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Author Topic: Choosing a new digital or dial caliper  (Read 1084 times)
RknRusty
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« on: May 18, 2017, 07:02:29 AM »

My trusty old Taiwanese dial caliper finally bit the dust. Or more accurately, the concrete. That's getting to be a problem now that my hands have turned into crows claws with age and abuse. So, one day I left an Aldi store with coffee, milk, onions, and a $14 dollar digital caliper... it should have been priced at $3.99, and I could've thrown it away and kept the batteries.

Whatever I buy should be at least a little shock resistant, if that's even possible. I'm now hot on the shopping trail and of course went straight to Google, where the only filter I checked was Stainless Steel, and on one page I checked Dial, on the other, I'm looking at Digital.

I like the dial calipers, but I'd have to buy two of them to switch between inch and metric. So I'll probably choose digital, and it would be nice if it had a hold feature for measuring in low visibility areas.

The big question is price range vs. quality. I don't need contractor grade, but I still want reasonable reliability that'll measure a piece the same every time. I assume stainless is the material of choice over aluminum. How much should I expect to pay for a tool that I use a lot, but won't rattle around in a toolbox or get wet, hot, or cold? Any preferred brand names?

We have a Grainger in town, as well as a couple of other professional tool suppliers. I'm leery of counterfeits and unusually good prices on eBay.
Thanks for any advice,
Rusty
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« Reply #1 on: May 18, 2017, 07:54:02 AM »

I like the dial calipers, but I'd have to buy two of them to switch between inch and metric. So I'll probably choose digital, and it would be nice if it had a hold feature for measuring in low visibility areas.

The big question is price range vs. quality. I don't need contractor grade, but I still want reasonable reliability that'll measure a piece the same every time. I assume stainless is the material of choice over aluminum. How much should I expect to pay for a tool that I use a lot, but won't rattle around in a toolbox or get wet, hot, or cold? Any preferred brand names?

  I have had my Mitutoyo digital calipers for about 30 years now, and they cost around $125 at the time. Now I find the same thing is on the order of $500! That seems a bit much to me.

   Almost any of them will switch between metric and conventional. You probably don't need calibration certificates or SPC output, so I would search on price point with names you would recognize.


    Brett
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RknRusty
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« Reply #2 on: May 18, 2017, 09:19:00 AM »

Thanks, Brett. You are correct, no certificates for just for building my own toys, and I'd only want to use SPC output if I had it, and then probably just to recall dimensions to write about for you guys.
Rusty
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« Reply #3 on: May 18, 2017, 09:44:21 AM »

Do you have a Harbor Freight by you?  They are cheap and will do what you want until they hit the ground.
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Chris Fretz (38)
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« Reply #4 on: May 18, 2017, 05:55:06 PM »

You should be able to get a Mighty-yoyo 8" set for about $200. Normal price at Mcmaster Carr.
For digital that is the only brand I would buy. I have tried others, both brand name and Chinese, they just don't work as well.
Solar powered version is handy, never have to change the battery. A bit more money of course.

Dial you can get a cheap Chinese one, they are generally quite accurate.
 I have a couple of them, for some tasks they are better than the digital. One set is well over 30 years old, and still very accurate.

You can also save a bit by buying 6" instead of 8". Most of what we measure to .001" is less than 6" anyway.

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RknRusty
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« Reply #5 on: May 18, 2017, 08:31:25 PM »

Pat, thanks for the reply. $200 is more clams that I can bake, though I'd love to have one. I'll keep looking. I'm not averse to a pair of dials, one metric and one inch, unless I find one that's easy to read with both units on the same dial.
I'll let y'all know what I finally choose.

Chris, we do have an HF in town. They sell Pittsburgh brand among others. That must be made in Pittsburgh, China Lol, not your Pittsburgh.
I just want to make sure it works better than that piece of slag I bought at Aldi.
Say hi to B. for me.
Rusty
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Metrolina Control Line Society (MCLS) - Huntersville, NC - The Carolina Gang
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C_Fretz 18Stingray1
« Reply #6 on: May 19, 2017, 03:44:32 AM »

How about Fowler dials. They are not the bottom of the barrel and they are not the $100+ kind.

Chris
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Chris Fretz (38)
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« Reply #7 on: May 19, 2017, 04:26:04 AM »

I got these a few years ago at Home Depot for something less than $40.00.  Have so far been great.  Haven't tried a four foot drop test tho.

Dave


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RknRusty
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« Reply #8 on: May 19, 2017, 04:50:35 AM »

That looks about right, Dave. I think I'll pay Home Depot a visit. After tomorrow, my spring contest season is finished, so I need to get back to projeckin', and I'll be needing them.
Rusty
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DON'T PANIC!
Rusty Knowlton
... and never Ever think about how good you are at something...
while you're doing it!

