21 Different Types of Rulers

Wooden measuring tools are reported to have been used as early as 2650 B.C. These simple yet essential tools have since been used for measuring dimensions, drawing lines and serving as a guide for cutting materials. Throughout their history, rulers of varied sizes and shapes have been produced from wood, ivory, copper and other metals.

In 1851, Anton Ullrich, a German industrialist, invented the folding rule, which was formed by a series of six-inch rulers connected by pivoting hinges. These rulers could extend to lengths of six feet or more while folding back up to a convenient carrying size when not in use. Although the introduction of the flexible measuring tape reduced the popularity of hard rulers, these sturdy measuring tools are still frequently used by many designers, carpenter and handymen today.

Modern rulers are available in all the colors and shades of the rainbow and in a wide array of materials, including wood, plastic, rubber, aluminum, stainless steel and others.

Twenty-one varieties of rulers that are in common use today and serving different purposes include the following:

Desk Ruler

Desk RulerPin

This white 12-inch desk ruler with beige edges is easy to read and convenient for use on office and classroom desks. Displayed here beside a long-lined writing pad, a pen, pencil and eraser, this typical desk ruler aids both workers and students in completing many everyday tasks. Whether the user needs to measure a shipping box or check the dimensions of drawings for a poster, this style ruler is a perfect choice.

Lightweight yet durable, this ruler is also easy to carry in a backpack or briefcase as needed. It also fits easily into the pockets of laptop carrying bags and cases. This size ruler is also useful for hand-drawing charts, simple graphs and tables in study and office notes.

Plastic Ruler

Plastic RulerPin

These two yellow plastic rulers show the two methods of linear measurement today. While one is designed to show measurements in centimeters, the other has markings for measuring in inches. The yellow plastic is opaque to avoid confusion in reading ruler markings caused by the colors or textures of surfaces being measured that can be visible through transparent rulers.

Plastic rulers are very lightweight yet durable. They are easy to pack in the slim side pouches of book bags or backpacks, and they fit easily into slender desk drawers and storage cubbies. Plastic rulers can be washed with soap and water if food or beverages are spilled on them while in use.

Wood Ruler

Wood RulerPin

This eight-inch wood ruler is sturdy and will last for long-term daily use in your office, classroom or home study area. One edge of the ruler has marked divisions for measuring surfaces in inches, and the other edge shows markings for measuring in centimeters. The black markings for measurements are precise and easy to read on the light wood ruler surfaces.

This wood ruler design is slightly thicker than most plastic rulers. For this reason, some users find it easier to position and hold steady when measuring smooth surfaces like polished marble, varnished wood or shiny plastics. If you give special attention to your office or home study area, you may like the way your wood ruler accents the lustrous wood hues of your stylish desk and chair.

Metal Ruler

Metal RulerPin

This style of silver metal ruler has markings on both the front and back. While one side enables you to measure surfaces in inches, the other one is designed for taking measurements in centimeters. This slim ruler is ideal for office use and is a convenient measuring tool for home study areas as well as classroom use.

Art and design studios, graphics printers and many artists also use this thin, space-saving yet durable ruler for daily projects. This ruler design is flexible and can be bent, but it snaps back into its linear form without incurring damage. Most rulers of this type are rustproof and can be wiped clean using a damp cloth and mild detergent.

Thin Ruler

Thin RulerPin

This strong, but thin stainless-steel ruler displays measuring divisions in inches on one edge and centimeter markings on the opposite edge. The numbers for these measurements are large and bold in black print on the silver-colored ruler surface. Many workmen and office or factory workers alike prefer rulers that display inch and centimeter markings on the same side of the ruler for easy comparison.

Thin rulers of this style are helpful since they lie flat and close to surfaces that you need to measure. You can make accurate measurement marks on surfaces to be cut easily since these flat, thin rules and measuring scales are close to the surface you are marking. They are less likely to slip out of place as you measure and mark surfaces.

Machinist Ruler

Machinist RulerPin

This machinist square features a durable, easy-to-read ruler showing both inch and centimeter measurements on opposite edges of the same side. The squared edge and short adjoining side form a neat 90-degree angle. When you align the short red side of the square with the edge of the paper, plastic, stone, rubber or other surface that you are measuring, the ruler will stay straight, giving you accurate measurements.

