Author Topic: Digital calipers — what to buy?  (Read 6289 times)

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Offline tooki

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Digital calipers — what to buy?
« on: July 17, 2018, 10:20:46 am »
So I feel I’ve outgrown my $15 Aldi calipers. Actually, they’re junk: use more than a battery per year since they never truly turn off, but above all, depending on how you hold it, they often skip, so returning to zero suddenly the number has gone up in  2.54mm/0.1” steps, usually 5.08mm. I’ve fucked up countless measurements because of this. It’s easy to notice an added 5mm when measuring something that’s just 3mm, but on a 50mm object it’s not obvious. As the battery drains, it gets more and more sensitive to spurious jumps.

So it’s time for something proper. The local tool distributors carry a number of brands, and the ones I’ve been looking at are Mitutoyo (duh), Sylvac (Swiss) And Mahr (German). In fact one distributor has a sale right now covering a few models from each. (US brands are less likely to be available here.)

So what do I need to look for? I know I want the thumbwheel (any reason why I wouldn’t want it?), and ideally bigger digits. I also know the standard 6”/150mm is more than enough for me at the moment. I also don’t see any need for a data link. But what else should I look for? I assume IP67 rating keeps dust out and theoretically improves longevity, right? What about jaw shape? Micrometer resolution? Square vs round depth gauge? Carbide jaws? (Expensive!)

[Edit: since it doesn’t seem to be clear, I’m expressly asking for help evaluating which of those features make sense, because the range of models is overwhelming.]

Some models list “inductive” sensing. Others “absolute positioning”. What should I look for?

For what it’s worth, I was using a mitutoyo recently and, just like the instructor warned me, it was hella easy to accidentally hit the hold button and thus inadvertently not take a new reading at all. Didn’t like that button layout.

They’ve also got some sets on sale, with a caliper, micrometer, and various metalworking tools. I don’t think I need a micrometer, but is it worth having?

My actual needs are modest. I’m measuring mostly things like screws, components, cutouts, etc. But I absolutely hate using shitty tools, I want something dependable and that feels good in my hand, where the parts slide smoothly without wobble, with great usability.

So, any advice? Unfortunately, I don’t think there’s any opportunity to try before buying, nor any real return period, so I hope the hive mind can help me out! :)

Thanks in advance!
« Last Edit: July 17, 2018, 06:21:34 pm by tooki »
 

Offline TERRA Operative

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Re: Digital calipers — what to buy?
« Reply #1 on: July 17, 2018, 10:54:37 am »
Anything with the brand name 'Mitutoyo' is worth the money and won't let you down.

I have been using my IP68 rated 'Absolute' series Mitutoyo calipers for 10 years and they still work fantastic.


https://ecatalog.mitutoyo.com/Calipers-C1331.aspx
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Offline Muttley Snickers

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Re: Digital calipers — what to buy?
« Reply #2 on: July 17, 2018, 10:59:33 am »
There are already a few existing threads on the forum which contain some very good information and recommendations all of which is still relevant, sorry I can't post links from this device.
 

Online Andy Watson

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Re: Digital calipers — what to buy?
« Reply #3 on: July 17, 2018, 11:05:37 am »
If your budget is adequate, another vote for Mitutoyo, but make sure they're genuine. Otherwise go for a brand name that is associated with metrology- this should increase the likelyhood that some quality control has been attempted.

I've been happy with these:
https://www.machine-dro.co.uk/150mm-6-digitronic-digital-caliper-moore-wright-basic-line-110-dbl-series.html
Typically the battery is lasting about 18 months.
 

Online wraper

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Re: Digital calipers — what to buy?
« Reply #4 on: July 17, 2018, 11:13:08 am »
If your budget is adequate, another vote for Mitutoyo, but make sure they're genuine.
Yep, ebay is full of counterfeits
 

Offline tooki

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Re: Digital calipers — what to buy?
« Reply #5 on: July 17, 2018, 11:29:31 am »
There are already a few existing threads on the forum which contain some very good information and recommendations all of which is still relevant, sorry I can't post links from this device.
Really? I did a search and didn't find any useful threads about calipers. (Mostly about cheap chinesium ones.)

