by Rebecca Rockefeller
Turn your broken measuring tapes into flexible yardsticks or rulers in seconds with the help of a pair of tin snips.
It’s a sad fact of life that retractable measuring tapes just don’t last forever. Sometimes the small “L” of metal on the end comes loose; fortunately, that can be fixed with help from this My Miles City DIY tutorial. Other times, the tape won’t retract fully into its casing; if you’ve purchased a sturdy tape that can be opened, you can fix that with help from this Instructables tutorial.
Unfortunately, sometimes retractable tape measures are beyond this sort of aid. Yesterday mine refused to retract even a millimeter, and I couldn’t figure out how to open the case to repair it (the plastic seems to be permanently fused together). But for all that, it was my lucky day – Todd Johansson of Farmhouse Landscape was helping us move some plants, and he offered up this trash hack:
- Lay your non-retracting measuring tape out flat.
- Use a pair of tin snips to cut the measuring tape into 3′ increments, or any length you desire. My 16′ tape became five yardsticks and one 12″ ruler.
- Fold them up and keep them in your toolbox, stash one in the glove box in your car, in your briefcase, in your bike bag, on your workbench or office desk drawer. I used a hair elastic that we found in a parking lot to secure mine, but a piece of string would work as well.
When I mentioned to Todd that I was thinking of other uses for my old measuring tape (plant row markers, garage shelf labels), he looked perplexed. He swears these flexible yard sticks are extremely useful in his everyday life and work. Thanks to their shorter length, they’re easy to coil and carry in a pocket, and they can be more manageable than retractable measuring tapes for use in short, tight spots and around bends and bumps. For now, I’m keeping mine as they are, a collection of yardsticks for my garage workbench and a ruler for my desk. Todd did point out that it requires good mental math if you’re using a segment that starts at a point other than 0″, but I’m all for that sort of workout to keep my mind young and agile.
UPDATE: Worried about sharp edges? I offer these photos of my own hands trying hard to cut a finger:
I pressed and sliced back and forth on my fingertip with the cut edge of one of my new yard sticks.
I did manage to make an impression in my skin, but couldn’t cut through the surface.
I suppose I could manage to cut myself with concerted effort and my full body weight behind the yard stick, but that’s beyond what my kids and I do with yard sticks or rulers of any material.
Looking for more ideas for what to do with your measuring tape once it’s broken? Come visit our Trash Backwards app where any item you type into it can be repurposed, recycled or reused (well, most items):
If you have other uses for measuring tapes that cannot be repaired, please let us know in the comments below. We’d love to hear from you.