14 Different Types of Measuring Tools and Their Uses
Tools that can provide accurate measurements are an essential element of any trade profession, from carpentry to plumbing to stonemasonry. More than that, though, measuring tools provide a surefire way to observe and record the world around us, so we can better pass on lessons to the next generation of students and professionals. To help you familiarize yourself with this portion of the working world, we’ve put together a list of 14 essential measuring tools, complete with examples of their real-world uses.
Analog Measuring Tools
1. Angle Locator
Also known as an angle finder, each of these tools features a magnetic base that allows it to attach to metal measuring squares. Occasionally, you’ll also find models that include self-threading screws for use with nonmetallic measuring squares.
Allowing for easy measurements at a glance of angles from 0° to 90°, some angle locators also come with conversion guides that make them useful for identifying roof pitches, stair slopes, or drainage angles. While there are plenty of digital options for measuring angles, sometimes the assurance of an inexpensive all-weather tool wins out over pricier and more fickle technologies.
2. Bubble Inclinometer
Designed specifically for measuring range of motion at a joint, the bubble inclinometer can also be used to measure the steepness of a grade. To identify the range of motion of a joint to be measured, simply place the inclinometer directly next to it, turn the dial until the scale reads 0, take the joint through its range, and then read the range traveled directly from the inclinometer.
The bubble inclinometer is often used by sports therapists to test for a healthy range of motion at the body’s crucial junctures. Over the course of treatment, this tool allows them to keep an objective record of the recovery process in cases of joint injuries.
Available in analog or digital measuring versions, calipers are an indispensable tool for measuring the distance between two opposite sides of an object. By adjusting the tips of the calipers to fit across the object to be measured, then removing the calipers, the total distance can be measured via an integrated ruler.
Utilized in a wide variety of fields, calipers can be found in the offices of mechanical engineers, scientists, and doctors, as well as in the field with metalworkers, woodworkers, and forestry researchers.
One of history’s most revered inventions, the compass was integral in kicking off the age of exploration in seafaring travel. Used for both navigation and establishing orientation, it relies on the natural magnetic pull of the Earth to establish a relative direction for the user.
Known as one of the “Four Great Inventions” of China (alongside gunpowder, papermaking, and printing), the compass was originally used as a tool for divination. Today, it’s still widely used by outdoor activity enthusiasts, military operations, and sailors.
Used to establish “true horizontal”, a level is an optical instrument that makes use of air bubbles in a liquid medium to display its results. Especially useful on construction jobs, it is also a standard inclusion in woodworking and metalworking shops.
6. Pressure Gauge
An exceptionally diverse field of measurement tools, pressure gauges are used to quantify everything from altitude to air pressure to depth to blood pressure. Hydrostatic and aneroid gauges are the most common styles of an analog pressure gauge; the former has a delayed response but is great for sustained pressure, while the latter responds quickly but is less accurate overall.
A transparent plastic or glass half-circle, the protractor measures angles and is usually marked with degrees. Occasionally, you’ll find more mathematically oriented protractors that measure in radians, instead. They are a staple of the mechanical engineering profession but are also commonly found employed in high school geometry classes.
Sometimes known as a rule, line gauge, or straightedge, rulers are used to measure distances and/or draw straight lines. Professionally, they are mostly found in engineering and construction jobs, where they are used to ensure accurate measurements on flat surfaces. A popular tool to have around the house, rulers are perhaps the most common measuring tool in use today.
9. Measuring Squares
Also commonly referred to as a carpenter’s square, at their most basic these tools resemble two rulers joined at a right angle. Available in a variety of specialized forms, you may also find:
10. Tape Measure
Also known as a measuring tape, these flexible rulers can be used to take measurements of size or distance. At their simplest, they consist of little more than a ribbon of cloth or plastic, marked with measurements in inches, centimeters, and/or millimeters. You’ll commonly find these minimalist tape measures used in tailoring and dressmaking.
Alternatively, the self-retracting metal tape measure utilizes a spring-loaded housing that can be clipped onto a belt. A ubiquitous tool of the construction trades, these tape measures are especially useful for taking measurements over long distances – sometimes up to 100 feet!
Digital Measuring Tools
1. Angle Gauge
Faster, easier to use, and more accurate than an analog angle gauge, the digital angle gauge allows you to instantly find the angle of any surface you attach it to. Equipped with a powerful magnetic base and automatic calibration controls, these measuring tools are especially useful in determining precise bevel and miter angles on powered saws.
2. Laser Level
A self-leveling tool that emits a colored laser beam, the laser level allows for easy visual confirmation of both horizontal and vertical leveling. Some of the fancier models also include the capability of measuring the distance from the unit to the end of the laser beam, making them a fast and accurate solution for job site distance measurements.
Essential for use in high-precision machining, the micrometer resembles a caliper that screws down rather than sliding. Digital micrometers produce an instant readout on the distance between their two caliper heads, sometimes allowing for measurements accurate up to three or four decimal places.
One of the most widely recognized measuring tools, thermometers provide a reading for temperatures, with digital thermometers providing faster and more reliable results. They are a staple of modern medicine but also find their way into the culinary arts and environmental studies quite regularly.
Whether you work in one of the physical professions or simply love getting involved with DIY projects at home, measuring tools will allow you the precision and accuracy necessary to achieve great results on anything you set your mind to. So, the next time you’re aiming to improve on a physical skill, find a way to measure it – that way, over time you will be able to tell how much progress you’re making!