Parts of a Tape Measure (with Diagram)

parts of a tape measure
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A good tape measure is absolutely critical for those in construction, plumbing, or one of many other professional trades. Did you know tape measures are a lot more complicated than a simple case and metal measuring strip?

There are actually five major parts of a tape measure, each of which has an important role in fast and accurate measuring.

See Also: 20 Tools That Measure Length

Parts of a Tape Measure

Belt Clip

Due to the extreme usefulness of having a tape measure on hand, it can be a pain to lose yours. Manufacturers understand the need for quick access and include a belt clip on one side of all but the smallest models.

Even if you normally use a tool belt with a built-in tape measure pocket, the clip won’t get in the way.


This retractable, flexible metal strip is the main component used for measuring. Markings allow for both metric and imperial scales (sometimes on the same tape measure), while additional markings provide additional scaling information.

Some of these include foot-length markers, red markers to indicate every 16 inches (a perfect distance length for most studs). There are also the black diamonds, which we cover separately here. Replacement blades are available for many models.


This might come as a surprise, but the case is actually part of the measuring device. When measuring into a corner, you can add the length of the case (most standard models have a 3 inch long case) instead of trying to fold the tape into the corner.


You probably already knew that the metal hook on the end is for latching onto the end of a surface. But that little slot in the hook is actually designed to help attach the hook to an anchor point and prevent sliding. This also gives you a nifty way to draw circles by turning the tape into a compass.

Thumb Lock

Tape measures are designed to automatically retract, and the thumb lock is a way to make the tape remain at the length you pull it. You can pull more tape out with the lock on, but it won’t retract until you flip the lock off.

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