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Forum topic by one19 posted 09-19-2016 06:41 PM 610 views 0 times favorited 24 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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one19

65 posts in 762 days


09-19-2016 06:41 PM

Wasn’t really sure where to post this, several forums seemed like a possible fit. But I digress…

Do any of you weekend warriors ever use a digital caliper? I’ve had a few instances lately where it would have been nice to come up with a precise measurement, but I have nothing better than a 12” Empire steel rule, marked at 32nds. So I started looking into digital calipers and discovered a whole other world out there for folks who crave precision. There are dozens of calipers available on Amazon, along with myriad other digital measuring tools. After a couple hours of online research, I began to wonder if I’m not just overthinking things…

Thoughts?


24 replies so far

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MrUnix

4203 posts in 1659 days


#1 posted 09-19-2016 06:52 PM

I’ve got a couple.. and the cheap ($9.99 on sale) HF one is just as accurate as some much more expensive ones I have. I also have one of the really cheap all plastic ones from there, which I believe I got on sale for something like $1.99, that works just as well, and I’m not too concerned about it getting trashed. Unless you are looking for 0.0001+/- precision, they both work just fine – It’s only wood after all :)

Cheers,
Brad

-- Brad in FL - To be old and wise, you must first be young and stupid

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Aj2

686 posts in 1258 days


#2 posted 09-19-2016 07:00 PM

I have a digital caliper but it’s a pain because the battery drains if I keep it in.So i find myself taking it in and out too much.
So here’s what I use a lot it always ready to measure a screw or drill bit.

Aj

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one19

65 posts in 762 days


#3 posted 09-19-2016 07:03 PM

Ah, AJ, so you’re recommending the old-fashioned analog approach… are those traditionally more accurate/easier to use?

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SyndicateCoTToN

9 posts in 280 days


#4 posted 09-19-2016 07:08 PM

Just like a toolmakers square, the prices very on the quality of the build and the accuracy it provides.

I have one large digital Mitutoyo caliper (18”) that I used for machining/testing automotive parts. These are very expensive, but a gold standard in my opinion, for work the has to be dead accurate in the manufacturing process. Like machining parts to match an existing piece. These tend to be hundreds of dollars and measure to the ten-thousandths of an inch.

For woodwork, I tent to use a cheaper, smaller caliper that you can find at an auto repair store or a place like Harbor Freight. They usually are in the 6’’ length and I find that are accurate enough for my purposes of woodworking. You can usually pick one of these up for less that $10 and these measure to the hundredth of an inch.

I would suggest starting with a cheap one and see how much you use it. Upgrade later when you are at the limits of your caliper.

View OggieOglethorpe's profile

OggieOglethorpe

1211 posts in 1570 days


#5 posted 09-19-2016 07:22 PM

I have both a mid-line digital ($30? AFAIR) and a Starrett dial caliper I picked up at a garage sale.

In normal use, I actually prefer the dial. I can rotate the dial to my expected measurement and more easily compare one or more parts to each other or a standard, at a quick glance, without math or comparing numbers. The dial is not that hard to read for precise absolute measurements. No battery, and the display is always visible without touching the tool. I often find the battery saver has turned the display off, and I have to turn the digital back on to read.

I prefer the digital when making metric measurements. My dial is English only, as well as fast conversions between metric, English measurements, and fractions, simply by pushing a button that cycles MM / IN / Fractional Inches.

Either one is more than accurate enough for anything I do tuning tools, ID’ing drill bits, etc… Neither gets much use for woodworking, as I find a $4-5 brass 4” slide caliper that fits in my pocket and is almost unbreakable is plenty for things like comparing wood thicknesses.

If you get a digital, there are pretty decent deals on coin batteries on Amazon, far cheaper than any walk-in sources I’ve found.

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one19

65 posts in 762 days


#6 posted 09-19-2016 07:55 PM

So you guys primarily reach for a caliper—digital or dial—for set-ups and machining? But not really for woodworking measurements… is that what I’m hearing.

And Cotton: yes, I’ll start with a cheapie and see if I can get the hang of it first.

