Reviews

The Best Tape Measure: Reviews by Wirecutter

25-foot Stanley PowerLock Tape Measure

Our decide

The Stanley PowerLock is the perfect tape measure for various causes. It has a sturdy blade, a practical tang, a strong stand-out, a robust locking lever, and a handy belt hook. The PowerLock is a really primary software and its pared-down simplicity makes it very mild and straightforward to deal with. It’s one of the crucial cheap tapes that we checked out, in addition to the most effective, combining high quality and worth. The different tapes, which value extra, all had failings—a poorly protected blade, a big tang, a lame stand-out, or an inconceivable belt clip.

Once more, crucial attribute of a superior tape measure is the sturdiness of the blade. The Stanley blade is coated with a Mylar polyester movie, which our testing proved to be superior to a lot of the different tapes. Keep in mind, that is the important thing level within the sturdiness and longevity of a tape measure. Once we dragged the weighted sandpaper over the PowerLock, the coating confirmed some floor scratching, however the printing remained absolutely intact. On most of the different tapes, just like the Johnsons and the FastCaps, the printing got here off like we have been erasing a pencil mark. The Stanley was within the small class of tapes that held as much as this abuse.

We additionally discovered that the sturdiness of the PowerLock’s blade extends past a resistance to grit and particles into kinking and common abuse as nicely. One of many tasks we used the tapes on was measuring for 20 customized storm home windows, a process consisting of seven measurements per window. For the diagonals, we planted the tang on the decrease nook, prolonged the tapes, after which bent them over with a twist to be able to learn the higher nook. The PowerLock dealt with this repetitive bending and kinking with no issues, however we have been stunned at how shortly this activity labored over a number of the tapes, just like the Keson and the Tajimas, which shortly developed slight warps and wrinkles within the skinny blades.

A picture of three of the tape measures we tested after an abrasion test.

Prime to backside: FastCap Lefty/Righty, PowerLock, and Milwaukee. The FastCap held up poorly to the abrasion check. The PowerLock did significantly higher, however there are nonetheless a pair scratches that made it to reveal metallic. The Milwaukee blade solely exhibits floor marring. Photograph: Doug Mahoney

The tang on the PowerLock is minimal, however very efficient. It was dead-on correct once we examined it with the Lixer Calibrator, which means each the push and pull measurement are proper the place they’re imagined to be. This means the standard of the tang in addition to its relationship with the tape blade. Within the PTR round-up, DeBoer writes, “believe it or not, we found the Stanley PowerLock to be the epitome of how a tang should move—forward and backwards with almost no lateral movement. Maybe that’s why the tape has been around for 50 years.” As we stated above, all the tapes are inside what we really feel to be the margin of error for accuracy. Nonetheless, utilizing the PowerLock for a carpentry challenge, we have been comforted figuring out that it’s 100 % dead-on correct.

The PowerLock has a blade stand-out of seven ft, 10 inches, which is on the higher aspect of the restrict indicated by Clement and DeBoer. This size is attained with the PowerLock’s 1-inch-wide blade and was the third furthest stand-out of the 1-inch tapes (the Milwaukee had 9 ft, 2 inches, and the Starrett has a bizarro-long 10 ft, 5 inches).

The locking lever is robust and straightforward to make use of, with a pleasant texture that forestalls the thumb from slipping. You possibly can simply lock the blade with one hand. As soon as locked, the tape didn’t budge as we bounced it by itself weight.

The belt hook is a normal however useful design. It has a pleasant spring to it and the flare on the finish makes it straightforward to blindly hook on a again pocket. (Word: If the PowerLock is hooked on to a pair of pants day in and day trip for weeks and months at a time, the sides of the metallic clip will begin to shred the material of the pocket. Truly, all the metallic clips do that, however our former improve decide, the now-discontinued Milwaukee Basic Contractor, had a special design to scale back the impact.)

Due to the 1-inch blade, the physique of the PowerLock is a slim 1½ inches large. It’s one of many taller tapes, with a basic “D” design, nevertheless it’s not unwieldy. In Clement’s evaluation of it, he says, “No one will accuse me of having large hands and the PowerLock fits in my hand nicely.” He goes on, “The squatter, rounder topped tapes with wider (1¼ inch) blades feel too bulky. I can hold the [PowerLock] in my hand, pay out tape, and bend the tape—say for measuring across a floor or from floor to ceiling—in a fluid motion without having to readjust the tape in my hand.”