Jackson Flyers Association (a.k.a. The Wildcat Rangers(C/L))- Fort Jackson, SC
Metrolina Control Line Society (MCLS) - Huntersville, NC - The Carolina Gang
Congaree Flyers - http://www.congareeflyer.com
www.coxengineforum.com
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« Reply #9 on: May 23, 2017, 11:34:15 AM »

Hey Rusty...sorry late to post this

I have many, real good, big buck measuring tools (Mitutoyo, Starrett,) but for my hobby use-- I find the Lowe's 3" General Ultratech 1433 is my go to plastic POS for every thing...

Mostly cuz it is close enough, and can do MM, Inch, as in 0.0000 , and Inch fractions, like 1/8th with simple push of button

and it is cheap enough I have three of them all over the shop.... balsa area, drill press area, engine area...silver and never seem to get lost in the clutter

Best thing IMO--- is you could deliberately get pissed..huck it across the room, find it under a bench, and it will still tell you the balsa sheet is 1/16th and not 1/64ths

And if it did break, you are only out $18+/-

BUT the real reason I have this cheap tool...is the ability to do all three conversions for me instantly with button push...most other BETTER tools only give you Inch or MM and very few Inch fractions

I would never use this plastic tool for precise engine work or mill / lathe, metal working....but for Balsa and ply model airplanes it is a real neat bit of kit that does not need SWMBO approval to buy

https://www.lowes.com/pd/General-Tools-Instruments-Caliper/3138565?cm_mmc=SCE_PLA-_-ToolsAndHardware-_-SpecialtyHandTools-_-3138565:General_Tools_&_Instruments&CAWELAID=&kpid=3138565&CAGPSPN=pla&store_code=209&k_clickID=57efc3e0-23bc-441b-88d1-6342a108b35c&gclid=CJqI6rjNhtQCFYMCaQodRjoB8Q


The description sez 6"..... false---- it is a 3" caliper ----and can be found as low as $12 on line but around $15 is average.....find free shipping if you can....
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RknRusty
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« Reply #10 on: May 25, 2017, 02:18:50 PM »

Okay, Dave and Fred, I got one like y'all said you liked. Fred's was a 3" version and I got the 6" one. Looks just like Dave's except the cover on my display head is plastic, Dave's looks metal. General Tools. Inch, Metric, and fraction. I love the fraction mode, since I always have to go look at the decimal-fraction chart taped to my boom lamp. Out of the package, I have tested it on known parts and it repeats exactly the same numbers every time. My other digital WorkZone grocery store caliper will not repeat. Looks like it's made from the finest Chinesium available. So far so good. Thanks guys.

Then I decided to splurge, went down to the LHS and bought a new set of hex drivers with screwdriver handles. Got it home and it was mis-packaged with two .05" drivers and no 5/64" or whatever drives 2-56 bolts. Roll Eyes. It does have the most used 3/32" for 4-40 bolts. My old Pittsburgh T-handle 4-40 driver is a nub now because every other time I use it I have to grind the tip down to fresh metal. Geez, nothing is easy, is it. Back to the HS next week.
Rusty
 
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DON'T PANIC!
Rusty Knowlton
... and never Ever think about how good you are at something...
while you're doing it!

Jackson Flyers Association (a.k.a. The Wildcat Rangers(C/L))- Fort Jackson, SC
Metrolina Control Line Society (MCLS) - Huntersville, NC - The Carolina Gang
Congaree Flyers - http://www.congareeflyer.com
www.coxengineforum.com
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« Reply #11 on: May 25, 2017, 06:55:53 PM »

I've gotten several calipers over the years since I discovered a need to measure twice, cut once.  The handiest one was a freebie digital for buying some tools.  It had 2 buttons, zero and mm/in.   Then I got a $20 chinese dial caliper.  It worked for awhile, but fell apart.  The scales were glued on with rubber cement, the screws fell out(damned hard to find), and it had a penchant for a wandering zero.  I got a couple of cheap 3 button chinese digitals.  They were just aggravating.The original started from zero when you moved it.  It was the easiest to use.  The two 3 button digitals I find just aggravating.  Half the time the measurement is done before I realize the on button was still off.  So I have to turn it on, push it back to zero, reset the zero several times.  It only zero's reliably if you pinch it shut with thumb and forefinger.  And then remeasure.  The off/on button often gets pressed in the middle of an awkward measurement.  The cheapie digitals aren't worth the hassle.

I finally got a $40 SPI.  It's much heavier, the zero hardly ever drifts and it was silky smooth from the get go with all engraved markings.  Since it can reliably pick the difference between two number drills .001 apart that's good enough.  Better accuracy is only needed for building engines.  I'd like to get a 2 button digital of similar quality but they mostly are pushing $100 or more, which I don't need.  I can remember that half an inch is 12.7mm. or 3mm is .118in.
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RknRusty
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« Reply #12 on: May 25, 2017, 08:01:49 PM »

Hi Phil
The 3 button digitals you describe sound like the cheap WorkZone caliper I so badly detested.

