Amid all the high-tech of a modern woodshop, the classic tape measure seems almost anachronistic (unless you are really old school or in Europe where they still uses wooden folding rules). But new ultra-compact laser measuring devices are giving tape measures a run for their money. We tried out two from Bosch and Stanley, which are now widely available.

Compact and handy
These new laser units beat standard tape measures for portability and range, easily fitting in a pocket. The Bosch GLM 15 measures just 7/8 X 1-3/8 X 3-15/16 inches. The Stanley TLM65 is slightly bigger at 13/16 X 1-5/8 X 4-3/8 inches. I didn’t weigh each unit, but the heft is also much less than a standard steel tape measure.
These lasers double the range of a standard 25-foot tape. The Bosch does 50 feet, and the Stanley 65 feet, both with accuracy of 1/8-inch. Compare their size to packing around a 50-foot steel tape, and you see the attraction.
How they work
Laser measuring devices send out an intense beam of light and measure how fast it takes to return to develop a distance reading. To use these units, you push a button to turn on the laser, point the dot at what you want to measure and push the button again to capture the reading. Both the Bosch and Stanley units measure to the bottom of the tool. To measure the width of a room, hold the unit’s bottom against one wall and aim the dot on the opposite wall to take your reading.
We found both units equally accurate. They both do metric and English measurements. Using these is a lot faster for full room measurements than reeling out the tape measure. But where they fall down is doing some of the intermediary measurements cabinetmakers typically need. For example, measuring where window openings and doors are might be tricky to put the laser dot on. You could have a helper hold up a target, but that requires assistance. Measuring opposite corners to square a box, is also not easy with these gadgets.
But at prices hovering around the $50 mark, these certainly could pay for themselves in handling gross room-size field measurements in half the time it would take using a tape and likely more accurately. They are available at most home centers and from internet suppliers, or learn more at www.stanleytools.com or www.boschtools.com.

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