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Thread: Dial vs vernier calipers

  1. #1
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    Dial vs vernier calipers

    Hi folks,

    I want to buy a non-electronic caliper, but the variety out there is dizzying and I could use a little help.

    What are the advantages of a dial caliper as compared to one with a vernier scale? Disadvantages?

    Vernier-scale calipers come in lots of styles--some appear to have a roller-knob to move the jaws. I've used that style, and it seems ok.

    Others have two lock-knobs with what looks like a separate fine-adjustment knob. What's that for, how is it used?

    Still others look to lock the jaws with a squeeze-lever instead of a threaded knob. How well does that work?

    Any other points I'm missing? Thanks in advance for your help.

    --John
    What this world needs is a good retreat.
    --Captain Beefheart

  2. #2
    I have a cheap vernier caliper which is rubbish, it has a push button that unlocks it so you can slide it back & forth. I recently acquired a used Mitutoyo 530-104 which is superb. It locks with a twist knob instead of the push button type. I think it's much nicer to use. The readings are also clear. I prefer the vernier because it is so simple and reliable.

  3. #3
    I have a 40 year old Craftsman you can have if you want it. It is in really good condition, been in a case all it's life.
    If you want it send me a PM with your address and I will mail it right out.

  4. #4
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    There is a good explanation of the vernier scale here : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vernier_scale

    My dial caliper can be 'zeroed' wherever I choose by rotating the dial. Then its easy to get relative measurements plus or minus. The same functionality is on the digital calipers. Overall digital is probably much easier to use, more precise, faster. The vernier type is probably the least fragile of the bunch.
    Last edited by Pat Barry; 07-01-2014 at 8:09 AM.

  5. #5
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    I find fractions therapeutic and so have fractional calipers. Probably due to a 30+ year career in binary, octal and hex. I have two of the ones Lee Valley offers and one from Woodcraft about 10 years old. I also have one from Peachtree that is quite rough in construction and use although cost about what the Lee Valley ones did. All read in 64ths which is as fine as I need to get in what I use calipers for in the shop (the Lee Valleys also have a 100th's scale). I keep one by the drills/drill press area, one on the planer and one at the bench; I don't really know where the Peachtree one is ;-)
    Last edited by glenn bradley; 07-01-2014 at 8:32 AM.
    "The Danish government believes that if we train 5,000 designers, and produce
    one Hans Wegner, the money is very well spent." - Ole Gjerlov-Knudsen

  6. #6
    A dial caliper can get "off" with debris in the rack. This is hard to notice. You won't remove the error by changing the bezel zero position because the cog wheel will skip over the debris, moving the jaws but not the dial for a bit. There's a way to get the debris out... and it probably doesn't need to be done very often.

    A vernier caliper would not do this I think. I have a couple but I don't use them for taking dimensional readings.

    In any case, for woodworking tolerances are forgiving in relation to metal machining. The digital calipers probably work well, though batteries may be an annoyance. The mechanism is different from a dial caliper and seems more debris resistant to me. I have a DRO on my planer and I assume it's a similar thing to a digital caliper.

  7. #7
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    I have one like Glenn that does 90% of my tasks. Though mine is a plastic and metal General brand I also have a high end digital caliper (metric and imperial) and a good micrometer for the increased precision needs.
    Shawn

    "no trees were harmed in the creation of this message, however some electrons were temporarily inconvenienced."

    "I resent having to use my brain to do your thinking"

  8. #8
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    After having 20+ years experience repairing precision tools, I can say with all confidence that the HF dial caliper is accurate. I have one with fractions/decimal.
    Never, under any circumstances, consume a laxative and sleeping pill, on the same night

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Loren Woirhaye View Post
    There's a way to get the debris out... and it probably doesn't need to be done very often.
    A straight pin gets dirt out of the rack.
    Never, under any circumstances, consume a laxative and sleeping pill, on the same night

  10. #10
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    I like my vernier calipers. Only trouble I have to find and use my reading glasses before use. One of the pitfalls of age.

    The dial calipers are much easier to see and read. Gave away my digital calipers as I detest those pieces of technology.
    Larry

  11. #11
    I had a dial caliper in my shop for a few years and it got clogged up with saw dust and became hard to use. I got rid of it and purchased a digital caliper from Harbor Freight for $10. It has worked great for more than 10 years. The only problem is that it tends to go through batteries even when you are not using it. I use it to measure thickness of boards I am planing, thickness of tenons, widths of grooves, etc.
    Lee Schierer
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  12. #12
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    Thanks everyone for your help. I didn't mention it, but I have an electronic caliper that eats batteries, which accounts for my interest in a non-electronic version.
    What this world needs is a good retreat.
    --Captain Beefheart

  13. #13
    I have a Starrett 6" fractional dial caliper. (Here's a link to Amazon) I've had it for a bunch of years and it works great. I'm sure the lower cost ones work well, also.

    I like a fractional caliper and an analog one. The problem with a digital caliper is what's known as quantization error - the caliper has to show a value so it will show the digital value closest to the real value. On an analog dial, you can see that the measurement is very close to a specific value not not completely there. I like that extra bit of information.

    If your primary interest is the fractional values, make sure the caliper you purchase has the fractional values in the outer dial (like the Starrett does). It makes it easier to read than if the fractional values are on the inner part of the dial.

    Mike
    Last edited by Mike Henderson; 07-01-2014 at 6:45 PM.
    Go into the world and do well. But more importantly, go into the world and do good.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Henderson View Post
    I have a Starrett 6" fractional dial caliper. (Here's a link to Amazon) I've had it for a bunch of years and it works great.
    Me too.

    The thing I like best is that it measures in "ticks" and those ticks correspond exactly with the "ticks" on my TS scale, my collection of PC 690 scales, etc.

    So - "1 and a half ticks below 7/16" gets me dead nuts moving between measuring and setup. Every time. I can count ticks, and not sweat the stupid factor, if you know what I mean.

    I also have a great set of Mitutoyo digitals. Can't beat them, either.

    But the Starrett Fractional Dial "Ticks" model is my horse.

  15. #15
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    The concept of a vernier is old school, I remember reading them 50 years ago on old surveyor's transits while measuring angles. Digital is where its at now, but a good compromise is the dial caliper, no batteries required. Able to read much more accurately than a vernier. I have a cheap dial and a HF digital, the dial get used the most.
    NOW you tell me...

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