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Author Topic: Choosing a new digital or dial caliper  (Read 5561 times)

Offline RknRusty

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Choosing a new digital or dial caliper
« 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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Online Brett Buck

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Re: Choosing a new digital or dial caliper
« 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

Offline RknRusty

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Re: Choosing a new digital or dial caliper
« 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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Offline Chris Fretz

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Re: Choosing a new digital or dial caliper
« 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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Online pmackenzie

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Re: Choosing a new digital or dial caliper
« 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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Offline RknRusty

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Re: Choosing a new digital or dial caliper
« 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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Offline Chris Fretz

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Re: Choosing a new digital or dial caliper
« 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.

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Offline Dave_Trible

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Re: Choosing a new digital or dial caliper
« 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.

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Offline RknRusty

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Re: Choosing a new digital or dial caliper
« 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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Offline Fredvon4

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Re: Choosing a new digital or dial caliper
« 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....
"A good scare teaches more than good advice"

Fred von Gortler IV

Offline RknRusty

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Re: Choosing a new digital or dial caliper
« 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. ::). 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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Offline phil c

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Re: Choosing a new digital or dial caliper
« 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.
phil Cartier

Offline RknRusty

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Re: Choosing a new digital or dial caliper
« 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.
DON'T PANIC!
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while you're doing it!

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Online pmackenzie

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Re: Choosing a new digital or dial caliper
« 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.  :)

 Image is clearer on the Amazon ad.

https://www.amazon.com/General-Tools-147-Fractional-Extra-Large/dp/B000UCIGCW
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Offline RknRusty

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Re: Choosing a new digital or dial caliper
« Reply #14 on: May 27, 2017, 11:20:18 PM »

Screw driver for the battery door.  :)

 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.
DON'T PANIC!
Rusty Knowlton
... and never Ever think about how good you are at something...
while you're doing it!

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Metrolina Control Line Society (MCLS) - Huntersville, NC - The Carolina Gang
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Offline Steve Helmick

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Re: Choosing a new digital or dial caliper
« 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.  ;) Steve
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Offline RknRusty

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Re: Choosing a new digital or dial caliper
« 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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Rusty Knowlton
... and never Ever think about how good you are at something...
while you're doing it!

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Online Norm Furutani

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Re: Choosing a new digital or dial caliper
« 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

Offline phil c

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Re: Choosing a new digital or dial caliper
« Reply #18 on: January 03, 2020, 04:39:29 PM »
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

The first cheapie digital calipers I got would start as soon as you opened it.  More recently they all come, as above with an ON switch.  I find it horribly exasperating because it is right in the middle of things and can easily get bumped when try to do a measurement in an awkward place.

Figure $40ish, especially if you can get it on sale.  That applies to either digital or mechanical. SDI makes a nice mechanical calipers that is miles better than any of the cheaper ones that retails for about $50but can be had on sale.
The cheapie $50 retail all seem to have the on/off switch.  Get up over a $100 to get an auto start one.

I usually go to mscdirect.com because they have a warehouse a few miles away.  Convenient. 
phil Cartier

Offline Motorman

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Re: Choosing a new digital or dial caliper
« Reply #19 on: January 19, 2020, 01:27:03 PM »
I much prefer dial calipers. For some reason so much easier to conceive what I'm doing.


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Offline Howard Rush

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Re: Choosing a new digital or dial caliper
« Reply #20 on: January 21, 2020, 12:40:36 PM »
Thanks for the link to the Arduino guy.  Pretty amusing. 
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Offline John Given

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Re: Choosing a new digital or dial caliper
« Reply #21 on: January 22, 2020, 06:33:11 AM »
As with most things, the “you get what you pay for” thing applies here. Quality precision measuring tools can be quite expensive.

I have used these Mitutoyo 8” calipers daily in a manufacturing environment for nearly 20 years. I bought them used from eBay for $80.

They have survived multiple drops from as much as 7’ up. Only casualty is the thumb wheel, which is easily fixed.

