I bought my first Lufkin tape measure more than 20 years ago, and it’s still going strong. During those last 20 years, I have tried out many of the other expensive, gimmicky or innovative tapes that have come along.
And I keep going back to my Lufkin.
This year I noticed that all the plastic “chrome” was wearing off my Lufkin, and I worried what would happen if I lost it or it self-destructed. So I bought two backups. I couldn’t find them in the original plastic chrome, but I did find two identical ones in red/orange (Lufkin HV1312).
When they showed up, the seller had substituted a newer Lufkin, the PHV1312D. I was grumpy, but I’ve been using the new ones and they are fine.
Drama about product numbers aside, here’s why I like (both of) the Lufkins.
- They aren’t too big. So many tape measures these days are like massive truck nuts. They pull your pants down, and they barely fit in your palm. I’d be OK with that if I needed to measure 50’. But for woodworking….
- Standout. Who the fricking heck cares? Most metallic tapes are too concave, which allows you to play “who has the longest wiener game?” on the jobsite, but is terrible for real work. The sharply curved tapes are difficult to use. You have to roll the whole tape forward or back to make a half-decent mark on your work. No thanks. The Lufkins are designed for woodworking. The tape is 12’ long and is only a little concave.
- Easy-to-read markings. The Lufkins were designed by someone who uses a tape. You don’t have a lot of silly marks (10ths of a foot?). And the graduations are different lengths (like the Starrett rule featured earlier in this series).
- The lock is simple. Press the lock forward and it locks. Press it back and it unlocks.
- Minimal stupidity. There are no bubble levels, magnets or places to write your grocery list on these tapes. They do one thing, and they do it well.
Price-wise, the Lufkins are hard to beat, about $16 to $18 at your local hardware store. If you hurry, you might find the old Lufkin HV1312 still in stock.
— Christopher Schwarz