Alright my friends, finally I go over these two TOP contenders for what I consider the BEST tape measures on the market. If you are a professional tradesman then you probably see these being used around you on a constant basis. Which one takes it? Lets dig in and see…
At first glance there doesn’t appear to be much of a difference between these two tapes. They are both relatively the same size, however the stud is slightly larger and a little more oddly shaped. Both of them are considered “right-handed” (in my opinion at least. What this means is that they are both set up to be clipped on the right side of your waist, grabbed with your right hand, and quickly used with your right hand. The reason I don’t consider these “left-handed” is that the tapes point out behind you if you were to clip them on your left waist/pocket. If you were to grab them with your left hand you’d have to flip the tool around to use it to measure with. I have left-handed friends that this bugs the shit out of, but it’s really rare to find brands that think about this.
Both of these tapes have a screw that holds the rear clip in place. I see this as a poor idea, as screws tend to strip out, unscrew, or wear out making the clip fall off a year down the line. I have only used the STUD for a couple months now so it’s hard to tell if the clip will have the same issues that every STUD I’ve ever used has - The clip falling off because the screw comes unscrews or strips out and falls off. Once this happens it’s time to buy a new one or just demote this one to be used in your garage. I personally think the clips should be integrated better, in a way that doesn’t require a weak screw to hold the clip on. Especially because this clip is opened and closed sometimes dozens of times per day.
The markings on the tapes are very similar, same measurements, same red color marks 16’ spacing, bold black marks every 12.” Both tapes auto-retract - which believe it or not there are tapes that stay out and only release and retract once you push a button. Ya, annoying as hell.
When comparing this 6 1/2 inch standard cordless circular saw to the higher powered 60volt FLEXVOLT counterpart, there is a noticeable difference in power and reliability. The 20 volt standard setup does everything you’d expect a circular saw to do in a wood-cutting environment. I did not get the chance to cut metal with a metal Diablo blade but I will test this out at some point. Once I changed over to the 60v saw the blade cut through the wood like butter. There’s a definite step-up in power with a 60v brushless system. The only gripe I have with the FLEXVOLT saw is that the blade is on the reverse side of the tool, whereas the standard 20v saw is rigged on the left of the tool as you’re using it - making it a lot easier to see your cut as you’re using it.
The big differences that set these tape-measures apart from one another are the thickness of the tape, the material of the tape, the ergonomics, and the style of clip that clips onto your tool-belt or waste-band.
Tape Thickness (break distance)
The one thing that sells more FATMAX tape-measures than anything else is how far you can pull the tape out and hold it over your head before it “breaks” causing the end to fall and you having to re-set up your measurement. For electricians this is important. We spend a lot of time measuring things that are 6ft to 12ft long, and a lot of times its above our heads, up on a ladder. We need a tape measure that is stout so we can reach longer distances without the tape folding in on itself or “breaking.” In this regard the FATMAX wins as it boasts a 14 ft break. Now that’s a little unrealistic, I find that it breaks closer to 11 or 12 ft and beyond that the tape bows so much that you can’t get an accurate measurement as it is unless you’re measuring straight up above you. The STUD on the other hand breaks at 9ft consistently, every time - which is still more than you’re going to need 80% of the time.
The tape construction is another area where these tapes do battle. On this spec, the STUD takes the trophy however. The Milwaukee STUD’s biggest bragging right with their tape design is rather than it being wide and having a far reach, they’ve designed a tape that cannot rip. This is a big deal, I can’t tell you how many job-sites I’ve been on over the years where I’ve found the first 4 feet of a tape-measure’s tape laying on the ground because somebody caught the end on something and ripped the tape in two pieces. That’s $20 down the drain. Also, people are very emotionally attached to their tape-measures and it sucks breaking a tool you love, and use everyday. So having a tape that doesn’t rip is a huge leap in innovation.
As far as the feel of the tape in your hand, both of these tools pass the muster. Neither of them feel “off” when holding them, however I find that I like the feel of the FATMAX better than the STUD. The FATMAX is a convenient size, and it is smooth and seems to fit right in your hand. The STUD is slightly larger, and is shaped in a bizarre way. The rubber grip on the outside of it makes it so you don’t have to worry about dropping the tape or letting it easily slip out of your hand, but the bizarre shape and larger size makes it kind of a pain to get in a full tool belt, or a stuffed tool bag. This may be a picky thing, but I know a lot of pros that pick a tape-measure just based off of the feel of it in their hands, or how it fits in a bag clip among other tools. I’m gonna call this a WIN for the FATMAX.
The last issue that these tape-measures have to battle about, in my opinion, is the belt clip design. They both have a screw as the thing that keeps the clip functional - and I see this as a long term issue because metal screws love to unscrew or strip out from plastic holes. I’ve seen it far too many times. Especially with the FATMAX. I can only say that though because I’ve been using this tape measure for a decade now so I have a lot of experience using many of them. They fail and fall off more than anything and I’ve had to buy so many because of this over the years. So far I’ve used 3 STUDs, and have a friend using one and neither of us have had an issue with the new wire clip design. Granted it’s only been a few months that we’ve been using them (one for me, 5 for him), so we don’t have as long-term of a perspective on the longevity of the design. I simply like the feel of the metal wire clip better. It appears to stay tight, and clip in and out of a tape-clip or on your belt/wasteband a little easier. That’s a win for the STUD column.
Overall both of these tape-measures “measure up” equally. (See what I did there? Ya, I know….I know). Seriously though, its hard to call one better than the other. I love them both, and don’t have any qualms about using either one of them. Where one lacks the other picks up slack, however it works in reverse as well. I do have a slight preference for the FATMAX though. Something about the sturdiness of the tape and how I can point to and touch something 12 feet away makes this an easier sell. I often point and talk with my tape-measure. If I’m talking to an apprentice about something going on in a ceiling a lot of times I’ll use my tape-measure to touch the ceiling to show what I’m talking about, similar to what someone may do with a laser pointer. Maybe I’m a bit biased because I have a career-long relationship with the FATMAX, I can admit that. I still give the Stanley FATMAX a 5-star rating, and the Milwaukee STUD 4.5 stars. The only reason for docking the STUD a half-star is because I like the FATMAX more. Let me know what you use, and what you think!