Remember back when all measuring tapes looked the same? When standout (how far you could extend the tape unsupported) was measured in inches rather than feet. And the hooks at the end of the tape seemed to be designed more for slipping than for hooking? Thankfully those days are behind us, and quite a bit of innovation has occurred in the measuring tape marketplace. That’s not to say that there aren’t still many areas for improvement and innovation. One of the more notable areas to be improved upon is in the durability of the tape markings. Milwaukee has a fresh line of measuring tapes that seek to address not only durability, but several other areas as well. But, why does the new tape sound like a lightsaber? Read on for our written and video review of the Milwaukee tape measure (and an answer to the random lightsaber question).
Milwaukee Tape Measure Video Review
Lightsaber Sound = Nylon Bond Blade Protection Durability
Back off, I have drawn my tape measure and intend to wield it! It’s true, the Milwaukee tape measure sports so many enhancements it actually sounds somewhat like a lightsaber. If you find yourself compelled to exclaim, “I am your father” throughout the day on the job site, we’ll understand. The cause of that unique sound is actually a hint at the durability Milwaukee engineered into these. A Nylon Bond Blade Protection utilizes a mesh-like matrix to maximize the lifespan of the tape (up to 10x conventional tapes, according to Milwaukee). I have seen this durability tested in a sandblaster, and it was impressive. Aside from the actual blade protection, Milwaukee used a five point reinforced frame to minimize any damage from bumps, drops and horrifying examples of tape abuse (a vastly underreported crime, by the way).
Innovative Finger Brake Stops on a Dime
My favorite feature in the new line of Milwaukee tape measures is the finger brake or finger stop. The design lets you use your finger to slow or stop the blade without leaving your finger exposed to the accidental, uncontrolled, 100 MPH tape retraction that is sometimes known to occur. Just about everyone has pinched their finger in a tape measure at one time or another, and it’s a profanity-fest that can now thankfully be avoided unless you’re silly enough to rest your finger in front of the wire finger guard (don’t try that).
Hooking has Never Been Easier
Although that heading may sound like a chapter from Pimping for Dummies, we’re actually referring to “hooking” at the end of measuring tapes. While some folks can’t stand oversized tape hooks that grab onto (and get stuck in) just about everything, I’m still a fan. One thing I really like about the Milwaukee tape measure is that you can hook the tape on the side, which can get the side of the tape flush against the surface for an extremely precise measurement.
Aside from being able to hook onto the top, bottom or sides, Milwaukee also added a super strong magnet to the hook end. The magnet was strong enough that I could extend the tape walking backwards while the magnet held the other end secure to a piece of metal. Four rivets also make for a solidly attached hook.
I found the tape operated well. The conventional lock did a good job and resisted the tape being pulled or pushed once locked. I also liked the wire belt clip, which was smooth, easy to use, and didn’t seem to snag as much as the more common blade style clip. Clear markings, including a blueprint scale for 1/4” and 1/8” plans, were easy to read and great for anyone lacking bionic vision in their more “mature” years. The tape consistently delivered eight-plus feet of standout assuming I wasn’t doing anything crazy with it.
Milwaukee obviously put a lot of thought into the design and features of their new tapes. While I love the new tape design, and particularly the finger brake / stop, there are two areas I would still want to improve upon:
It’s not uncommon to extend a tape measure, lock it and leave the tape standing in place (for example when marking out multiple measurements on a length of material). When doing this, I found the Milwaukee tape a little “tipsy.” I think this issue could be addressed with a wider finger stop wire that’s flatter on the bottom (the current version is more triangular than flat), as well as by making the flat tab at the rear of the tape just a touch wider. This would enable the tape to stay curved in the middle for comfortable ergonomics, but still make it far less prone to tipping over.
If you count the overmold and wire belt clip, this Milwaukee tape measure comes in at over two inches wide. The tape itself is just under an inch wide (in its curved shape). While durability was a key concern for Milwaukee with these tapes, I’m not totally convinced they couldn’t put these on a diet and slim down the overall width a bit. In its current form, the tape we reviewed just feels a bit chunky. I haven’t played around with the 16 foot version, so I can’t comment on the form factor for those.
Milwaukee Tape Measure Models and Availability Dates
Already Available as of Oct, 2013
• 16′ Magnetic Tape Measure (48-22-5116)
• 25′ Magnetic Tape Measure (48-22-5125)
• 5m/16′ Magnetic Tape Measure (48-22-5216)
• 8m/26′ Magnetic Tape Measure (48-22-5225)
• 16′ Tape Measure (48-22-5117)
• 5m/16’ Tape Measure (48-22-5217)
• 5m Tape Measure (48-22-5306)
• 25′ Tape Measure (48-22-5126)
• 8m/26’Tape Measure (48-22-5226)
• 8m Tape Measure (48-22-5309)
• 5m Magnetic Tape Measure (48-22-5305)
• 8m Magnetic Tape Measure (48-22-5308)
• 30′ Tape Measure (48-22-5131)
• 10m/33‘ Tape Measure (48-22-5234)
• 35′ Tape Measure (48-22-5136)
• 30‘ Magnetic Tape Measure (48-22-5130)
• 10m/33‘ Magnetic Tape Measure (48-22-5233)
• 35′ Magnetic Tape Measure (48-22-5135)
As you can see, Milwaukee isn’t messing around when it comes to entering the measuring tape market. And, with the number of metric options, we’re guessing they plan to sell a few of these outside the States too. If you’re looking for a durable, solid tape measure with great features, look no further than the new tape measure lineup from Milwaukee. You can find them at your favorite Milwaukee dealer, including HomeDepot.com.