My new one is still new, of course, but promising and easy to use. It's always zeroed when I turn it on, and stays there between measurements and modes. I do wish it was auto-on when I first move it. It cost $30something bucks. It is made in China. But I have hopes that in a year and longer, I still like it as much as I do today. I've never had any General tools before, so I hope they have a good plant over yonder. Now that it's paid for, I see Wally World has the same one as Daves and about like mine for $29 bucks.

If this one goes blooey, I'm going back to a dial. Maybe they make one with two scales for inch and metric.

So for now, the great caliper hunt concludes. Thanks to everyone for the advice.
Rusty

P.S.: Hey, Dave,
What is the little black piece with the grooves and square tip? It's in the rectangular cutout in your carrying case. My case has the cutout, but nothing is in it.
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DON'T PANIC!
Rusty Knowlton
... and never Ever think about how good you are at something...
while you're doing it!

Jackson Flyers Association (a.k.a. The Wildcat Rangers(C/L))- Fort Jackson, SC
Metrolina Control Line Society (MCLS) - Huntersville, NC - The Carolina Gang
Congaree Flyers - http://www.congareeflyer.com
www.coxengineforum.com
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« Reply #13 on: May 27, 2017, 05:59:16 AM »


P.S.: Hey, Dave,
What is the little black piece with the grooves and square tip? It's in the rectangular cutout in your carrying case. My case has the cutout, but nothing is in it.


Screw driver for the battery door.  Smiley

 Image is clearer on the Amazon ad.

https://www.amazon.com/General-Tools-147-Fractional-Extra-Large/dp/B000UCIGCW
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RknRusty
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« Reply #14 on: May 27, 2017, 11:20:18 PM »


Screw driver for the battery door.  Smiley

 Image is clearer on the Amazon ad.

https://www.amazon.com/General-Tools-147-Fractional-Extra-Large/dp/B000UCIGCW
Oh, I see. Mine is a slightly different model, the only apparent difference being mine has a plastic cover on the head and no screw. Just a sliding snap-on batt cover.
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DON'T PANIC!
Rusty Knowlton
... and never Ever think about how good you are at something...
while you're doing it!

Jackson Flyers Association (a.k.a. The Wildcat Rangers(C/L))- Fort Jackson, SC
Metrolina Control Line Society (MCLS) - Huntersville, NC - The Carolina Gang
Congaree Flyers - http://www.congareeflyer.com
www.coxengineforum.com
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« Reply #15 on: June 07, 2017, 10:14:58 PM »

I've bought, or scrutinized for rookie new-hires, used calipers, micrometers, etc., at local pawnshops. In 1975, I bought a set of Mitutoyo micrometers and 6" dial calipers, I think $66 total, used them for about 37 years, and they're still in quite usable condition. I also bought two depth mike sets used over the years, one small foot, and one large foot.

I did buy a few things new, but I'd suggest looking for a lightly used quality tool first. I'd bet that you can find a good used tool for $40, better if you're a good haggler. I always bought more than one tool, and asked what their best price would be for all of them, cash money. Surprising what sort of discount "cash" will bring into a negotiation in a 2nd hand store.  Wink Steve
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RknRusty
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« Reply #16 on: June 08, 2017, 05:38:22 PM »

That's a damn good idea, and way better than unseen on eBay. I'd take a couple of standard size items in my pocket to check them with. Wish I'd thought of that.

For all you machinists around here and "wishIwas" tool guys(that'd be me), I've spent a few hours learning and entertained by this guy on the 'Tube. His channel is https://www.youtube.com/user/arduinoversusevil  Or search for "AvE BOLTR" in the YouTube search box. He's a bit goofy, has his own odd vocabulary, but if you can get past that he does good breakdowns and analyses of power tools and also tutorials.
Rusty
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DON'T PANIC!
Rusty Knowlton
... and never Ever think about how good you are at something...
while you're doing it!

Jackson Flyers Association (a.k.a. The Wildcat Rangers(C/L))- Fort Jackson, SC
Metrolina Control Line Society (MCLS) - Huntersville, NC - The Carolina Gang
Congaree Flyers - http://www.congareeflyer.com
www.coxengineforum.com
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« Reply #17 on: June 09, 2017, 12:54:23 PM »

Having used a vernier, then dial and for the past 40 years,  a Mitutoyo digital. I could never go back. The Mitutoyo is the only one I have used and until I heard of of problems with other brands (mostly poor battery life) I didn't realise how much better the Mitutoyo was.

In any case, my caliper gets used daily and is a vital tool in the shop. The digital's zero and push button inch to metric functions have become essential. A favorite is to set the target dimension and then zero it out. Then I know how much more I need to cut, or if the part will fit.   

Norm's 2cents
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