There are certain items people own that they misplace, replace, spontaneously relocate the original and then they now have two or five of the same item when all is said and done. Pencils are at the very top of that list for me in the shop. Tape measures are probably number two. At this point I have three tape measures in the shop, two in the house and one and a half in the center console of my vehicle (more on the half in a minute).
Whether you’re an avid woodworker or a beginner DIY’er, the 25′ tape is the go to choice. Although, I do have the Milwaukee 100 foot Closed Reel Long Tape that’s been perfect for measuring our backyard for some updates we are working on. I also keep DeWALT’s very tiny, but perfectly capable 9 Foot Magnetic Pocket tape measure in my car as well (thus the half) that is great to run into Home Depot with or use on a quick client consult. But I think we can all agree… 25′ is KING in the world of tape measures because it’s the most versatile. But which one is best for you?
I recently received two of the industry’s newest premium 25’ tape measures from Milwaukee and DeWALT. They both consider their option industry leading and one of the toughest offerings on the market… but how do they measure up to my go to tape measure? The Stanley Fat Max. Let’s meet the contenders:
The FatMax is USA made with a limited lifetime warranty from Stanley. It has a 1-1/4” blade that has a standout range of about 11ft. The Auto Lock feature automatically locks the tape to whatever length it’s extended to and only releases when you depress the button to retract the tape. I have painted it, marked it up, dropped it off the roof or onto the floor a few times and even accidentally covered the tape with caulk… and still love it.
A lifetime warranty from Milwaukee, the blade on this tape measure comes with “Nylon Bond Blade Protection” and a 5 point reinforced frame that is said to make it perfect for the toughest jobsite. The blade has a 9 foot standout, but also double sided printing so you can see the same measurements on the back if the situation calls for it. There is also a magnetic tip and finger stop on the bottom to control the speed or release.
The just released in June 2017, DeWALT XP is USA made with a limited lifetime warranty. It’s boasted to be THE toughest of the tough tape measures on the market and is able to survive a 60 foot drop thanks to the PC/ABS impact resistant case. The blade is also reinforced the first 9” with heavy-duty thermoplastic coating to reduce the chances of breakage and oh yeah, an industry leading 13’ of standout.
It’s A Numbers Game
I think we can all agree that the amount of 1/8th’s and 1/16th’s that make up an inch are the same (Metrication Opposition Unite!) but it’s how that information is displayed that is important. You can add all the bells and whistles you want, but if I can’t read the tape then you’re getting tossed (from higher than 60 feet for maximum destruction). So let’s see how each company chose to make fractions cool.
It all comes down to personal preference here and I personally prefer the look of the DeWALT tape (bottom). The extra protective coating makes the tick marks bright and easy to read when it comes to fractions of an inch and the layout itself is more pleasing to the eye in my opinion. I also have an easier time tracking a quick measurement with the uniform layout.
Wallflowers and Standouts
If you’ve never heard of “standout” on a tape measure, it’s how far you can extend the tape without it bending and losing rigidity. Taking the numbers the manufacturers provided and a few unscientific tests in my shop… the DeWALT is the clear winner with a consistent 13’ of standout, but the FatMax continued to hit the 11-12’ range on my own tests while the Milwaukee was closer to 10’ than the 9’ provided. Does size matter here (insert childish snicker)? Protecting the egos of Tape Measures everywhere, I’ll say no, at least, it doesn’t matter once you get into the 10 foot range. These are all pretty impressive and if you’ve ever had to measure anything lengthy solo each of these an upgrade over a standard model.
Best At What They Do
Full disclosure… I tricked you. It turns out this isn’t really a shootout because once you get past the superficial qualities on the surface each of these premium tape measures really excel at what they are meant to do.
The magnetic tip alone sets it apart from the pack. If you’re measuring ductwork or just so happen to be working in a corrugated metal (hand raised) shop you quickly find out how useful the a magnetic hook is. But the real star of this model is the tape on the underside. You don’t realize how useful this is until you actually have the option to see the measurements on both sides.
Whether it’s because of habit or because I just love the Auto Lock feature so much, the Stanley FatMax is still the first option I grab when I have all three sitting within reach in the shop. When you extend your tape measure, you want to measure something first, not have it come flinging back at you. And let’s be honest… the locks are generally the weakest component of most tape measures. There’s nothing worse than extending your tape, setting it down and watching it slowly roll back into the casing. That’s not a problem here.
If your goal is to have a tape measure built like a tank, this is it. It is the most rugged and toughest tape I’ve ever encountered. It’s a Land Rover Defender 90 in a world of Priuses. If you punish your tools on a jobsite or in the shop, the DeWALT is hands down the best option. It also has the widest hook and the most visible numbers. Bring the pain. It can take it.
So which tape measure is best? It comes down to what you prefer or what you need it for. In the world of premium tape measures (who knew that was a thing?) each of these brings it’s own valuable asset. In a perfect world I’d make a hybrid Frankenstein of all three. Use the rugged casing and tape from the DeWALT, with the Milwaukee reverse side measurements and magnetic hook and of course, the Auto Lock function of the Stanley. Take note manufacturers. Lazy Guy hath spoken.
*Several tools in this post are part of The Home Depot Pro-Spective Review Program. I have been compensated for my time and provided with product in exchange for my opinion on these tools. Links included in this post are affiliate links, meaning if you make a purchase through these links, a portion of your sale goes to this website at no additional cost to you.