If your budget is adequate, another vote for Mitutoyo, but make sure they're genuine.
Yep, ebay is full of counterfeits
As I stated in my OP, I'm looking at local tool distributors. Not ebay. So yeah, my budget can handle a Mitutoyo since I said that's what I was looking at! ;)



But yeah, folks, I know Mitutoyo is a safe bet, but they make a gazillion different kinds, and in my post I asked about features and usability. Any input on those?!? And what about the Swiss and German products? (They're priced pretty much the same as Mitutoyo.)
« Last Edit: July 17, 2018, 11:31:57 am by tooki »
 

Offline Skashkash

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Re: Digital calipers — what to buy?
« Reply #6 on: July 17, 2018, 11:45:17 am »
I have some mitutoyo calipers. And they are very nice. Also pricey.


The calipers I use all day long are. iGaging ABSOLUTE Origin.

 https://www.amazon.com/iGaging-ABSOLUTE-Digital-Electronic-Caliper/dp/B00INL0BTS


They are better quality then the typical Chinese garbage, but what l like most about them is that they use a cr2032 battery that lasts forever. The absolute measurement feature is also handy for me.
 

Offline BradC

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Re: Digital calipers — what to buy?
« Reply #7 on: July 17, 2018, 11:51:22 am »
Excepting that your Aldi calipers probably *are* crap, I've found a massive difference with battery life using genuine silver oxide cells rather than the LR44 alkalines even on my budget calipers & micrometers.
 
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Offline HighVoltage

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Re: Digital calipers — what to buy?
« Reply #8 on: July 17, 2018, 12:19:35 pm »
I have lots of Mitutoyu calipers and like them a lot, but ...

... my absolute favorite caliper is made by MAHR in Germany
This is the model 16 EWRi
It connects via wireless USB adapter to the PC and adds the measurements nicely to Excel.
The numbers are huge and is very well built.
It is a pleasure to work with this caliper.
And of course, it is switchable in the units.
There are 3 kinds of people in this world, those who can count and those who can not.
 
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Offline jpanhalt

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Re: Digital calipers — what to buy?
« Reply #9 on: July 17, 2018, 12:25:11 pm »
I have Helios, Mitutoyo, Starrett, and Fowler measuring tools.  They are all at least 10 years old.   The Helios is from the mid-1970's and although it is a dial caliper, it still works great.  Just did a brief search and apparently Helios has been merged (?) with Fowler and/or another brand.   I would certainly give it a look.  Similarly, my Fowler instruments are older and very high quality.   Not sure about current products.   My Mitutoyo's are more recent (if 10 to 25 years qualifies) and have performed well.   

One thing to be aware of is the digital interface.   Mitutoyo is a modified SPI, and it has different versions.  That is no problem once you realize it and have the proper protocol, but finding documentation was a little more difficult. (I was using that device as a threading stop.)  My "goto" caliper is a Mitutoyo.  Never had a problem with hitting the wrong button, and if you do, it is easy to fix.
« Last Edit: July 17, 2018, 12:29:10 pm by jpanhalt »
 

Offline eKretz

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Re: Digital calipers — what to buy?
« Reply #10 on: July 17, 2018, 04:20:49 pm »
I am a former machinist, and am very picky about my tools. I probably own ten sets of calipers in varying sizes and different brands, and have used probably all the different brands over the years when borrowing or checking out coworkers' tools. My favorite digital calipers are Mitutoyo, hands down. Do listen to the above about watching for counterfeits if you buy from anywhere other than a reliable/reputable tool vendor.
« Last Edit: July 17, 2018, 04:22:35 pm by eKretz »
 
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Online ataradov

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Re: Digital calipers — what to buy?
« Reply #11 on: July 17, 2018, 04:26:33 pm »
The calipers I use all day long are. iGaging ABSOLUTE Origin.
I double that. iGaging makes excellent tools at very reasonable prices.
Alex
 

Offline eliocor

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Re: Digital calipers — what to buy?
« Reply #12 on: July 17, 2018, 04:40:59 pm »
Mitutoyo, but the real ones (beware of the imitations!).
I own also some micrometers from the same company: excellent ones!

The only drawback is the battery consumption: when not in use for long time I remove the battery from the micrometers.
« Last Edit: July 17, 2018, 04:45:32 pm by eliocor »
 

Offline tpowell1830

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Re: Digital calipers — what to buy?
« Reply #13 on: July 17, 2018, 04:45:42 pm »
I am a former machinist, and am very picky about my tools. I probably own ten sets of calipers in varying sizes and different brands, and have used probably all the different brands over the years when borrowing or checking out coworkers' tools. My favorite digital calipers are Mitutoyo, hands down. Do listen to the above about watching for counterfeits if you buy from anywhere other than a reliable/reputable tool vendor.

