As usual, click any photo to bring up a larger version.
Over the years I have amassed quite a few tape measures. Today I'm going to save you years of grief and frustration and tell you that the Stanley Leverlock is the best one for shop use. Stop using all those other ones.
When you pull out the tape, it stays out. It does not snap back. It automaticallly locks in place until you decide to make it retract.
And yes, I know about the lock button on conventional measuring tapes. It's on pretty much every tape measure out there on the market. I know how to use it. But why not just have the tool do it for you!?
That's pretty much it. That's the killer feature. Well, that and the lever.
The other thing that the leverlocks have is the lever on the bottom.
They don't have a lock button on the upper front corner. To retract the tape on a leverlock, you squeeze the lever on the bottom. It's spring loaded, so you can easily control the rate of return. Squeeze it a bit, and you can slide the tape back in slowly. Squeeze if firmly and the tape will zip back in quickly.
The lever is, I think, just about as important as the lock.
A good tape measure just fist solidly in your hand. The lever, on the leverlock, just falls naturally under your fingers, so I find it very comfortable and easy to use and control.
Note that I work in a shop. I'm not on a jobsite. I find that a compact 12ft measuring tape is what I prefer to use. I see no need to carry a large and heavy 25 or 33ft around. Most everything I measure is 4ft or less, so why carry all that excess weight and capacity around? The thumb lock on a conventional tape is, in my opinion, particularly awkward on a compact size measuring tape. It does not fall naturally under my thumb. In contrast the leverlock feels the same to me no matter whether it is a small tape or a large tape.
So why is it a secret? I have no idea, but these are NOT common.
Here in southern Ontario, in a city of 300,000 plus, I visited all three of the major Big Box home centers: Rona, Home Depot, and Lowes. They carry dozens of tape measures. But very very few leverlocks, and none in the compact sizes. (and by very few I estimate less than 10%) A few weeks ago I was in Michigan and I stopped by a Lowes and a Menards store and found none.
I don't even remember how I first discovered the leverlock. I've been using them for at least 15 years. And they have never been common. I once even special-ordered one through my local tool store, since I could not find them anywhere. Recently I stumbled across some in the local Walmart, of all places to find tools, and I promptly bought two of them.
There are other "auto-locking" measuring tapes out there. They also will automatically stop the tape from retracting when you pull it out. Here is one that I bought back when I was building my woodgears box joint jig, because I needed a tape with metric measurements on it.
The difference is that these tapes do not have the lever on the bottom. Instead they have a "release button" on the top in the same place as conventional tape measures have their lock button. It works, and I suppose it is better than nothing. But I find that they are just a bit more awkward to use. Especially with the smaller ones, the button is, I think, awkward to use. The button does not fall nicely under my thumb.
I think the lever on the bottom is simply a better design.
If you can't find them at your local store, try Amazon...
Thanks for reading!