Advice on Dial Calipers, etc

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Jan 27, 2002
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468
Guys,
I need to buy a good dial caliper, as I'm just getting started doing a lot of knife mods, and I'm eventually going to build framelocks.
I need a good caliper for measuring everything, and I was wondering if anyone recommends a certain model for knifemaking? I have seen verniers without the dials, and then I've seen DIAL calipers, that are advertised as "one-rev" meaning, that one full revolution on the caliper= .001" (I think)
Anyhow, before I spend my $$, I wanted to make sure I don't go out and buy something, and then wish I had bought another model. Thanks for any suggestions.
 
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Nov 27, 1999
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3,745
I'm going to draw a lot (Change that to a LOT) of fire about this.
Dial calipers are a necessity IMHO. I also feel that you need an expensive set for some things.

I have perhaps 50 of them. Two are expensive and are reserved for very precise work. The rest are Harbor Freight/Enco/ overseas stuff.

Stay away from plastic. It flexes too much. Steel can be had with a fairly good dial for as little as $6.00.

Keep them clean. Especially the rack and track.

Test them often to make sure they repeat their measurements.

Micrometers are different. Always go for the quality stuff like Starrett.
 

Stacy E. Apelt - Bladesmith

ilmarinen - MODERATOR
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Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider
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Harbor freight digital calipers are always on sale for about 10-12 bucks.Get a couple.They measure to .0001 or .001,close enough for most work. Remember to zero them each time you measure.Like peter said - metal not plastic.I have precision measuring tools for gemology that cost over $200 that are not much more accurate than these $10 specials.I would advise staying away from dial calipers,mistakes in reading are common if you are not used to them.
 
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Mar 31, 2002
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razorhunter said:
I've seen DIAL calipers, that are advertised as "one-rev" meaning, that one full revolution on the caliper= .001" (I think)
I think you'll find the "one rev." reference pertains to calipers which read 0.100" per revolution....some are made to show 0.200" per revolution and are somwhat more confusing to read, especially when you're in a hurry. I used to do repairs on instruments such as calipers and micrometers and the best advice I can give you to maximize the life of a dial caliper is to keep the rack clean and try not to operate (open or close) them really fast.

Larry S.
 
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I remeber when I took the machinist apprenticeship course, we had to learn on verniers, line up the lines :( , now I use dial , but mostly a digital, a 4" digital because it's easier to take along with me in it's little custom box I have for it.

Always have some sort of standard to check it against to insure accuracy.

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Always check the accuracy specifications on any measuring instrument (not to be confused with graduations). Digital calipers that have readouts in .0005" increments might only be accurate to .008"! :(

With folders, you're looking to measure thickness more often than anything else. While calipers are nice, micrometers are inherently more accurate. ;)
 
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Nov 27, 1999
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Tom has a point about the Micrometers. They may be more useful for your folders. Here's the downside to that. I don't scrimp on them because I've seen too many that had a lot of variation in the torque washers.
 
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When buying these kinds of measuring instruments, it's hard to go wrong with brands like Mitutoyo, Starrett, or Browne and Sharp. A good micrometer or caliper can last a lifetime! ;)
 
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Also keep an eye out for tools with hardened jaws, they tend to last longer and keep accuracy better(less wear).

Most brand name as Tom said won't steer you wrong, remember this though, you get what you pay for.
 
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Thanks Tom, and others,
Just what I was looking for. The "inside scoop" from others w/ more experience than me.
I assume that micrometer/thickness gauge are the same. If not, then VERY similar?
I think I will find a good model in the MSC Big Blue Book, and then look for it on ebay.
Thanks so much fellas. Looks like I need a micrometer and a caliper. Damn, and I thought I was actually going to be able to save up for a Bader III or KMG1!!! Oh no!!
 