Same here, former machinist, Mitutoyo is tops. Also, FWIW, I would also get the dial caliper version of same so that when your battery dies, you can still measure.

Just my 2 cents...
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Online Pinkus

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Re: Digital calipers — what to buy?
« Reply #14 on: July 17, 2018, 05:02:54 pm »
after being annoyed for years about the 15 Euro digital calipers, I finally purchased a Tesa caliper with a round scale half a year ago as a test (I got a really good one, almost unused, for 20 Euro on Ebay, new: at least 100 Euro).
My eyes are not good enough anymore for a regular mechanical caliper, so I thought I give a decent dial caliper a chance. Well ...... I haven't used the digital ones since.
Thus take this as a hint to look at this kind of caliper too.

Btw, as you are Swiss: Tesa is Swiss made! You can find them used on Ebay..... just be patient until you find a decent one (and check, that you get a version where you can rotate the scale to zero).
« Last Edit: July 18, 2018, 07:15:11 am by Pinkus »
 
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Offline eKretz

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Re: Digital calipers — what to buy?
« Reply #15 on: July 17, 2018, 05:48:34 pm »
Yep, Tesa is another very good brand. Older Brown and Sharpe dial calipers are among the best I've ever used - IIRC I read somewhere that they were made by Tesa for Brown and Sharpe. I've got a large selection of those available also.

For any of you guys new to precision measuring - other than which ones are good brands, the next thing you need to know about calipers is DON'T SQUEEZE when measuring. Calipers are meant to TOUCH the surface being measured, not clamp it! If you apply pressure when measuring you are destined to make very inaccurate measurements. Any pressure more than just enough to make good contact will flex the caliper and cause measurement error, so it's important to align the tool well to the surface being measured.
 
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Offline tooki

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Re: Digital calipers — what to buy?
« Reply #16 on: July 17, 2018, 06:06:31 pm »
Thanks for the replies so far. But does anyone here have any thoughts on the features and usability questions? I’m not just asking for brand suggestions. I have a list of specifics in the post.
 

Offline tooki

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Re: Digital calipers — what to buy?
« Reply #17 on: July 17, 2018, 06:08:15 pm »
I have lots of Mitutoyu calipers and like them a lot, but ...

... my absolute favorite caliper is made by MAHR in Germany
This is the model 16 EWRi
It connects via wireless USB adapter to the PC and adds the measurements nicely to Excel.
The numbers are huge and is very well built.
It is a pleasure to work with this caliper.
And of course, it is switchable in the units.
What about the Mahr makes you prefer them over the Mitutoyo?

Nice to know the data link works, but I wasn’t planning on getting one with a link, I don’t need it! :)
 

Online ataradov

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Re: Digital calipers — what to buy?
« Reply #18 on: July 17, 2018, 06:09:53 pm »
Thanks for the replies so far. But does anyone here have any thoughts on the features and usability questions? I’m not just asking for brand suggestions. I have a list of specifics in the post.
With good digital calipers you are pretty much locked into a very specific feature set. So you get what you get.
Alex
 

Offline tooki

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Re: Digital calipers — what to buy?
« Reply #19 on: July 17, 2018, 06:17:57 pm »
Thanks for the replies so far. But does anyone here have any thoughts on the features and usability questions? I’m not just asking for brand suggestions. I have a list of specifics in the post.
With good digital calipers you are pretty much locked into a very specific feature set. So you get what you get.
:-DD Dude I created my list of questions based on the plethora of models stocked just at one tool vendor! Did you even look at the list?!
 

Offline cheeseit

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Re: Digital calipers — what to buy?
« Reply #20 on: July 17, 2018, 07:29:44 pm »
No real experience with much else or any kind of expert so for what it's worth..

Have had a digital Mahr for nearly 20 years that is rock solid and has never let me down. Only problem is that it chews through the battery too fast, but that is to be expected for its age I think.

Would like a thumb wheel but it's not critical (to me) since it moves smoothly. No big digits; I don't care. Has serial data link but never used it. No idea about IP67 but never had a problem, I just wipe it down every few years or so, and it's always in the open on my desk. Never had the cover for data link so pretty much open for dust ingress too. Square depth gauge works fine. Super tough steel and jaws are as sharp as new, despite having been used for lots of poking and as a scribe; I wish all my probes were as sharp. Uses absolute positioning. Goes from end to end (153.63 mm) reliably, with zero or 0.01 mm deviation. No hold button but a locking screw that does not change the reading. Buttons are spring loaded and does not accidentally get pressed.

