Linear Measurement Tools

When it comes to linear measurements, it means length, width, height, thickness, depth, diagonal, diameter, etc. It is about the straight or shortest distance between two points.

Length is one of the most measured linear distances. Tools to measure length have been existing from the beginning of humanity. People utilized fingers to measure short length and steps to measure farther length. Through advanced technology, we empower resources to invent better tools for more accurate and precise measurements.

There are actually different tools to measure length. Each length measuring tools typically serve different kinds of range. The tool to measure the length of a building is different from the tool to measure the distance of a deer you are going to shot.

You’ll never find a one-fits-all length measuring device in a tool.

There are a lot of other measuring tools to measure linear distance. And this post will cover that topic. So far, we successfully break down these 15 linear measurement tools that we commonly use.

1. Ruler


Rulers are the most often used length measurement tool that we find in offices, schools, and home. It can measure objects up to 30 centimeters with sufficient precision 1 millimeter. In schools, children draw squares, rectangles, triangles, etc. by using this stuff. There are two kinds of rulers based on the material that made it: plastic rulers and metal rulers. Each of them has different use, drawbacks, and advantages.

Looking for the best ruler? Read our article about it here.

2. Yardstick or Meter Stick

folding meter stick
Folding Meter Stick

Its length is generally 1 meter. So whenever a ruler is not convenient to help you measure a length, then your option should be the meter stick. The vast majority of the meter stick is made of wood. Similar to the ruler, its precision is about 1 millimeter; and the scale is available in metric and imperial as well.

3. Tape Measure

tape measure
Tape Measure

A tape measure is a portable compact flexible ruler that can be rolled up and pull out. This is an important tool to measure a length of more than 1 meter and up to 25 feet. In some cases, a tape measure for surveyors is able to quantify distance up to 100 feet. There are some types of tape measure: sewing tape measure, retractable tape measure, and surveying tape measure. Tape measure should be your choice when working in the field of carpentry, construction, surveying, sewing, engineering, etc. It has good precision which you’ll find some of them graduated with even 1/36 inch increment. But, in most cases, you’ll find its scale similar to rulers.

4. Laser Measure

Laser Measure
Laser Measure

You can easily measure a distance, area, and even volume by empowering laser. Laser measure is a linear measurement tool that is by means of not touching the object physically; not like a tape measure that we need to stick out the blade onto the surface of something we are going to measure. Having that said, our work is highly simplified, becomes easier and faster. Today, laser measure is one of the products of useful technology that is commonly used by technicians, scientist, engineers, etc. Its high precision, speed, and simplicity are exceptional features that laser measure has.

5. Block Gauge

A made-of-steel block that can be used for calibrating a linear (length, width, thickness, depth, and height) measuring instrument. If you are going to calibrate calipers and micrometers, then you have to use a block gauge. This is a stretch-and-contraction-proof tool that provides high accuracy no matter the temperature of the circumstance. A block gauge is commonly made of low thermal coefficient material to sustain its volume under any situation. There are many length gauge blocks available and the following picture is a 1-inch one.

6. Caliper

Digital Caliper

In case you are going to observe a small object’s diameter with high accuracy and precision, you need this tool. Caliper can measure with precision until 0.01 millimeters. You can perform outside and inside and even depth measurement with this measuring instrument. If you are going to measure the outside diameter of a tube, use the outside measurement; whereas, if you are going to measure the inside diameter, this stuff can perform expectedly. Furthermore, it’s three in one where you can also measure the depth of that tube. It’s strongly complete. There are three types of calipers: vernier calipers, dial calipers, and digital calipers. You can choose which one that is convenient for your needs.

7. Wheel Measure

Wheel measure
Wheel Measure, Photo from Wikipedia

You are a surveyor that wants to measure the distance of two separated points on open land, you can use wheel measure or hodometer. Simply, we utilize its wheel diameter for the measurement. If the wheel spins 3 times from the first to the endpoint; and the diameter of the wheel is 1 meter; then the total distance is 3 meter.

