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Oh, if only Stanley Toolworks was this awesome all the time. This year, the storied company released a tape measure for its 175th anniversary that is awesome. No, it’s not high-visibility yellow plastic. It doesn’t have 10’ of macho “standout” of the tape before it bends. It doesn’t lock. No laser. No belt clip.

Instead, it’s a simple 10’ tape measure in a small metal case. It is perfectly proportioned and feels like a worry stone in your hand. As consumers, I think we’re supposed to collect this thing and exclaim: “How quaint!” when we show it to others. But instead – remarkably – the tape is a window into a past that shows how tools were once made.

This measuring tape, and the historical ones it is based on, were designed for professionals who used their tapes 100 times a day and didn’t want a lot of marketing garbage attached to their tools. It measures things and then it slips into your pocket. It’s not an advertisement for a corporation. Instead, it is just a trusted companion.

I bought one of the first anniversary tapes that were available (and I’ve bought 10 more and given them away to woodworkers). Even after months of use, it’s still the first tape I reach for in my tool chest.

Some grumblers will grumble that the tape wasn’t made in New Britain, Conn., by resurrected line workers from the 19th century. It’s true, this tape is made in Thailand. But think about the big picture for a moment. Stanley is an enormous company. It makes more money on garage doors in a day than it does on woodworking tools in a year. The fact that the company produced this tape measure is a small miracle. Enjoy it. Embrace it. Buy it and help encourage Stanley to make more for its 180th anniversary or whenever.

In other words, don’t look a gift tape in the whatever.

I love this tape. If you can’t find one in your local hardware store, order one (or a dozen) from Highland Woodworking. It’s an awesome tool, and if Stanley asked me (or paid me) to say that then I’d tell them to sod off.

One last thing: Act fast. This tape will disappear at some point (probably right when you decide to get one).

— Christopher Schwarz

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