have wrapped in masking tape. Measure the width of this tape, and drill a hole in the centre of your block (case body) that is 1/8” deeper than the width of the tape.
  6. Using your hand saw, cut a slot in the front bottom of the block where the end of the tape will sit. Make sure your slot is wide enough for the tape to move freely, but not so wide that the metal tip gets stuck inside.
  7. With your awl, make two tiny holes on either side of the point made by the Forstner bit.  Dip your ¼" screws in some wood glue, and screw in until they catch (if you drill too deep, they might stick out of the side of your new case.
  8. Carefully unwrap the masking tape off the tape reel and place it into the new case. Make sure the angled metal end in the centre fits between the two screws, they will prevent the tape from unwinding and loosening. You may need to play with the tension at this point, manually pulling the tape out and adding another wind or two to the tape. Place the side on and test out your new tape measure to make sure it pulls out and winds up properly.
  9. When you are happy with the tension, apply wood glue to the edges around the drilled space, and clamp the cover on.
  10. Using the sander, shape your measuring tape case.  You may choose to round the edges or leave them square.  Be careful not to take off too much material and expose the screw tips or the inner space where the tape reel is. 
  11. Apply your chosen non-toxic finish.
Extension Challenges
  1. Play with inlays of contrasting woods. For example, you could cut the original block in a few different orientations and glue a thin layer of another wood type before you make the project cuts.
  2. Use a CNC machine to cut out your pieces for you. You could make this project in two halves by getting the computer to cut the outside shape and hollow out the centre (instead of the asymmetrical design using the Forstner bit).
  3. Carve or wood burn details onto your case, or try inlaying a coin or piece of shell or other thin object into the side.
  4. Look around at other objects or tools you use that have plastic on or around them. Choose one of these objects, remove the hardware, and replace the plastic part with wood. For example, cutlery or knife handles, phone cases, plastic pens, staplers, etc.
  5. Add a clip to the side of your tape measure so you can attach it to your belt, or an eyelet at the top to attach it to a keychain.
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