I suspect that it'll last me at least another 20 years, or until the LCD dies, which btw. is still as new. If only all my tools were of this quality..
 

Offline blueskull

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Re: Digital calipers — what to buy?
« Reply #21 on: July 17, 2018, 07:54:53 pm »
I have a 500-196-30, and I'm happy with it. It's an absolute origin model, so there's no skipping even when you move it fast. For around $125, it's not a bad deal.
For your "modest" use case, this model is more than enough. I use it to measure chip size, chips height, CNC parts, enclosures and basically every small thing that I tinker with.
Being a simple model, it has little points to fail, and it survives a lot of abusing (being tossed in tool bag, not being cleaned for more than a year, forgot to turn off, etc.). Of course, I'm not prying with it.
Its battery lasts relatively long. I got mine for at least 2 years, and it is still strong on its original battery. It's not a CR2032, but it lasts long enough not to annoy me.
 
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Offline metrologist

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Re: Digital calipers — what to buy?
« Reply #22 on: July 17, 2018, 07:55:40 pm »
Thanks for the replies so far. But does anyone here have any thoughts on the features and usability questions? I’m not just asking for brand suggestions. I have a list of specifics in the post.
With good digital calipers you are pretty much locked into a very specific feature set. So you get what you get.
:-DD Dude I created my list of questions based on the plethora of models stocked just at one tool vendor! Did you even look at the list?!

Most of the answers will be, it depends...

I want the thumbwheel: mee too
ideally bigger digits. Good to have, yes mee too

I also know the standard 6”/150mm is more than enough for me at the moment. I also don’t see any need for a data link. But what else should I look for? Look for the realization that a caliper is not a precision measuring tool. there is a calibration video I'll try looking for...

I assume IP67 rating keeps dust out and theoretically improves longevity, right? yes, in theory

What about jaw shape? I like the standard jaw shape, unless you have a specific application that needs something else. All my caliper jaws are nearly the same. I do have use for various anvils and such on my micrometers (this is foreshadowing).

Micrometer resolution? 5 or 2 tenths is enough

Square vs round depth gauge? I like a blade depth guage, but have depth guage micrometers. A round guage will get into smaller areas than a blade, but could flex. I'd like ones of each.

Carbide jaws? (Expensive!) This is a must for your primary. I have toss-arounds that are plain steel, but I like to mark my parts with the calipers and that is why carbide is important. That will make them last longer.

Some models list “inductive” sensing. the other is "capacitive". Not sure which is better, but I've read more about capacitive.

Others “absolute positioning”. depends. you know what it means. Nice if it can be set one way or the other. None of mine are absolute, except the dial calipers.

I don’t think I need a micrometer, but is it worth having? only if you want to make precision measurements. calipers are really only good to the thou as they are flexible enough that it depends on how you use it one day to the next.

Even the cheap mics are very accurate now. Get a tenths reading mic set and a moderately decent caliper. If you want to spend a lot, I would love to have that Mahr shown above; otherwise, I like my old dial Brown & Sharpe and Mits. I also have a decent SPI with carbide jaws.
 
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Offline David Hess

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Re: Digital calipers — what to buy?
« Reply #23 on: July 17, 2018, 08:05:25 pm »
My favorite calipers are my Mitutoyo vernier ones because they are borrow proof and the batteries never need changing.

If I was going to buy some new low cost ones, I might try General Tools.  I like the quality of their other products.
 

Offline rhb

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Re: Digital calipers — what to buy?
« Reply #24 on: July 17, 2018, 09:05:22 pm »
Calipers are good to a few thousandths.  Calculate how much they expand when they warm up a few degrees while held in your hand.

I have several of the cheap Chinese digital calipers, but the battery life is terrible if you don't remove the battery after use or install a switch.  As a consequence I've switched back to using my dial calipers almost all the time.  I use one of my Chinese dial calipers for something every day.

Also if you want to set to a particular distance, dial calipers are much easier to adjust.

I bought a set of gauge blocks and checked my dial calipers and they were in spec.  Most of mine came from ENCO which no longer exists,  but the going price for the Chinese 6" is $20 and for a top tier $120-150.  If you *ever* drop one it is ruined.  If you need a measurement to less than 0.005" you need a micrometer (and a thermometer in many cases).

The situation where digital really shines is statistical process control where the data are recorded automatically by a computer.  Also they deal with grinding machine coolant better as there is no rack and pinion for the abrasive coolant to damage.  You're also unlikely to misread a digital caliper which is a minor plus.
 


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