Friday, June 19, 2015

Sometimes, Building a "Better" Mousetrap Doesn't Make Sense

Lufkin L725SCTMP 25-foot x 1-inch Self-Centering Tape Measure

It used to be that products stood on their own because of their virtues, whether they be convenience and quality or something else that's intangible. Apparently now, manufacturers believe every product must always be continually “new and improved” or the shareholders won’t get their dividends. Who cares what the customers need, let’s give them what we think they might want! 

KomelonUSA 2125 Gripper-X Tape Measure ~ 1" x 25'

from: Hardware World
A while back I inherited (that’s a long story) a Lufkin L725SCTMP 25-foot x 1-inch tape measure. Like almost every other tape measure in its price class, this product has the obligatory belt clip, inch-wide fluorescent yellow tape marked for 16-inch stud spacing, thumb lock, and power return. It’s a bulky package at 3” high, 3½” front to rear, and about 2” thick (including the belt clip). It’s beefy, too, sagging those jeans with a whoppin’ 14 ounces of high-visibility orange plastic and black “ergonomic” rubber trim. 

I’ve got somewhere between six and a hundred tape measures scattered around the house, some of which I like better than others. This one falls in the second classification. And the reason is pretty simple: in their zeal to add NEW to their product, Lufkin reduced its usefulness. That doesn’t work for me.

Stanley conventional tape (top), Lufkin self-centering
tape (bottom)

Comparing tapes

You see, the L725SCTMP is “self-centering.” Not really, though: what the copy-writers mean by that grandiose description is that, in addition to the measurements printed on one edge of the tape in black, there are measurements of exactly half printed on the other edge. So if you’re innumerate enough to be unable to figure out that half of 36½” is 18¼”, all you have to do is read the tape. 

It’s reading this tape that has proven difficult: instead of marking the tape edges with a pattern of lines - shortest at 1/8”, longer at ¼”, longer still at ½”, and long and thicker at full inches – Lufkin slapped a number on every single 1/8-inch increment! The tape is su busy with numbers and fractions that it’s hard to use, especially when you’re looking for a full inch marking, which is identical in size and weight to the ¼- and ½-inch markings.

Like other Lufkin tapes I’ve owned, this one looks to be pretty much bulletproof; with its high-impact plastic case. The lock works well and is conveniently placed, and the power return is nice and zippy. But who needs a “self-centering” tape like this? I suppose some people do, or Lufkin wouldn’t be selling it in addition to their conventional tapes. If your job or hobby calls for a lot of centering stuff on walls, etc., and you aren’t that good with arithmetic, then maybe. But if you use a tape measure for framing carpentry and most other building trades, I’d suggest you give this one a pass and choose a conventional tape measure, of which Lufkin has several excellent examples. On this one, though, all that extra printing becomes just too busy to read.


PLUS: Bulletproof case, solid construction
MINUS: print on tape too busy to read
What They're Saying: Unless you are called on to divide every measurement you make in half, this tape measure is probably more trouble than it's worth.

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