The measure of a man

This week has been hot and humid in Eastern North Carolina. The kind of weather that works up a sweat with just a few passes of a plane or a routine rip cut. I’m studying my options, but really, I’ve only been able to work in earnest early in the morning and late at night. During the rest of the day I sometimes take a few minutes to organize, clean or sharpen and this week I was digging through some old drawers and stumbled on my Grandfather’s measuring tapes.


Most of them still work pretty well, but others hang around for sentimental reasons. They’re “vintage” only in the sense that they’re old, not in the way that most people use that term as a selling point to indicate collect-ability or value.



They see less use than my Stanley 25′ and 30′ tapes when I’m off to buy wood, and although I use the Lufkin tapes from time to time around the house, most of the time I use folding rulers at the bench. I make one exception to that rule for this Stanley 12′ Powerlock tape.


This was my grandfather’s tape. The back still has his initials C.E.S. (Clair Eugene Spangler) and the number 1026 – his employee number at Caterpillar Tractor Company.


This tape was on his belt each and every day at work and was also the arbiter of truth for projects around the house. I grew up working alongside him on things and couldn’t possibly count the number of times he handed me this tape and told me to measure something.

“Measure twice, cut once” he would say, which seems to have been the universal advice of grandfathers worldwide. And then he would watch me, and if I hadn’t measured something correctly, instead of telling me I was wrong he would ask me for the measurement and then ask, “are you sure”? 

I quickly learned that if I wasn’t sure, there was no shame in double checking, but a sick feeling when you cut something an inch too short. He might have been an electrician by trade, but he was a teacher at heart.

Anyway, it’s a good tape and it still tells the truth, so it’s always on, or around, my bench. Not to romanticize the thing too much, but each time I reach for it, it’s almost like he’s still handing it to me.


One Comment Add yours

  1. Mj says:

    Great post. It’s the little tangible things that tie us to our past.
    BTW with it being over a hundred down south of you I decided an a/c for the shop is necessary.
    I’ll install it tomorrow afternoon.


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