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Don't throw out that broken tape measure! I used my tape measure that was broken. It would not retract back into the case, so I cut the tape into different lengths. I started with 12 inch, then made a 16 inch and a 24 inch piece long. Now if I have to measure, I just grab one of the pieces that is suitable for the job at hand.
I live in the country and it's a long ways to the mail box, I cut a piece of wood 4" long on a taper, 1/2" in the front and 1" in the back with another 1" standing up, I took a 6" piece of metal tape and screwed it to the wood and screwed it to the mail box, I tuck it under the lid and when the mail arrives and it's opened it pops up, now I can tell if the mail has arrived, if you really far away a piece of bright colored rag could be tied to the tape and you could see it flutter in the wind.