Dial Caliper Quality - Woodworking Talk - Woodworkers Forum
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post #1 of 14 Old 04-06-2020, 09:24 PM Thread Starter
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Dial Caliper Quality

There’s another post that grew into a discussion about dial calipers. I figured rather than hijack that thread, I’d start a new one to talk about the relative quality difference between the inexpensive ones and the expensive ones. I’ll leave out the really expensive ones because they’re not on my radar.

Harbor freight offers one for about $20, Igaging makes one for about $35 and Starrett, Brown&Sharpe and Mitutoyo make calipers in the $100 range.

I’m generally of the belief that The Bitterness of Poor Quality Remains Long After the Sweetness of Low Price is Forgotten. I’m also of the opinion that a high degree of precision is not necessary for woodworking, but quality and reliability is. For example, I have a cheapie digital caliper that occasionally gives radically inaccurate measurements. That’s part of the reason I’m shopping for new.

Anyway, that was a long way to go to ask:

Is the quality of a $100 Starrett or Brown and Sharp worth it compared to a $35 Igaging?
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post #2 of 14 Old 04-06-2020, 09:56 PM
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I have a Mitutoyo 6" that I bought new in the mid 70's, so it was probably in the $20 to $30 range. It's a good one and I use it just about every day for woodworking. The feel, accuracy, repeatability, and reliability is very good so I wouldn't want to step down to a lesser set, even for woodworking.

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post #3 of 14 Old 04-06-2020, 10:16 PM
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I have a Mitutoyo 8" that I've had for over 20 years, good kit. What I don't like about it, though, is the LCD is small and getting harder to read as it ages...or maybe as my eyes age LOL. Also, I don't like that when you turn it off, you have to reset the zero every time. Even the el cheapo HF calipers retain zero, surprisingly enough. I am typically a middle-of-the-road kinda guy. So a while back I picked up the iGaging Absolute Origin 6" and am pretty happy with that one. The fit and finish is nice, better than the HF set that is a bit rough to me. The iGaging is smooth, display is good size and works as intended. For $35 or $40, I think it's worth it over the HF set, even though the HF is probably fine for most. If I were to buy another, I'd probably opt for the one that also does fractions as that is kinda nice to have too sometimes.

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post #4 of 14 Old 04-06-2020, 11:20 PM
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I have a Starrett and a generic ($40) fractional (1/64”) dial calipers. The Starrett is my go-to calipers but the generic calipers are accurate. However I did drop the generic caliper with closed jaws and the pointer jumped about 3/32”. I had to spin the dial so that it reads zero with the jaws closed. It still measures fine but zero is not at the 12:00 o’clock position.
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post #5 of 14 Old 04-07-2020, 12:05 AM
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I bought a 20 dollar high impact plastic dial gauge 5 years ago. I use it more often than a tape measure. Any thing under 6" is checked with it.The dial was a bit loose so I stuck it with some blu tac and its 100% reliable and repeatable

If I lose it I will not hesitate to buy another the same.

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post #6 of 14 Old 04-07-2020, 02:00 AM
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For woodworking? No, the Harbor Freight calipers are actually perfect for that

For metalworking, thats when the higher priced brands start coming into their own. Thats when you start getting into actually needing that .001" resolution to be dead accurate across its entire length, for the calipers to be impervious to oil and cutting fluids, hardened steel components, etc. Woodworking isnt nearly as demanding of the tool, not worth the extra cash
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post #7 of 14 Old 04-07-2020, 10:45 AM
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All my cheap China dial calipers work fine. The tapere part of the jaws on my plastic caliper distorted after about 15 years of use, so I cut the tapers off and still use tthe calipers.

Retired engineer-bureaucrat in Oakland, CA. Been working with wood since the 1960's.
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post #8 of 14 Old 04-07-2020, 03:19 PM
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I have a dial caliper that I bought from 'The Woodworkers Edge' (or some such name) for $40 probably 20 years ago. It is good, no it's great except for one thing. All the hash marks are about the same length. Then you have to count to determine the measurement.

I've had a couple of digital ones. I've come to the conclusion that the digital ones aren't worth changing the batteries. I'll sell them at a garage sale.

