The Pencil Hack That Will Make Your Tape Measure Even More Useful

You have a tape measure already. We know this because, on our list of tools every homeowner should have, it was mentioned as an item that (almost) goes without saying. If you also have a pencil, you're ready for the tape measure hack from @wesandalisontips that went viral on Instagram. Just like the rubberized overmold on some tape measures can be used as a hidden feature, the belt clip also has a second potential use. You can secure your pencil under it, align it with the point where the blade enters the case, and make a mark when the tape reaches the desired measurements.

This works when you're making a lot of rough measurements along a straight line. For example, if you're marking a board for framing a wall, you might need a mark every 16 inches (the most common distance from the center of one wall stud to the next). Using this trick, you could hook the end of your measuring tape to the end of the board and, while pulling it, mark the center of a stud every 16 inches. (This doesn't quite work out right for the first couple of studs, but it's clear enough to illustrate the idea.) You can also imagine using this technique to quickly measure the location of surface-mounted decorative elements on a wall, floor, or ceiling. But there's one situation in which this hack really shines: when you need to measure one-handed.

When you do (and don't) need the pencil hack

To see some shortcomings of the hack, it's instructive to look at the wall-framing example above. As coarse as wall framing might look from a distance, one must be fairly accurate when laying out a wall. Drywall's edge, for example, typically only has a ¾-inch strip of stud to attach to. Since linear measurements like this can compound errors, it's not hard to imagine a couple of imprecise markings causing a ¾-inch error, at which point your drywall won't have anything to attach to. There are also windows, doorways, and other considerations. There's one other factor that will make it less useful: It isn't much, if any, faster than pulling the tape with one hand and marking with the other.

This leads us to what is perhaps the best time to use the hack: when you absolutely must use one hand because the other hand is occupied, like when you're bracing yourself on a ladder. Indeed, some hammers have built-in nail holders for this very purpose — starting a nail one-handed, usually overhead. This trick could definitely be useful in a circumstance like that, and it happens from time to time for even the casual DIYer.