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A tape measure or measuring tape is a flexible ruler and used to measure distance.

It consists of a ribbon of cloth, plastic, fibre glass, or metal strip with linear-measurement markings. It is a common measuring tool. Its design allows for a measure of great length to be easily carried in pocket or toolkit and permits one to measure around curves or corners. Today it is ubiquitous, even appearing in miniature form as a keychain fob, or novelty item. Surveyors use tape measures in lengths of over 100 m (300+ ft).

There are two basic types of tape measures with cases, spring return pocket tape measures and long tape measures. Spring return pocket tape measures will generally fit in a pocket. They are small, the case is up to about three inches across. The tape is returned to the case by a spring mechanism. Pocket tape measures have a tape one foot to fifteen feet in length and ? to ? inches across. When most people think of a tape measure, they are thinking of the pocket tape measure.

A second tape measure design is what is called the long tape. These are cased tape measures with tapes of 25, 50, 75, 100, 200, 300, and even 500 feet in length, designed for engineers and builders. Because surveying was usually done in rods, surveyors use long tapes of 33 feet (2 rods), and 66 feet (4 rods). Surveyors also used 49? feet of a 50-foot tape for 3 rods and 99 feet of a 100-foot tape measure for 6 rods. Long tapes instead of being returned by a spring, were usually returned by hand crank.

Tape measures are often designed for specific uses or trades. Tapes may have different scales, be made of different materials, and be of different lengths depending on the use it is intended for. Tape measures that were intended for use in tailoring or dressmaking were made from flexible cloth or plastic. They are named “sewing tape”. These types of tape measures were mainly used for the measuring of the subject’s waist line. Today, measuring tapes made for sewing are made of fiberglass, which does not tear or stretch as easily. Measuring tapes designed for carpentry or construction often use a stiff, curved metallic ribbon that can remain stiff and straight when extended, but retracts into a coil for convenient storage. This type of tape measure will have a floating tang or hook on the end to aid measuring. The tang is connected to the tape with loose rivets through oval holes, and can move a distance equal to its thickness, to provide both inside and outside measurements that are accurate. A tape measure of 25 or even 100 feet can wind into a relatively small container. The self-marking tape measure allows the user an accurate one hand measure.

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