I’m working on a new review that compares Stanley’s FatMax keychain tape measure to the new Milwaukee keychain tape measure, and I didn’t think it would be fair to photograph my beat up FatMax next to a brand new Milwaukee. So, I headed over to Home Depot to buy a fresh new Stanley FatMax tape.
When I was at the store, I pulled out the blade of the FatMax keychain tape I was going to buy, and I was instantly disappointed. Stanley had replaced their clear and crisp blade markings with lighter and muddier grayish markings! I also noticed that the end hook just didn’t just look right.
There were only three of the tapes in stock and they all seemed to have the identical changes. I needed a new FatMax keychain tape to photograph, so I purchased it anyway and headed home.
When I got home, I compared my trusty old FatMax keychain tape to the new one I just purchased. That’s when I noticed some more subtle changes to the tape measure.
First, I noticed that Stanley changed the graphic on the face of the tape, to include some cross hatching in the background behind Stanley FatMax 6′ text, as you can see in the first shot.
*In all the photographs the older model will be on the left or top and the newer model on the right or bottom.
I also noticed that the plastic overmolded housing is a slightly deeper and more appealing shade of yellow. Plus all of the edges of the new tape look crisper too, including the logo on the opposite face of the tape.
I saw the largest differences in the hook and blade. The new end hook is smaller and has a duller finish, but a smaller hook might not necessarily be a bad thing. A keychain tape is probably going to live inside a pocket and I can see where a smaller end hook might catch in your pocket less.
The problem with the new hook really comes where it is attaches to the blade. On the old tape it was difficult to read the markings from the beginning of the tape to 5/8″ because the tang partially covered them. You could still just make out what the measurement was though, although sometimes I had to count backwards from the one inch line to figure it out.
The tang of the new end hook is slightly shorter but it completely obscures the length of all the markings from the beginning of the tape to the 1/2″ mark. You can’t tell the difference between a 1/16″ marking and a 1/8″ marking by the length like you could on the old tape.
What’s that you say? Just burn the first inch and measure from the 1″ mark. First off, I shouldn’t have to: this is a poor design. Second, when you are trying to figure out if a small object is 1/4″ or 5/16″ wide, it’s much easier to press it against the hook than to try to hold it and the tape steady.
Moving to the blades, the newer blade is a sickly yellow color while the older tape is a bolder yellow. The blade also seems flimsier. With the older tape I can get still get standout of almost 4′ while the I can’t get the new tape to standout any more than 40″.
One of my gripes about the older FatMax tape is that after a year of use, the markings are starting to come off the first 8″ of the blade. I don’t know if the redesigned blade addresses this issue, but it might be the only saving grace of the blade redesign if it does.
A few more changes are visible if you view the end hook head on. It looks like the slot the tape protrudes from may be wider on the new tape, that may be to stop the tape from rubbing. And you can see how much smaller the new end hook is.
It doesn’t look like there’s been any change to the chain either. After a few months of use I had to replace the chain because the links are not thick enough and were constantly bending open.
After I did this comparison I also went to Menards and Lowes to see if the changes in the FatMax keychain tape measures had made it through the supply pipe line. At one of my local Menards all of the 20 or so FatMax keychain tapes they carried were of the newer type.
When I got to Lowes I had trouble finding FatMax keychain tapes at first, but when I did I was surprised that most of the tapes they had in stock were of the older variety I owned first. What surprised me even more is that they were carrying what seems to be a third different model. I thought it might be a fluke at first, but I found several other ones in the bin. It appears to be identical to the older model except that it has a solid end hook.
In the local stores around me, all versions of the Stanley FatMax keychain tape measure were between $3 and $4. You can also grab it for $2.54 as an add-on for Prime Members at Amazon.
Buy Now (Amazon)
I was worried that I was making too much of the change in the blade so I gave both the old and new FatMax tapes to my wife to look at. After playing with them for a few minutes she said the markings on the older one looked crisper and the new one looked blurry.
Another thing she noticed was that the older tape was heavier. So I weighed the two tapes and found that the old one was heavier so I weighed them: The old one was 61 grams and the new one was 57 grams. I did adjust the measurements for the weight of the longer chain I put on the old tape.
I’m really skeptical whether a person could tell the difference of a few grams, but the difference is there. The end hook is smaller and the blade seems lighter duty, I don’t know if that’s what accounts for the 4 gram difference. Maybe shaving a few grams off the weight make a case of the tape measures cheaper to ship.
Maybe these changes were meant to better the tape measure, but it doesn’t seem that way. The new tape measures certainly aren’t unusable, but if I had a choice between older and newer models, I’d go with an older one.
Tossed my old 25′ fatmax and now really wish i hadn’t. Can tell that the new one is much lighter in weight, the blade is much wimpier, the blade paint and protective coating are much lower quality, the heavy duty nickle plated steel hook and belt clip have been replaced with a lighter less strong painted metal. The belt clip is much weaker than previous models and is easy to bend out of shape whereas the older nickle plated clip was almost impossible to bend out of shape.
The quality of Stanley tapes has taken quite a tumble. I don’t buy them anymore. I have several low end 25′ Stanley tapes that sold at retail for around $4.99 a few years back that are much nicer than any Stanley tape sold today.