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I have outfitted most of my shop with older high quality tools that I couldn't have afforded new. I got lucky a few months ago and found a local used machine tool dealer who had bought a lot of stuff from the Ratheon plant in Goleta CA that had closed down. All aerospace and defense stuff. He had a whole bunch of inspection gear that he'd bought in the lot, but it seemed like his focus was the bigger machinery so this stuff was just laying around. I got a bunch of great stuff for less than ebay prices. Things like a 0"-6" micrometer set (mixed between Browne and Sharp and Starrett). 12" Mitutoyo dial calipers, 6" Starrett Dial Calipers, Starrett and Browne & Sharpe dial indicators, etc. The stuff was mostly in original boxes and much of it had calibration stickers that only expired in March or April 2004. Most of the boxes were beat up but the tools in them were in good shape. All the mics I saw were carbide anvil versions. It was all analogue stuff, no digital (no batteries required). Last I knew he still had a couple milk crate sized boxes of the stuff. If anyone wants his contact info, send me an email.

John

John
 
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razorhunter said:
I assume that micrometer/thickness gauge are the same. If not, then VERY similar?

Not really - this was a mistake I made a while back. Similar concept, but different particulars and applications. Thickness gauge contacts are held to the measured material only by relatively mild spring pressure -- makes them nearly impossible to use for measurements of hard materials if you're trying to hold and measure by hand (any movement of the gauge and/or the item levers the contact points apart, hosing any attempt at accurate measurement). Handheld thickness gauges are really best for measuring softer or more flexible items (especially items that are easily compressed), or for very quick rough checks of thickness for general QC on items that are stationary (not handheld).

I wound up buying a couple of Starrett *mechanical digital* micrometers off of ebay (they read 0.001" directly on the digits, with 0.0001" measurements read off the barrel). No %@#$ batteries either. Sweet.

(Oh, yeah, all these tools come in metric versions also - so be sure which variant you're getting.)

-- Dwight
 
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Mar 13, 2001
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I have a Starrett dial caliper that I bought around 20 yrs. ago and as far as I am concerned you can't beat the quality of Starrett.
 
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Last I heard, some people reported the more recent Starrett dial calipers to have soft jaws. I'd stick with Browne & Sharpe and Mitutoyo for your good set. Peacock dial calipers (made in Japan) are also reportedly very good and cheaper than the aforementioned. Get the 0.100" per revolution; 0.200" are tougher to read.

I love my analog 6" Browne & Sharpe. Be sure to keep it clean!
 
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Electronic micrometers really aren't a problem when the battery goes dead unless you have a model without a graduated spindle.

I find the advantages of being able to use them in absolute or incremental mode far outweigh the hassle of putting a new battery in every year or so. And, if the battery does go dead - but it has a graduated spindle - you use it just like any other mechanical micrometer. ;)
 
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Jan 27, 2002
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zerogee said:
Not really - this was a mistake I made a while back. Similar concept, but different particulars and applications. Thickness gauge contacts are held to the measured material only by relatively mild spring pressure -- makes them nearly impossible to use for measurements of hard materials if you're trying to hold and measure by hand (any movement of the gauge and/or the item levers the contact points apart, hosing any attempt at accurate measurement). Handheld thickness gauges are really best for measuring softer or more flexible items (especially items that are easily compressed), or for very quick rough checks of thickness for general QC on items that are stationary (not handheld).

I wound up buying a couple of Starrett *mechanical digital* micrometers off of ebay (they read 0.001" directly on the digits, with 0.0001" measurements read off the barrel). No %@#$ batteries either. Sweet.

(Oh, yeah, all these tools come in metric versions also - so be sure which variant you're getting.)

-- Dwight

zerogee,
Could you please explain "mechanical digital"? THanks
 
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Jun 8, 2000
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That Long Island Indicator site is interesting. I've always had a fondness for Starrett but they seem to trash the stuff. I've heard that some of their stuff these days is Chinese but all that I have is older gear. Luckily I've got more Browne & Sharpe mics than Starrett. I find it especially interesting that they single out the Starrett 811 as perhaps the worst indicator they've ever seen. I scored one recently for dirt cheap and thought it was cool because the display will tilt. If it does turn out to be junk, at elast I'm only into it for $30.00 and I have an Interapid for back-up which they seem to feel is a gold standard.

Tools, you just can't have to many.

John
 
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