8. Odometer

Photo by Atharva Tulsi on Unsplash

The same concept is also implemented in the odometer that functions to measure distance using a wheel. An odometer is always found in vehicles. It’s designed to measure how far the vehicle has passed through.

9. Rangefinder

A rangefinder is the friend of hunters, navigator, and also for a military purpose. If you are going to measure a long distance from your position to a specific point you are targeting, then you need this one. One incredible benefit of a rangefinder is its ability ranging from a far-away target without contacting it. So it benefits you in some situations.

10. Feeler Gauge

Feeler Gauge

It’s difficult to measure a gap precisely with a ruler. Also, it’s not recommended measuring it with a tape measure or even a block gauge. This is the use of a feeler gauge. It’s designed to measure the gap thickness accurately. All you have to do is inserting one of the blades to the gap you are going to measure. Try one by one until you think it’s the right thickness. In the case of measuring gaps, you must use the best feeler gauge. If the blade thickness is inaccurate or the material is easy to rust, the measurement can be misleading. Also, you have to regularly check the accuracy by using a micrometer.

11. Paint Thickness Gauge

Still regarding thickness measurement, but this one is more challenging. To measure the thickness of the coating or paint, you only have one side. There are no two sides that allow you to use a micrometer or caliper. This is called a paint thickness gauge. Mount the probe to the surface, and let the tool measures. The paint thickness gauge is commonly applied to car paint. By means of this tool, the condition of the car can be evaluated.

12. Micrometer


Like the caliper, however, the micrometer is intended for more accuracy and precision measurement. If you are not satisfied yet with the accuracy of the caliper, then turn to this one. You need to remember that it can only support one type of measurement. There cannot be done three types of measurements in one tool with this like the caliper. If you are going to measure the thickness of a piece of paper with extreme accuracy, then this tool can do it. Especially the digital micrometer with no rotating spindle, that’s very recommended to measure the paper thickness. If you are willing to have an inside diameter of a tube measured, you can do it with a micrometer as well but you need to find the other type of micrometer (inside micrometer). This causes you to buy more than one tool for a different type of measurement.

13. Skinfold Caliper

You can’t forget this one. This is an important tool for those who want to track down their workout progress to see whether there is a weight loss or not. You also can use this to measure your body weight gain. This caliper is unique. It’s designed to reach the skin in a particular small spot area in order to measure accurately. The pressure that is given can affect measurement accuracy.

14. Tire Tread Depth Gauge

This is actually a depth gauge. But it has some modifications to match the need for measuring the depth of tire tread. Therefore, the maximum range of tire tread depth gauge is no more than 1 inch. It’s a simple, small, yet important tool to have in your vehicle storage. Inspect regularly your tire in order to avoid unexpected incidents due to slippy tires.

15. Altimeter

An altimeter functions to measure an altitude of a particular object over the sea level. It is one of the critical instruments for navigation in an aircraft. Why is it important to measure the altitude for aircraft navigation? A height of a certain level is equal to the air pressure at that level. If the density altitude at that level is high, the aircraft get the chance not able to take off.

In addition to the purpose of this instrument, an altimeter is important in hiking, mountaineering, skydiving, etc.

There are some models of altimeter available on the market. Each of them is designed based on the requirements and comes with different features. For outdoors, an altimeter has to be designed with a durable body. It has to pass some water and dust ingress. While for a car, it has to be mounted and easy to read. Similar things come to other purposes of using this measuring tool.

Last but not Least

We’ve seen a variety of length measuring tools on this post. They all have different special features from each other. According to their limited functions, we have to understand what type is convenient to use for a specific condition. That is to say, not all length measuring tool can serve better precision; similarly, not all can measure a long distance. Linear measuring tools are everywhere around us. We use them and they are very useful in our life.