A few months back, I got this cheap piece of junk 2 meter (~6ft) tape measure from Napa autoparts. I had to add an M3 screw through the center to hold it together and it has been awesome to keep in my pocket all the time.
My only grip aside from having to add a screw to hold it together is that the inch fractional markings are very hard to tell apart since all the 1/2,1/4 and 1/8 inch marks are the same size.
Dixie Ten Broeck
From the photos it appears that the “new” version is somewhat thicker through the body than the “old” one (actually, that was my very first thought). Perhaps you were at a slight angle when you took the photos, but measuring the two with a caliper (right on the monitor – yeah, I AM a blond, what of it?!), the older version seems to be about 3-4% thicker. For a tool designed to be carried in one’s pants pockets, usually the rule is “the thinner the better” to take up less of valuable pocket-space. IF the newer version IS thicker, while being slightly lighter, then it would be even more obvious that quality, at least as measured by the heftiness of the metal rule itself, has decreased. Could you please use a caliper to measure these, this time measuring the “real thing” and not just the photos? Thanks!
I’m assuming you meant the second to last photo. It is cropped in from the original. In the original the old tape is on the center dot and the new tape is off to the right. Not by much, but enough that you just can see the side of the new tape in the photo. I took the photo to show the end hook and the blade opening, not to compare widths.
The fact that the old tape is in the center and the new tape is on the side will throw your measurements off.
That said I measured the widths of the two tapes and you are right, but the new tape is only about 2% thicker.
Old tape: 0.827″
New tape: 0.847″
Why it’s thicker is a good question. They changed plastics, did the new plastic have to be thicker to be as strong as the old plastic? Maybe it’s just thicker so that the “stamped” logo would be deeper and look better.
Dixie Ten Broeck
Yes, I did mention a camera angle as making a difference (your paragraph #2), but I measured the tops of each tape from the beginnings of the curvature. Also, I measured each photo’s pieces as best I could, then mentally averaged the different measurements and percentages, thus the rough estimate/range of difference of sizes.
Also, I notice that I had flip-flopped my thinking, typing that “the older version seems to be about 3-4% thicker” when I’d intended to say the NEWER version seems to be thicker. Your measurements confirm that first impression, eh?
You might also measure the height and width of each tool; the newer one seems to be larger in ALL dimensions than the older (please note I got it right that time!) [MY pocket space is always at a premium; my orchid-colored Leatherman Juice takes up a lot of room, and that built-in corkscrew is very important!]
Depth taken from right above the blade to right above where the keychain attaches
Old Tape: 1.76″
New Tape: 1.79″
New tape is little under 2% deeper
Height from bottom index finger ridges to top of tape
Old Tape: 1.78″
New Tape: 1.81″
A little under 2% taller.
I didn’t use the last digit of precision because it’s much harder to get consistent readings on the overmold.
I’ll concede the width difference in my last comment since that measurement was on hard plastic, but I’m not ready to say that these dimensions are different for the new tape. The old tape was in my pocket for a year, the difference could just be wear in the rubber overmold.
I carry one of these (bought about 3 years ago) when I’m shopping and don’t want to clip a tape to my belt. It’s Good at this price but not perfect (“perfection is the enemy of the good”.) I cut the chain off mine.
We got some Komelon (3110) round-case 10 foot tapes in different colors – thrown in as a promo when we bought a batch of their other tapes. I recall that they slid into the pocket better than this FatMax tape – but were a bit finicky to hold open. I gave them away as a gag gift part of employee incentive awards.
The Komelon 3110 would be perfect if they reversed what they mean by “touch lock”. You need to hold the tape in place by continuously pressing on the side wheel. When you let go, the tape retracts. If they made it auto lock and then press the side to retract it would be so much infinitely better and perfect. I don’t know who thought it was a good idea to do that backwards. As a side note, I wish these all would start adding both metric and standard both on the blade readout. At least make them easier to find, seems all my big box stores never have the “metric plus” versions in stock.
We often got some items as promotions some with the vendor’s logo on them. Like this one, we would give away those no-one really liked – along with a Amex Gift card as the real award. That way they would end up cluttering an employee’s junk drawer rather than ours – and who knows – maybe they would find a use,
The biggest use I’ve gotten out of a six foot tape is learning that most things I wanted to measure were more that six feet long.
My favorite small tape measure is the Stanley 10′ x 1/4″. It just fits so perfectly in my pocket that it has become an everyday carry.
I grabbed one of these Stanley tapes when they first showed up at Lowe’s years ago, thinking they were probably a one-time thing for father’s day or whatever holiday it was for.
Seems the original one Stanley came out with then is also different, it has the fat “T” shaped tip, but no notch of any sort, and looks closest to the newest style. The tip is slightly narrower than the tape, making it pretty easy to see all of the markings. The tip is also mounted in that way where it slides back and forth, so it gives the correct measurement under tension. The tape markings are the same as the older model shown here – black and very glossy and clear.
I did go to Lowe’s to see what the newest tapes were like. Definitely steps backwards in quality and usability. Seems to be what happens with everything, people buy it, company makes it cheaper to get more profit. Glad I got mine when I did.
I also have some 3ft tapes from Performance Tool that are cheap but very slim, about a third the thickness of the Stanley 6ft and of course smaller overall. Tape markings are clear and it’s a decent tape for carrying around.