Machinists, designers, engineers and architects as well as home DIY enthusiasts often use these small, convenient measuring tools when a larger or more complex measuring device is not needed. They are also helpful to anyone who is making a hand-drawn chart or graph. This ruler is typically metal and can be slid across surfaces for placement easily.

Hook Ruler

This six-inch metal ruler displays both standard inch and metric measuring scales. This ruler is used by machinists, carpenters and many types of crafting enthusiasts as well as home improvement DIYers. The hooked end of this rule ensures that the ruler stays steady on the surface to be measured.

The black markings on this ruler are precision etched to ensure complete accuracy for each measurement that you make. For added convenience, the hook can slide out of the way when not needed. These sturdy hooks are designed to accommodate both thin and relatively thick surface edges and do not slip when firmly placed on work-piece ends.

Flexible Ruler

Flexible RulerPin

Flexible yet strong, this translucent ruler can be coiled for easy carrying in a bag or storage in a small drawer or toolbox. It will uncoil for use as a smooth, thin ruler with both standard and metric measuring scales. This style of ruler can be very helpful if you need to cut paper, fabric or other materials at major divisions in a recurring pattern.

This ruler can be washed with soap and water and wiped dry with a clean cloth or towel. It will not crease or ripple during storage. In addition, it is an ideal tool for measuring small spaces, areas or sections of a surface in moist atmospheres since it does not absorb moisture, rust or corrode.

Curved Ruler

Curved RulerPin

This French curves set enables you to measure curved surfaces and shapes. It also makes it possible for you to create curved shapes and designs of paper, wood, fabric, plastic and other materials. These curved rulers can also help you scale different parts of a design that contains curved lines so that they are balanced with your overall pattern’s scale.

These curved measuring tools are available in various sizes and designs for use in different types of projects and pursuits. These curved measuring devices are quite helpful in avoiding mistakes in calculating the lengths of curving lines which can occur when compasses and other tools are used.

Folding Ruler

Folding RulerPin

This smoothly folding white wooden ruler displays the centimeter scale in black and red numbers. The separate rule sections can fold out easily to measure large spaces, objects and surfaces. After these measurements are made, the sections fold back together just as easily to form a neat tool for easy storage.

Contractors, carpenters, crafts-persons and interior designers often carry folding rulers to measure materials, furnishings and dimensions of areas in room interiors. Although some long rulers or yardsticks made of wood can warp over time if exposed to damp environments, folding rulers usually retain their original flat surfaces since each section is supported by the others in the closed ruler stack.

Seamstress Tape

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This bright turquoise seamstress tape measure can go anywhere that you go. Whether you are taking body measurements for making a customized garment or costume for a client or measuring fabric before cutting a pattern, this seamstress measuring tape is an essential tool. With your handy tape in your pocket, tote or toolbox or draped around your neck, you are always ready to take the necessary measurement to produce your next designer masterpiece.

Although this particular measuring tape is free of a case or winding mechanism, it can be wound manually into a neat roll for easy carrying and storing. These tapes are typically very lightweight, but they are also quite durable. This tape is composed of a thin plastic material that is strong and can withstand regular use without fraying or tearing.

Steel Measuring Tape

Steel Measuring TapePin

This steel measuring tape is 5 meters in length and has a shockproof green and black plastic case for easy carrying. It fits comfortably in your pocket for use on a moment’s notice whenever needed. After use, the tape quickly rewinds, disappearing back into its case until the next time you need it.

Although it is thin and pliable, this steel tape is extremely durable and can withstand heavy-duty use, lasting for a long time. Suitable for measuring all types of surfaces, the smooth steel will not scratch or scrape lustrous marble, quartz or wood. For your convenience, you can rely on this tape measure to remain at the length you set it while taking measurements, only snapping back into the case when you release it.



This wooden yardstick displays both inch and fractional yard scales, enabling you to use it easily for multiple purposes. Especially when you need to measure walls or large pieces of furniture, your yardstick can save valuable time while supporting accurate measuring. Yardsticks are also of great help when measuring fabrics for curtains and drapes.

Many wooden yardsticks have one edge that includes a smooth metal inset. This strip of metal aids in obtaining exact measurements and provides a smooth, thin edge to fit flat against a surface. This thin metal inset also reinforces the strength and durability of your yardstick for long-term use.



