Wooden Tape Measure

Length of Project:
Project theme:
Suitable for grades:
Tools & Materials
Material List
  • Used mini 6’ tape measure
  • Any type of hardwood block, slightly larger in dimension than your used tape measure case
  • Wood glue
  • Tung oil, butcher block conditioner, or other non-toxic finish
Tool list
  • Pencil
  • Screwdriver (and/or necessary tools to take apart tape measure)
  • Masking tape
  • Bandsaw
  • Sander or sandpaper
Procedure
  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. Measure the width of the actual internal measuring tape you have wrapped in masking tape. Mark this on the middle of the front your block according to the diagram. Decide how wide you want your final product to be, and mark the outer edges according to the diagram (be sure to make the side walls at least 3/16”, to allow for material loss in shaping and sanding).
  5. Cut these lines on the bandsaw, so you now have three pieces (one centre piece, and two sides).
  6. Sketch an inner space on the centre piece that you will remove to accommodate the rolled up measuring tape. Leave at least ¼" of material along the edges. Mark the area on the front where the end of your tape will stick out.
  7. Using the band saw, carefully cut out this centre piece, starting at the front where the tape measure will be sticking out.
  8. From the scrap from the centre, cut out two small triangles. These bits you will be gluing back into the centre to hold the spring mechanism in place.
  9. Assemble your tape measure: First, glue this hollow centre piece to one side piece. Glue the two triangles onto the side piece, leaving a tiny gap between them to accommodate the spring mechanism. Place a flat piece of wood on top of these glued pieces, clamp, and let dry.
  10. You may need to ask someone for help with this step, as extra hands can be helpful. Unwrap your measuring tape assembly carefully, and fit it into the new wooden case, making sure that the spring mechanism is wound tightly and secured between your little triangles in the middle. Fit the second side on and test out the tape to make sure it extends and retracts properly. You may need to wind it up a few more times to get the proper elastic tension.
  11. When you’re happy with the internal set-up, hold the tape in place while you apply glue to the edge of the centre bit and triangles, then fit the second side piece on, clamp and let dry.
  12. Sand your tape measure case and apply your chosen finish. You are now ready to use your new tape measure for your next woodworking project!
Extension Challenges
  1. If you have a large enough Forstner bit, you can instead cut your original block in two, and hollow out the centres by drilling partway down with the Fostner bit, then chiseling out the entrance hole, instead of cutting three pieces.
  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 sandwiching three pieces together).
  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.
  6. 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.
Suggest an Edit