The individuals we requested to deal with the tapes had comparable experiences. A few them commented on how mild the PowerLock was in comparison with the others, particularly the 1¼-inch tapes (the PowerLock is 13¼ ounces, tied with the Keson for the lightest tape examined). The strong really feel of the device and the graceful locking lever have been additionally famous as excessive factors. As a result of the PowerLock has been the usual tape measure for therefore lengthy (and the one that everybody’s dad owned) it appears to have develop into what individuals are snug and acquainted with. “Yeah, it’s a tape measure … it’s what you expect,” one individual stated. Everybody thought that the 1¼-inch tapes have been cumbersome and heavy. The Tajimas and FastCaps received excessive marks for his or her compact measurement, however they every have their very own flaws that we’ll get to in a bit.

A very nice further function of the PowerLock is that the tape case is marked for inside measurements. The physique of the tape is strictly three inches lengthy (which is printed proper on the case), so for those who’re measuring a room from wall to wall, you’ll be able to prolong the tape till the again of the case touches the wall and simply add the three inches to what you learn on the tape. About ⅔ of the tapes that we examined had this function, however the Stanley was certainly one of seven that stored this measurement to an easy-to-use three inches. Utilizing the DeWalt, you need to add 3¼ inches and the Snap-on makes you add 3⅛ inches.

On the underside of the case, proper the place the tang sits, the PowerLock has a barely unfastened piece of black plastic. This acts as a shock absorber when the tang comes slamming again into the case. A couple of of the opposite instruments had one thing comparable with various levels of success. The Johnson JobSite, Johnson Massive J, and Keson tapes additionally had bumpers, however once they have been pressed, they really pressured open the seam alongside the underside of the case. Higher variations have been discovered on the Starrett and Tajimas, however these tapes had different points coated under. The Komelon, Lufkin, and Snap-on prolong their ample rubber over-mold as much as the nostril of the device in order that it instantly acts as a bumper. However once more, these instruments didn’t fare properly in different classes.

Stuart Deutsch of ToolGuyd additionally reviewed the PowerLock and the one fault he had with it was that he felt the graceful design of the case and sweaty palms don’t combine too nicely. He ended by saying, “Overall, I highly recommend Stanley’s PowerLock tape measures, especially given that they’re cheap enough to replace if or when they’re dropped too many times.”

This final level he makes is value emphasizing. At round $10, the Stanley PowerLock is among the least costly high quality tapes available on the market. DeBoer additionally picks up on the fee evaluation within the PTR piece. His backside line verdict: It’s “the affordable, no-frills standard.”

The PowerLock has a reasonably typical guarantee. It doesn’t cowl any consumer put on and tear, but when there’s something inherently flawed with the software, they’ll offer you a brand new one.

We have to observe that Stanley sells one other model of this tape measure that they confer with because the PowerLock with Blade Armor. We examined this mannequin out too, and despite the fact that it feels like it will be the superior tape, it pales compared to its extra secure sibling. On the great aspect, the Blade Armor model has an “industrial thermo-plastic” coating over the primary three inches of the tape, the place the wear and tear is the toughest. This can be a good contact, however we additionally discovered that it had one of many weaker blade locks of any tape we checked out. The tape began recoiling with even the slightest motion. Whereas we appreciated the added blade sturdiness, the loosey-goosey blade lock was too irritating.

Final, with its lengthy 50-plus-year historical past, the PowerLock can also be one thing of an icon. And whereas we’re enthusiastic about efficiency right here and never historic standing, the truth that the PowerLock was ok to be packed on the Apollo 11 lunar touchdown mission signifies that it’s in all probability ok in your kitchen drawer.

We’ve continued utilizing the PowerLock since 2015 and are nonetheless impressed. We’ve sometimes checked it towards the Lixer tape measure calibrator and it stays correct.

Flaws however not dealbreakers

For all of this goodness, the PowerLock nonetheless has a pair slight flaws. First, the belt hook is an easy metallic clip. This can be a commonplace design on tape measures, and when clipped and unclipped repeatedly on a pocket, it begins to fray the material. Nevertheless, that is solely a priority if the tape is getting used on a really common foundation.

As said earlier, the PowerLock has been round for over 50 years and the one factor that has modified over time is the case. Someplace alongside the best way, almost certainly for value causes, Stanley stopped making them out of metallic and began making them out of plastic. In our analysis, we discovered that many longtime customers of the PowerLock wistfully lengthy for the times of the metallic case. The reality is that plastic instances are merely the norm lately, they usually supply sufficient sturdiness to get the job achieved. Of the tapes we examined, solely the Johnson Huge J had a big quantity of metallic within the case and at no level did we get the sense of any vital added sturdiness.

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