My advice is to buy the (Squirrel puke) green plastic one for $2.39 or so from Harbor Freight and spray the numbers with clear Krylon. In fact buy 10 of them, it is a life time supply. The beauty of these calipers is that you can read, instantly, to a 1/16, 1/32 with a glance and for the accuracy fanatics to the 1/64 and 1/128. Somebody was giving these away at the last AWFS.

https://www.harborfreight.com/6-in-u...per-63664.html

You'll notice that the caliper will serve those of the metric persuasion also.

For instructions on how to read a vernier caliper:

https://www.google.com/search?sxsrf=...HM-gShi7G4Aw52
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post #9 of 14 Old 04-08-2020, 08:44 PM
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I also have a couple of the 4" plastic ones, one in my desk drawer, one in the glove compartment of my car, also very handy to convert imperial to metric or vice versa.

Wise men speak because they have something to say; fools because they have to say something -Plato

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post #10 of 14 Old 04-09-2020, 11:16 AM
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You don't need a machinist grade caliper for ww'ing.

I LOVE my Igaging fractional dial gauge. No more /128" (yeah.....)

Better yet no batteries!!
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post #11 of 14 Old 04-09-2020, 11:46 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by epicfail48 View Post
For woodworking? No, the Harbor Freight calipers are actually perfect for that

For metalworking, thats when the higher priced brands start coming into their own. Thats when you start getting into actually needing that .001" resolution to be dead accurate across its entire length, for the calipers to be impervious to oil and cutting fluids, hardened steel components, etc. Woodworking isnt nearly as demanding of the tool, not worth the extra cash
What he said.

HF calipers are a very good buy and are plenty accurate enough for woodworking, a craft where the material grows and shrinks a great deal (relatively speaking) constantly. I even retrofitted one of the 6" models onto my old mill/ drill for "DRO" style spindle depth measurement. I have verified their accuracy and repeatability using my Starrett and Mitutoyo and they are actually quite repeatable. Again, plenty enough for anything woodworking.

A bonus is that if you drop a Harbor Freight caliper on the floor and ruin it you aren't out an arm and a leg. I'd cry (and drink to excess) if I had to replace any of my machine grade instruments. But with the HF guys, just cuss once and go get another one!
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Another $000,000,000.02 worth of advice,
Mark
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post #12 of 14 Old 04-09-2020, 03:27 PM
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I've had a B&S 6" Vernier since about 1972, and I had a Chinese 6" dial caliper from maybe 1984 until it died 2 years ago. I was happy with both. Several of my tools have handwheels graduated 1/8" per turn, and it's really nice to see you need to move it 1/32" and then turn it 1/4 turn. I have 1 high precision fence on a woodworking machine that is calibrated in 0.001" increments. I always picked up the Chinese tool when I was working with it. Again, handy to have the measuring tool in sync with the machine calibration. The dial caliper died suddenly one day. I was lost without it and did grieve it for a while. I replaced it with a Mitutoyo digital and find the accuracy comparable for woodworking.

While it is calibrated in 0.001" intervals, I don't find the dial caliper accurate enough for metal working, mostly lathe turning. I can't turn a shaft or bearing journal to a slip fit, friction fit, or press fit if I rely on it. I need true micrometers to do that.
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post #13 of 14 Old 04-09-2020, 08:04 PM
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The cheap HF calipers are just fine. In fact I have 2 expensive ones and several cheap ones and none are as accurate as a micrometer. They are all off about 2 thousandths of an inch. Wood working.....no big deal. Metal working.....can be a big deal.
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post #14 of 14 Old 04-10-2020, 01:15 AM
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I have the $35 iGaging and a cheaper china dial caliper. The iGaging are precise (consistent) until the battery gets weak. I can measure a piece of paper or human hair and get the same reading again and again whether I use the tips or top of the jaws. The cheaper dial calipers are junk that never give the same reading twice. They would be fine if you don't mind ± 1/64 but at that point you might as well use a ruler. Most of the time I'm not using the measurement, just transferring measurements with the jaws or depth gage.
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