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IRWIN Tape Measure

IRWIN puts out a product line of tools and accessories intended for professionals and DIY’ers alike.  Broadly speaking, the company has an international presence with a dedicated web presence as far as Brazil, Germany, and Russia; to name a few.  With this background, IRWIN “STRAIT-LINE” tape measure products have a good reputation going in.  Here we will look specifically at the 16′, 25′, and 35′ IRWIN Tape Measure products.

IRWIN Tape Measure Overview

I must admit that the tape measure marketplace is crowded.  It seems nearly every tool manufacturer has a tape measure or similar product.  Fair enough, but IRWIN still managed to put out a solid piece of equipment for a reasonable price, so I feel it’s worth the time to look closer at these particular tape measures.

IRWIN Tape Measure Features

First point of note: the IRWIN Tape Measures are available in three lengths: 16′, 25′, and 35′.  This is just a personal opinion, but I have a bias towards the 35′ tape measure simply because it obviously covers the length scales of the smaller tape measures, and then some.  Another point is IRWIN’s bright blue/yellow color scheme.  I like it. Especially if you’re working outside and drop one, they are easy to spot compared to many that, for lack of a better word, can seem almost camouflaged.

The relevant model numbers are as follows:

We also took a close look at each tape’s standout.  For those unfamiliar, “standout” is how far out the tape measure can extend unsupported before folding down under its own weight. The two larger IRWIN Tape Measures declare a 17′ standout, but the 16′ measure tops out at, of course, 16 feet. A standout of 17 feet is similar to the standout claim from Milwaukee Tool for their industry-favorite 35′ tape.  We tested IRWIN’s standout claims and the tape has to be perfectly level to get even close to 17′ before folding.  Folding at approximately 10-11′ was normal after repeated tests.  As such, we are not sure what conditions are needed for the claimed 17′ standout to hold.

A nod to good design: the IRWIN tape measures feature a durable rubber-coated frame for easy grip.  The rubberized material is handy, especially in extreme heat or cold.

Also, as you can see in the image, the lock button is wide, even on the 16′ tape measure.  And I like that the lock button extends out a bit further than most, which makes it fairly easy to engage.

Complimenting the lock button, there is a generous-sized finger brake opening on the tape measure’s underside.  This allows you to temporarily stop the tape from retracting instead of engaging the lock button.

Each IRWIN tape measure comes with a black metal belt clip so you can attach them to your belt, pocket, and/or tool bucket.  I tried all three tape measures, and have the following to say:

  1. I feel the wire style clip on Milwaukee tape measures of similar measuring capacity, much more easily catch and clip onto my pants pocket.
  2. Weight: The 16′ tape measure hangs comfortably.  The larger tape measures, especially the 35′, drag down the pants, even when tightly belted. The 35′ weighs in at just under 2 lbs.  I feel unless you a wearing a tool belt or have another hanging spot that is reinforced, the larger tape measures simply add too much weight to be wearable.

As mentioned, the finger brake opening is an additional convenience that helps to pin down length measurements.  All three tape measures offer great finger brake functionality and placement that doesn’t leave much to criticize.

The tape hook is par for the course as far as design and depth go.  IRWIN Tape Measure hooks have a nail slot for “grappling” onto screws and nail heads.  Also, I very much appreciate the tall “bunny ears” that let you measure accurately from side angles.  With all due respect to the competition, some other tape measures do not offer nearly as much bunny-ear grip as the IRWIN Tape Measures.

These IRWIN tape measures have a glossy blade coating. I would say a bit too much shine, as I found the matte finish on my Milwaukee is easier to read with much less light reflection.  In some circumstances, the coating actually generates a glare, (left pic, around 10-inch mark) making it a bit harder to read.

Something also about the IRWIN Tape Measures: between IRWIN and several competitors in our inventory, IRWIN Tape Measures are the only ones that feature dual-side markings.  Every other tape measure offers numeric markings on only the top side of the tape.  Once we saw this, it was immediately asked why all tape measures aren’t two-sided.  Such a feature takes away nothing and adds versatility.  The penalty point enacted for over-glossing is given back in light of IRWIN’s dual-side measuring feature.

IRWIN Tape Measure Performance

We have examined and tested the IRWIN Tape Measure under short and long-distance measurement requirements.  As a result, I can say that the IRWIN Tape Measure clocks in as a smooth, strong, and easy-to-retract tape measure.  Though it does have areas for improvement – mainly the glossy finish glare – this is a decent brand of tape measure to consider.

IRWIN Tape Measure Value

The IRWIN Tape Measure is in line with other professional tapes of a similar range.  The tapes are priced as shown below at Lowes:

IRWIN Tape Measure Wrap Up

After considerable analysis, we can say that IRWIN did a nice job of making respectable tape measures.  IRWIN nailed most of the key aspects of what you would want in a tape. And has a few bonus features like the oversized hook, and two-sided readability.

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