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Photo: Francesco Mosto

Tools That Measure Up

As a woodworker, I'm obsessed with accuracy in measurements. I once froze a 25-foot steel tape measure and baked another one, to see if they'd still read the same. They came within a sixteenth of an inch of each other before and after, and it didn't seem to matter that I'd shelled out $20 for one and a mere $5.95 for the other.

The lesson here is whether it's lengths, distances, diameters, or angles, you can trust modern measuring tools. The cause of mismeasurement is the person who's measuring—you have to choose the right tool for the task and know how to use it correctly.

On the following pages, you'll find what you need for basic household measuring, plus a few specialized tools for extra-big and super-small jobs. If, like me, you worry about the veracity of your measurements, you can opt for electronic tools, which minimize human error. Even This Old House general contractor Tom Silva, a digital skeptic from way back, has been won over—sort of—by his sonic measuring tool. "I'm always surprised by how accurate it is," he says. "I check it with a tape every time."
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