I have mentioned in passing that I now belong to a number of Facebook Groups. Each dedicated (loosely) to discussion on a given topic.

Lee Valley Story Tape Multiples and LabeledOne group in particular, and I won’t name names (OK later), is dedicated to the business of contracting and to building things.  This group discusses tools, situations with clients, pricing, and bidding.  Members share pics from portfolios and/or of unusual event. They otherwise engage in light banter on whatever topic a member decides to chuck up.

Story Poles vs. Jury Sticks

A few weeks back one of the members of this group, architect and historian Jane Griswold Radocchia, posted a message and asked for input on something called “story poles.”  A story (or storey) pole, as I understand it, is much like a jury stick. They are, well, a pole or a stick marked, often by hand, at increments.  They can and have been used in many home building applications.  Because measurements on story sticks are relative (aka referential), they, in many cases, can help minimize layout error.

While Jane continues to work on compiling information for a corresponding Wikipedia article (she says there is still much that is unclear historically), she published some of her early thoughts (and findings) here >> Story Poles Part 1 & 2.

In that post, and actually via a call out from another member of the group (Ryan Winchester of Vancouver Deck Builder Winchester Decks), Jane mentioned the existence of something called “story tapes.”  Most specifically, those manufactured by Canadian company Lee Valley Tools.

How cool?!

Lee Valley Story Tape Toddler and Chest of Drawers via Lee Valley


But There is a Story with this Story Tape

Lee Valley Story Tape SingleThough reported in this 2010 ToolMonger article, “April Fools Joke Turns Real”, and through its apparent absence from Lee Valley’s online catalog, there has been some uncertainty on whether or not these tools are actually currently being made and/or sold.

The 12ft tape (3.65m & 7.34 Cubic), at least in my head, seems like a fantastic option for shop work or really, any repetitive building activity that fits within that scale.  But as Jane suggests, story tapes may be as equally valuable for homeowners. As they look to record a home’s story (transferable to future owners).  (Ummmm . . . DIY Project Posting Alert!)

Verified via a phone call this morning, Lee Valley does in fact sell the 12 ft story tape (pictured) as Item number #99W7850.  Cost for coolness = $8.50.

Working with a Story Tape

Another manufacturer, Fast Cap, makes a heavy-duty 25ft tape, which is available thru specialty woodworking, hardware retailers and on Amazon – here.  Unlike the Lee Valley offering, which is completely blank. These caught my eye because only one side of the Fast Cap tape is cleared for marking. This promotes of course cumulative or re- use).

The product write up at McFeelys.com did a fantastic job of capturing its essence:

Fast Cap 25ft Story Pole Tape via McFeeley'sOkay, how many of you “cheat” when taking measurements and simply make a pencil mark on the tape measure rather than trying to remember whether the board should be 23-5/8″ or 25-3/8″ long? I do it all the time, but have to admit that the pencil mark isn’t always easy to read. FastCap has made life easier with this new “story” tape. It has innovative, easy to read markings at every 1/16″. It has a special matte finish designed for pencil marks, and a 1/4″ wide un-graduated edge. Perfect for recording notes (like 37-1/2″ to top of cabinet) right on the tape. Now you can not only have the measurement right at hand, you can let the tape remember what it means for you.


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For more reading on how the tape came into being, and on what Lee Valley calls “their only-ever April Fool’s joke”.

Please also if you have any knowledge on the story pole‘s history in building, contact Jane via her blog here.

Thanks for reading, let me hear your thoughts and super week all! For many more interesting tidbits you could check our Building History category or even see our etc. section. Cheers. ~jb