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jmartel

6565 posts in 1610 days


#7 posted 09-19-2016 08:00 PM

You are overthinking. Throw away the measurements and focus on fitting parts to one another. The measurements are generally irrelevant unless a piece needs to fit in a space perfectly or you have a drawer/opening size requirement to fit some object.

Once I realized this, the accuracy of my work improved dramatically. I use a tape for rough initial measurements and then after that it gets put away for good. Rules are used as straight edges only.

-- The quality of one's woodworking is directly related to the amount of flannel worn.

View MrUnix's profile (online now)

MrUnix

4203 posts in 1659 days


#8 posted 09-19-2016 08:15 PM

So you guys primarily reach for a caliper—digital or dial—for set-ups and machining? But not really for woodworking measurements… is that what I m hearing.
- one19

I use mine quite a bit for lathe work – mostly for metal, but occasionally for wood as well. Any time something round needs to be measured :)

Cheers,
Brad

-- Brad in FL - To be old and wise, you must first be young and stupid

View splintergroup's profile

splintergroup

815 posts in 682 days


#9 posted 09-19-2016 08:45 PM

I use a $20 dial caliper all the time. I 100% agree with jmartel about measurements in general, but when fitting a piece or you need accuracy (meaning within a few 0.001’s of an inch), calipers are handy and fast. Be sure to get the kind with the shielded rack (Aj2’s picture above), grit/dust plays havoc with fine gears….

Digital is ok, but not necessarily any more accurate and replacing those button batteries gets old.

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one19

65 posts in 762 days


#10 posted 09-19-2016 09:05 PM

As always, I’m enlightened by the Lumberjock community… which is why I ask in the first place. :)

Thanks, people. I appreciate your time and expertise.

View jmartel's profile

jmartel

6565 posts in 1610 days


#11 posted 09-19-2016 09:09 PM



I use a $20 dial caliper all the time. I 100% agree with jmartel about measurements in general, but when fitting a piece or you need accuracy (meaning within a few 0.001 s of an inch), calipers are handy and fast. Be sure to get the kind with the shielded rack (Aj2 s picture above), grit/dust plays havoc with fine gears….

Digital is ok, but not necessarily any more accurate and replacing those button batteries gets old.

- splintergroup

It’s faster generally to take a quick couple swipes with a smoothing plane/shooting board. And you can sneak up on the fitment. This is a time where hand tools are definitely superior. By the time someone nudges a fence into place and makes a test cut, you can have the piece already fit and moved on.

-- The quality of one's woodworking is directly related to the amount of flannel worn.

View MrRon's profile

MrRon

3926 posts in 2703 days


#12 posted 09-19-2016 10:10 PM

I use whatever is appropriate at the time. I could be a caliper, a rule or a story stick. As for digital calipers, the best one on the market is the Mitutoyo 6”. I’ve had several HF calipers, but they eventually fail. The Mit costs around $150, but is worth every penny. I also do metalworking where reliable and accurate measurements are a necessity.

View pintodeluxe's profile

pintodeluxe

4852 posts in 2273 days


#13 posted 09-19-2016 11:43 PM

iGaging IP54 EZ cal digital calipers. They switch from fractional, to decimal inches, or millimeters with the push of a button. There was a video review of all the mid to lower priced digital calipers that really sold me on the iGaging calipers. Little things like the contact points closing fully against each other, and the measurement reliably returning to zero are important. The review showed how some other brands have sliding wheels that are difficult to turn or inaccurate.

I can highly recommend the iGaging at any price, but I think you will be surprised at the value as well.

-- Willie, Washington "If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice" - Rush

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MadMark

976 posts in 913 days


#14 posted 09-20-2016 12:02 AM

Instead of using a digital tool to measure an analog cut from a fence bump, I use a digital fence that locks to 1/32” +-0.002” every time.

A digital height gauge makes depth setting on both the saw and router a snap:

All of these are much easier to read than analog gauges esp the thickness readout on the planer.

M

-- Madmark - Madmark2150@yahoo.com Wiretreefarm.com

View TheFridge's profile

TheFridge

5764 posts in 946 days


#15 posted 09-20-2016 12:20 AM

What if you need to move the fence .030 to the left mark?

-- Shooting down the walls of heartache. Bang bang. I am. The warrior.

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