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Calipers, the frugal way. --or-- I'm a complete tightwad, and here's proof.

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Blog entry by dspahn posted 974 days ago 1607 reads 0 times favorited 9 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I’m pretty frugal. I had it drilled into me by my parents, who are also extremely frugal. Most of the time I’m grateful for it. Every now and then I’m just the tiniest bit ashamed. I’m not sure yet which category tonight’s escapade falls into. Maybe you can be the judge. ;)

I wanted to get some calipers to measure diameters of whatever I’m turning. I looked on craigslist, and the only thing they had was a Starrett 36 for $575! (Click here for proof.) Are you kidding me? I’m sure they’re superb calipers, but do you know how much beer $575 will buy?

So I looked at the only set at Home Depot. I think it was around $15. But it was only 6”, and I wanted something a little bit bigger. So then I went to Harbor Fright (shudder), and they had a better selection, but again, it was either a 6” or some gargantuan thing that would allow you to measure the diameter of a small moon. So I passed on everything there as well.

Then I came home, ate dinner, watched a DVR’d episode of House, and then tried to take a nap. And failed. Miserably. Because I couldn’t stop thinking about how to make my own set of calipers. After about half an hour of mental gymnastics, and after I’d decided that I could probably do it, I got up and headed out to the garage.

About an hour later this is what was born:

These consist of two pieces of scrap wood with a dovetail joint that allows them to slide back and forth, two nails, and a little wood glue to hold the nails in place. I didn’t care what the the actual diameter of whatever I’m measuring is, I just want to be able to have a reference for things like lids and such. So there are no markings. And I can’t close them beyond about a 1/4 inch. But I don’t need that either.

Eventually, I’ll add in a thumbscrew to hold the pieces in place after taking a “measurement”, but after the glue dries.

Here’s a few more shots of the ugliest set of calipers ever created. ;) As always, thanks for reading.

Calipers slid open about half way:

Side view of the dovetail joint:

And a shot of the two pieces apart, showing the male and female dovetails:



9 comments so far

View AttainableApex's profile

AttainableApex

338 posts in 1437 days


#1 posted 974 days ago

http://www.amazon.com/Anytime-Tools-Machinist-Inspection-Tool/dp/B004E7ON5I/ref=sr_1_14?s=hi&ie=UTF8&qid=1322639562&sr=1-14
do yourself a favor, its got everything you need and is made pretty well. the case keeps everything nice too.

-- Ben L

View ajosephg's profile

ajosephg

1840 posts in 2165 days


#2 posted 974 days ago

You bet! And, you won’t get all teary eyed if you drop them.

-- Joe

View littlecope's profile

littlecope

2889 posts in 2106 days


#3 posted 974 days ago

I’m all for being frugal too, and when I needed some I took a more traditional approach...

-- Mike in Concord, NH---Unpleasant tasks are simply worthy challenges to improve skills.

View dspahn's profile

dspahn

84 posts in 985 days


#4 posted 974 days ago

@AttainableApex: Eventually, perhaps, if I need them, I will purchase something like that. But not now. Because what I created will do what I need them to do. Specifically, give me a ballpark measurement of an outer diameter for use in comparing things on the lathe. Besides, this new found hobby is expensive! So far, $200 on a band saw, $160 on a scroll chuck, $150 on some extra jaws for the chuck, $40 on “nice” wood, and probably close to $100 in odds and ends like sand paper and glue.

@ajosephg: And I drop things all the time! Actually, if i were to drop these (and they broke), I’d probably be happy so I could build it again a little nicer. This is a case where the prototype becomes the production tool (which happens all too often in my profession (computer programming)).

@littlecope: Nice! I’ll probably make a set of those, too, eventually. What kind of wood did you use?

@cr1: I think I may have gone beyond ugly and into the realm of repulsive with this one. ;)

View MrRon's profile

MrRon

2731 posts in 1848 days


#5 posted 974 days ago

Years from now, someone will come across that caliper, wonder what it is and post it on a woodworking forum to be identified. Better put your name and date on it so it doesn’t get tossed.

View xwingace's profile

xwingace

204 posts in 1193 days


#6 posted 974 days ago

some gargantuan thing that would allow you to measure the diameter of a small moon
That’s no moon…

-- I'm not as good as I once was, but I'm as good once as I ever was.

View littlecope's profile

littlecope

2889 posts in 2106 days


#7 posted 973 days ago

Thanks!! I made them real quick out of some scrap 1/4” plywood…

-- Mike in Concord, NH---Unpleasant tasks are simply worthy challenges to improve skills.

View AttainableApex's profile

AttainableApex

338 posts in 1437 days


#8 posted 966 days ago

didn’t know that is what you were using it for. for that then that is great.
i thought you were measuring with those and then setting it next to a ruler and measuring accurately, haha.

a nice set of calipers is really nice to have though, and yes you spend some money in woodworking.
like i figured out that about .011 is a good gap to a slip fit of a drawer bottom. measuring a dado stack and being like i need .005 spacer makes it way easier to adjust and not have so many test cuts

-- Ben L

View stefang's profile

stefang

12605 posts in 1939 days


#9 posted 921 days ago

Great solution. I am pretty sure that all the tools including ones for measuring were first created by a craftsman out of wood and later copied in metal by a manufacturer. I think most hobby woodworkers are frugal and enjoy making their own tools when they can.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

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