If they die today there will be no shame for them.

If I ever need to replace them, it will be with Mitutoyo.

This being said, you must gauge your need vs. cost.


Offline RknRusty

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Re: Choosing a new digital or dial caliper
« Reply #22 on: January 22, 2020, 08:20:43 PM »
I have used these Mitutoyo 8” calipers daily in a manufacturing environment for nearly 20 years. I bought them used from eBay for $80.

They have survived multiple drops from as much as 7’ up. Only casualty is the thumb wheel, which is easily fixed.

If they die today there will be no shame for them.

If I ever need to replace them, it will be with Mitutoyo.
After reading all of the replies, I have to agree, and will look for Mitutoyo next time I want to replace or upgrade.

I started this thread in 2017, and am glad it came back to life. After all it's something all of us modelers use every day. As of now I'm happy with the $35 digital 6" caliper I bought at Lowes. If I ever see an old style dial caliper, I would like to add that to my tools too, just because it's quick and easy with no battery to die.

Thanks for the replies,
Rusty
DON'T PANIC!
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while you're doing it!

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Metrolina Control Line Society (MCLS) - Huntersville, NC - The Carolina Gang
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Offline Mark wood

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Re: Choosing a new digital or dial caliper
« Reply #23 on: February 29, 2020, 06:34:47 AM »
I have good calipers, decent calipers, digital calipers and a dozen or more cheap HF calipers. Digital calipers end up being dead battery holders at exactly the wrong time and the spare batteries I bought for them are generally in the same state. Also the digital end up switching to some other unknownium state at exactly the wrong time and confuse me which, in turn, causes me to go ff on some divergence trying to figure out why my stuff isn't fitting resulting in me doing a redo... I don't do digital anymore. I have several of the Anytime Tool calipers which I like a lot. Not cheap, not spensive, and the finish doesn't offend my sense of feel. For the price of a Starret, I have some of those too but they stay in the toolbox mostly, I can get 10 or more HF elcheapos. All calipers are +/- 0.001" tools and HF do a decent enough job of that. Consequently I have calipers in about every nook and cranny in the shop where I am likely to need / use calipers. And if one gets broke, no worries, I have another one. If I need more precision, there are other tools for that.
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Offline Howard Rush

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Re: Choosing a new digital or dial caliper
« Reply #24 on: March 08, 2020, 09:33:25 PM »
As with most things, the “you get what you pay for” thing applies here.

For this and other electronical stuff, it also depends on when you paid.  I bought the early Starrett caliper below as a reward to myself for getting a raise at work.  It never did work very well and is now deceased.  The $10 Harbor Freight unit below it is my current favorite.  It turns on automatically (only when you tell it to, in contrast to other HF units, which are battery depletion devices) and works a treat.  Most HF calipers work, but I don't know how accurate they are. 
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Offline katana

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Re: Choosing a new digital or dial caliper
« Reply #25 on: March 09, 2020, 03:17:02 AM »
Calipers aren't designed for finite accuracy - you want that use a micrometer! Most of the lower end calipers - we pay about £8 / $10 for them in the discount stores will display 0.01mm / 0.001" resolution and i'd guess they may be within 0.005 accurate which is pretty damn accurate for model building - Horses for Courses !

Offline Lauri Malila

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Re: Choosing a new digital or dial caliper
« Reply #26 on: March 29, 2020, 03:05:28 AM »
Structurally a digital and mechanical (nonius) calipers are similar. No matter how good the tool quality is, a mechanical caliper is meant to measure with 0,1mm (0,004”) precision. With some skills you can acchieve 0,05mm (0,002”) accuracy.
Most digital calipers show 0,01mm (0,0005”) but usually that can be ignored, at least as an absolute measurement.
It can only be usefull if you have a good ”touch”’ with the instrument, in work with repetitive measurements.
If you really need to measure 1/100mm and less, you must have constant measuring force, like in a micrometer. L

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