What Type of Caliper Should You Use?
Calipers are arguably one of the most used tools in any machine shop around the world. No matter how technology evolves, the old school way of measuring parts will never go out of fashion.
As most of the tools filling job shops’ cabinets, calipers changed quite a bit over time. Modern calipers have become an extremely reliable tool that allows machinist to make extremely precise measurements in a quick and easy manner.
Although no machine operator will disagree on the importance of owning a good caliper, the choice of the type is a something that divides the trade. Vernier, dial or digital? Which one is the most accurate and reliable?
To answer the question, we decided to take a step back and analyze the pros and cons of each type.
The most traditional type of caliper. The name derives from Pierre Vernier, the inventor of the scale – the Vernier scale – engraved on any model. The Vernier scale allows for much more precise readings than to a standard ruler (usually to the nearest 0.02mm or 0.001 inches).
- Make no mistake they can still take simple measurements that are more than satisfactory for woodworkers.
- Minimal moving parts. Only inaccuracy in results is that of the user making a calculation mistake.
- No batteries required.
- Getting values requires a few seconds of thought more than just reading of a display or dial however it is just basic math.
- Most don’t go to the decimal places that dials and digitals are capable of.
The Mitutoyo 530-316 Vernier Caliper is probably the best option available in the market, although more affordable models are available, we generally recommend to invest in reliable tools that will last long.
Dial calipers use a rack and pinion mechanism system to transfer the linear movement of the jaws of the caliper to the rotary motion of the dial indicator.
- Assuming the rack and pinion are free of debris the accuracy can almost always be trusted.
- Since it is mechanical many trust the readout more in comparison to digital.
- No batteries required.
- Reading takes getting used to as you are reading a dial as supposed to just values.
- Dial mechanism can be knocked out of alignment or break entirely, rendering the dial readout useless
Digital calipers are the most modern version of this tool. The distance between the two jaws is measured through a pattern of bars is etched directly on the printed circuit board in the slider.
- Digital readout is instantaneous and easy. Many support switching between metric and imperial.
- Since it contains electrical components extra care needs to be taken. Moisture and battery life need to be accounted for.
- The value that is presented can sometimes be inaccurate whether it be due to the pressure used or the general quality of the tool.
The Mitutoyo 500-196-30 Advanced Onsite Sensor (AOS) Absolute Scale Digital Caliper is our first choice. The iGaging ABSOLUTE ORIGIN 0-6″ Digital Electronic Caliper is also a valuable (and cheaper) option.
So which type should you choose?
After evaluating the pros and cons we can say that there’s no universal answer to the question. Digital calipers are definitely a practical solution take makes it easier and quicker to measure, but don’t provide the same reliability and accuracy of Vernier and dial calipers.
Vernier calipers are definitely the most accurate type but are trickier to read.
Our recommendation is to choose the type that makes you feel more comfortable and invest in a quality and long-lasting tool.
This post may contain affiliate links. Please read our disclosure for more info.