Top 5 Digital Calipers for Machinists [Updated 2020]

August 5, 2019 11:45 am

One of the first tools that machinists mention when asked to name the most important tool in their toolbox is a caliper. Although not as accurate as micrometers, calipers are handy and practical tools that can help machinists take quick measurements of their parts. If you don’t have your own caliper or need to purchase a new one, you should do it quickly.

There are three main types of calipers: Vernier, Dial and Digital. Since one type is not unanimously considered better than the others, the selection is generally based on personal preference. If you don’t know where to start, you can check out our guide to find out the pros and cons of each model.

In this post, we will help you identify the best digital calipers for your needs.  Digital calipers, unlike their Vernier and Dial relatives, have a digital display that makes it easier to read measurements.

As we extensively stressed in other blog posts, when it comes to inspection and measurement, having a precise and reliable tool is key. That’s why we always recommend spending a little more by purchasing a tool from manufacturers that are well known for the quality of their products. We understand, however, that sometimes your budget might not allow that, so we’ve included some more affordable models that will also help you get the job done.

We were curious which digital calipers have become the most popular among metalworkers in 2020, so we asked the Practical Machinist community via social media to express their preference. Out of the 200+ responses, there were five brands that dominated the conversation. Those favored models are as follows, in order from least to most recommended.

#5 INSIZE 1108-300 Electronic Caliper

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An affordable option, this electronic caliper includes a sturdy case. Although it is not a high-end tool, this option will be an accurate and reliable addition to your toolbox.

#4 Mahr Federal 4103401 16 EWRi Digital Caliper

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Affordability and accuracy are guaranteed with the Mahr Federal digital caliper. This tool allows both absolute and incremental measurement readings. Product details highlight the durability and reliability of this tool in all types of workshop environments.

#3 Starrett 798A-6/150 Digital Caliper

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If products made in the USA are your top choice, this is your tool! The Starrett digital caliper is coolant-proof and built to protect against dust, water, and oil, so you won’t have to worry about wear. The heavy-duty hardened stainless steel bar provides longevity and corrosion resistance.

#2 Brown & Sharpe 00590092 Twin-Cal IP40 Digital Caliper

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Another USA-made option, this tool came in a close second among the community. The Brown & Sharpe model features a smooth and durable stainless-steel frame. Compatible with all work environments, this digital caliper is built to withstand exposure to dust and liquid.

#1 Mitutoyo 500-752-20, Digimatic Caliper

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This coolant-proof model was hands down the most raved about digital caliper by the Practical Machinist community. Multiple machinists who have used different brands in their career claimed Mitutoyo was the one who got it right. Accuracy and ease of reading were the two expressed strengths of this digital caliper.

 

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25 Comments

  • Murphyc1 says:

    I would rate Tesa digital calipers much better than Mitutoyo. I have the same Tesa for about 30 years. We have several scrap Mitutoyo’s and do not use Mitutoyo any more.

    • I’m with you. Every one of my brown and sharp tools is as good as the day it was made, and they were great when I bought them, some more than 40 years ago.

  • art says:

    i have a starrett digital vernier.#721. starrett said that it,s obsolete and cannot be repaired. when i slide toget a measurement,it stays at zero. i think it can be fixed.any help. the old verniers are great. i hate to let it go.any help will be appreciated

    • Mr D says:

      Hello, I am lead repairman for ICM in Shelby Twp. Michigan. Starrett has gone the way of many manufacturers these days…they have somewhat stopped making many parts replacements for their older model gages, rendering them obsolete. I think they maybe would like customers to buy new gages from them? Parts are depleted over the years and when they are no longer available they do not replenish their stock. I know exactly how you feel about a trusted measuring instrument…if they have served you well for years and you’ve become accustomed to them, you do not want anything to happen to them. I personally have had to inform my customers that this is happening more often now, and they may have to decide on replacing their favorite measuring tools.

    • kiwi2wheels says:

      It may be worth contacting Long Island Instrument Works.

  • Frankster says:

    What about Brown & Sharpe???

  • Rewt says:

    I agree about Tesa. To Frankster; B&S hand measuring tools are under TESA, which is in turn under Hexagon Metrology.

  • kietch says:

    we use Mitutoyo Dial 0-6″ & like it very much, very accurate. Use digitals if you want more accuracy

  • Hello, It is very helpful for me to gain perfect knowledge from you that is reflecting on my educational institute. Here I am getting some extraordinary guideline from your post. Thanks for your informative article.

  • Brian says:

    How accurate is the digital caliper. Compared to the dial one.

  • Tom says:

    Digital brown and sharp calipers with the round depth rod, are the only way to go.

  • Jimbo says:

    When I got out of machining school I invested a lot of money in a bunch of Starrett tools inc luding their original digital caliper. GARBAGE. Battery life about one month. No fine adjust. Fought with Starrett for months until they finall replaced it with an improved model. Still no fine adjust, and still a slow read rate, but at least a on /off switch to save batteries. I learned the best model on the market is Mitutoyo. I buy the ones with carbide jaws. Expensive, but worth every penny.

    • Bruski says:

      I replace my digital tools every 3 to 4 years anyway so carbide tip is nice but not necessary. I use my calipers daily so they get worn in a few years regardless of the quality. Of course you don’t want to buy crap. But you don’t need the best.

  • Robbie says:

    Go with Mitutoyo Solar power…No playing with batteries
    I have mine for over 15 years.

  • Don says:

    I have Mititoyo solar power. Can’t read them if not in birght light! Not all of our shop is brightly lit, especially the material storage area. They are nice as long as the light is bright enough tho.

  • Hit-&-Miss Tom says:

    Retired so most of what I do is for myself. Calipers (any ones mostly) are all ok. I have some battery operated ones and they work fine, until I go to measure and the battery is dead. My go to ones are dial calipers. Accuracy was mentioned, but for me the micrometer comes into play when I am trying to get to a specific size.

  • Safedoom says:

    I have experienced the traditional calipers and loved it.I however get blown away by the digital technology and how easily it displays the measurements. I would recommend that anybody should know to read all the types.

  • r11449 says:

    Really wish there was a U.S., or any non-PRC manufactured, caliper that included a direct read out of fractional measurements.

  • I am very fortunate to be able to buy any brand of Caliper I want. That said I chose the B&S 8”. Not only are they less expensive than Starrett they are not made in China like Starrett. I’ve used B&S, Starrett and Mititoyo tools for 40+ years, until now. No more China products regardless of the quality or slave labor prices.

  • Sam says:

    I hate to bust the bubble on the Starrett and Tesa Brown & Sharpe models shown but both of those are made in China (Check Grainger’s site). I don’t know specifically about B&S but Starrett has a lot of common calipers and gauges made in China as part of their global program. I ordered a 6 inch dial caliper a while back. Although well made I was very surprised to find they were not made in the USA. I thought that I saw something in the catalog or on the web that disclosed this but I was unable to find this at present.

  • John Vilas says:

    As far as I know, The Tesa (B&S) calipers are still Swiss. I recently bought one and a friend brought it from Germany. The text on the back is in English. I have another one brought to me from Sweden and it has the name Limit on it, also a very good caliper. trying to buy one here in the states is difficult. The only vendor I have found is out of Australia and be ware of the exchange rate.

  • Clark Magnuson says:

    I have ~ 20 calipers. But all I have of this list is a couple Mitutoyo calipers. I will buy some of the others.

  • Clint says:

    I went back to a dial caliper as one too many times I found the zero off after taking a reading with a digital.

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