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What Tools are Used to Measure Length?

A collage of different types of measuring tools.

Are you looking for the highest quality, the exact precision and the best price for the different instruments that allow you to quantify the lengths that exist between objects?

Are you looking to measuring the dimensions of structures or any other aspect that you need to measure? Well, there are specific tools that measure the precise length. You can rely on these tools to find the length and size of an object. 

Related To: Types of Stairs Measuring Tools | Where to Buy a Tape Measure Online

What is the Length?

A person stretching a measuring tape.

Length is a unit of measurement applicable in a single dimension, which evaluates a trace left by some geometrically definable movement. The fundamental notion of length is distance, since when determining the exact length of a geometric shape or a mobile path, the concept of distance is used for longitudinal calculation.

On the other hand, length should not be confused with distance, since distance evaluates the shortest path between two points without considering its possible pattern of movement or stroke.

How is Length Measured?

A woman measuring the length of a wood.

Different methods are used to measure length, ranging from mathematical formulas to comparison and verification with measuring instruments. In order to be able to measure the length of space according to a coordinate graph, the precision of the data regarding the X,Y points of the system is required.

For daily practice, length measurement instruments are used to specify the exact measurements of certain influential parameters when designing solutions or making decisions in field work.

What Does Length Measure?

A measure of length is the standardized quantity defined by convention, that is, it is a magnitude that allows you to measure the distance between two points. There are different measures of length to measure smaller or larger distances. 

Main Length Measuring Instruments

In order to select the instrument according to the user’s needs, it is best to specify the characteristics of the main resources currently available to measure; their potentialities and the fields of application of each one. Below are the most popular length measuring instruments available on the market:

Measuring Tape

A tape measure on a blue background.

Perhaps the measuring tape is the quintessential length measuring instrument for those who need to quickly establish short distances between reference points in a short distance zone. Although it is easy to use, there are different models of tape measure that can be adapted to the proportions of the project being carried out  and the precision needs of the length measurements that are sought.

The tape measure used in distance measurement is made of a thin sheet of chrome steel . The most used tape measures are 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 50 and 100 meters. The last two are called surveyors and are made only of steel, since the force necessary to tense them could produce their extension if they were made of a material less resistant to traction.

The smallest ones are centimeters and even some millimeters, with the marks and numbers painted or engraved on the surface of the tape, while the surveyor’s are marked by means of copper or bronze rivets fixed to the tape and using a slightly larger rivet for odd numbers and a small numbered oval for even numbers.

Advantages of tape measures to measure lengths

  • It allows you to measure curved surfaces.
  • Easily transportable.
  • Relatively low price.
  • It is very easy to use.
  • High accuracy at short and medium distances.


A 12 inch ruler on the white background.

One of the first instruments used to measure distances and understand the importance of correctly capturing lengths in the development of school or academic activities is the ruler. The graduated ruler is basically a flat rectangular plate,  made of wood, plastic or metal that allows lengths to be determined through a scale engraved on its body. 

The graduated ruler is a thin, rectangular plate-shaped ruler that includes a graduated scale divided into centimeters or inches (measure units) and can be rigid, semi-rigid or flexible, made of wood, metal, plastic, etc. Its total length rarely exceeds one meter long.

They usually come with graduations of various units of measurement, such as millimeters, centimeters, and decimeters , although there are also graduations in inches or both units.


A man using Vernier measuring tools.

In the world of physical sciences, the concept of length encompasses different aspects of bodies and structures that require special instruments to be determined and therefore easily quantified. The Vernier is a measuring instrument that allows you to know the internal and external diameters and depths of objects and surfaces that generally need to be determined in the industrial field.


A person with gloves using a Micrometer.

Micrometers give measurements with high precision but in very small sizes. They also have their own specialized measuring instruments. For this, the micrometer is the right choice. A micrometer is a device used to capture the longitudinal modulus of very small angular or linear measurements.


Odometer for measuring distance for vehicles.

The distances and lengths between points in ancient times were counted by steps or human feet. This process allowed approximate measurements of certain lengths. With technological evolution and the development of new structures that merit the precise calculation of lengths. This distance measurement exercise was perfected, achieving the creation of the odometer as a measurement instrument.

Sonic EDMs

Sonic distance meters are electronic measuring instruments that consist of calculating the distance from the principle of the speed of sound propagation. To measure distances, these distance meters emit an ultrasound that is inaudible to the human ear. 

The wave bounces off the measurement obstacle and returns to the distance meter itself, which also acts as a receiver. Based on the elapsed time, the meter determines the distance on the basis that the speed of sound is more or less stable. (Actually, this is not the case since other variables such as temperature, pressure, etc. influence the measurement by ultrasound.)

Laser Distance Meters

A person setting a Laser Distance Meter.

Laser distance meters are electronic measuring instruments that consist of calculating the distance from the principle of measuring the phases of pulsed light. To measure distances, laser diodes emit a light signal. From here, the distance meter calculates the time it takes for the light signal to go and return. From this data, the distance is calculated, since the speed of light is constant.

As you can see, each specific situation or study may require a special length measurement instrument. This is the best thing to make your projects a success with the most precise measurements and the perfect length that you require.

Why Should You Have Measuring Tools in the Home?

At home, it is necessary to have a basic kit of tools that allow you equally and regardless of gender, to solve relatively daily situations such as repairing a light bulb, an electricity outlet, a water tap, installing a fence perimeter, among others that may alter the normal harmony of your environment.

Commercially, it is easy to offer any number of tools, devices and instruments that do not necessarily fit the tasks or needs of users. Now, if it is about setting up a science laboratory in which it is required to quantify physical magnitudes with high effectiveness and use that data in projects in the scientific area,  these recommendations perfectly apply to those who are in this performance space. It is essential to facilitate the process of selecting the appropriate instruments,  with the best relationship between price, quality and precision.

Selecting the Measuring Instrument

A hardware store with different types of tools.

To select the measurement instrument according to their needs,  the user must keep in mind the characteristics of the project on which they are working . Although simple to read, and easy to apply, possibly inexperienced people may have difficulties.

The central axis of this premise is in assessing questions such as: What is going to be measured? What conditions surround what needs to be measured? And with what resources can the value of the measurement of the elements, objects or bodies be determined?

Taking into account these selection conditions,  the user of the instrument can easily determine which of the available resources is appropriate for a certain project, and if they do not have it at hand, where to go to acquire it at the best price.

Nobody expects an expert to determine the dimensions of a nut, using a tape measure, as well as  knowing the depth of a pool, or using a graduated ruler as an instrument.


Finally, there are other instruments and measurement systems, but they are not as significant as the ones mentioned above. Whichever measurement instrument you are going to use, the first thing is to determine the nature of the project, the need and what you want to achieve.