Protractors are instruments designed to measure angles. They are usually made of transparent plastic, although some are composed of metal or wood. There are also advanced models like the bevel protractor, which has one or sometimes two arms that swing. These arms facilitate easy measuring of angles, especially in relation to large items or forms.

Protractors are used for calculating angles in the fields of geometry, mechanics and architectural rendering. There are also two-sided protractors with multiple angle divisions for making detailed angle measurements. Interior design layouts are often completed with the use of protractors to ensure accurate angle calculations for interior spaces, furnishings and decorative items.

Set Square Ruler

Set Square RulerPin

This pair of set square rulers, or triangles, is used in technical drawings, in engineering and architectural renderings. Each triangle serves as a straightedge at a right angle or other angle set against a baseline. A set square has the measurement markings of a ruler plus a half-circle design protractor.

Many complex renderings for future buildings, bridges, large portico constructions and other structures require the use of set square rulers. These tools help ensure that the correct angles are used to produce these structures for safe, secure use. These rulers help with correct drawings for both linear and geometrical forms for structures.

Adjustable Triangle

This adjustable 8-inch arc triangle is used frequently by architects, engineers and designers for rendering drawings and the interior layouts of buildings. Its aluminum hinge and adjustable point screw let you adjust the triangle to the ideal angle needed. Because it is clear plastic, it never obstructs important parts of the drawing beneath it.

This triangle has scale degrees in rise, seconds and degrees. The scale graduations are easy to read and completely accurate. This triangle comes with a magnified scale reader to ensure that you are always working with the right scale degree for your project.

Rolling Parallel Ruler

This rolling parallel ruler is an engineering item. Each rolling ruler design includes a cylinder that resembles a rolling pin that allows it to roll smoothly along or across a sheet of paper or other material. It can produce straight or parallel lines, and this versatile tool can do multiple tasks because it contains other instruments in its construction.

This rolling ruler can accomplish the tasks usually done by both a compass and a protractor. This unique tool is used in many areas of design and engineering today.

Shrink Ruler

A shrink rule is a ruler with a graduated scale used by pattern makers, pottery experts and other artisans and designers. It measures a fraction of an inch longer than a standard ruler. When used in producing cast iron items, one-eighth of an inch is allowed for the percentage of the cooling iron’s shrinkage.

You can measure the dimensions of the cooled and finished item of iron with a standard inch ruler. Then locate that same measurement on the shrink ruler according to the scale that aligns with the amount of shrinkage. The finished iron piece should have shrunk to the size that is equal to your calculations. This same process applies when making pottery items and firing them in a kiln.

Architect Scale

This aluminum triangular architect scale ruler is a three-dimensional tool used by architects, engineers, designers and drafting students to create accurate structural renderings. Its high-professional grade ensures excellent degrees of accuracy. All numbers and measurement markings on its three surfaces are laser etched for easy reading.

This durable measuring tool and its markings will not dull or fade, and the numbers and markings will never rub or scrape off with use. This specialized ruler is designed for use in direct drawing as well as project design. It is made of a highly durable anodized aluminum alloy and is guaranteed to last for long-term regular use.

Engineer Scale

Engineer ScalePin

This triangular engineer’s scale can be used for rendering blueprints and other types of structural drawings and illustrations. It is also in popular use by drafting students, interior designers and 3D graphics experts. The numbers and markings on its measuring scale surfaces are accurate and non-fading to ensure continuous professional use over time.

This model is made of white-enameled aluminum and is guaranteed to maintain its smooth white surfaces. The three sides of this dimensional three-sided ruler all offer precision-designed flat surfaces that can align perfectly with the paper, wood or composite material on which you are drawing a design.

Caliper Rule

Caliper RulePin

This vernier caliper rule is used to measure both internal and external dimensions of an item or enclosed space. It has two hinged legs that look similar to a pair of compasses with points that are turned inward or outward. It has one linear part that slides along another part plus two jaws that are parallel and a vernier scale.

This unique tool measures the distance between two opposing sides of an object. Calipers can be used to calculate thicknesses as well as interior or exterior diameters. This tool has been used for many centuries, and its earliest known use was in ancient Rome and China.

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