Digital Caliper Tricks

I got into a discussion at work about digital vs. dial vs. vernier calipers the other day.  The discussion started because some of our aging eyes were having trouble reading some of the aging vernier calipers in the low light.  There were some pretty strong opinions about which is best.  We did manage to agree that the biggest contributors to accuracy were the quality of the caliper and the skill of the user.

I mentioned that, while I agreed with some of the arguments for mechanical calipers, I still liked the little tricks you could do with digital calipers.  Some of the die hard mechanical caliper people did not know what I was talking about.

The ability to zero the caliper anywhere on the scale lets you do some neat tricks.

Distance Between Hole Centers – If you have two equal diameter holes and you want to measure the center to center distance, you can measure the diameter of the hole, zero the caliper then measure the outside edges of the hole.  This will give you a good center to center dimension.

Shaft Clearance – Measure the shaft, zero the caliper and measure the hole.

You can easily figure out a few other clearance values you can do with the other modes of a caliper like the depth pin.  Some people said they even use it as a simple math calculator by moving it to a value zeroing it, moving again, zero it, etc then rolling back to true zero for your answer (ignore minus sign).

I found this nice little digital caliper instruction sheet here.  http://littlemachineshop.com/Instructions/UsingCalipers.pdf

3D model from 3D content Central

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6 Responses to “Digital Caliper Tricks”


  1. whosawhatsis

    I’ve also used it to convert between inches and millimeters, moving it to the desired measurement in one mode, then switching to the other.

  2. macona

    Its not a good idea to measure the ID of holes with the inside measuring side of a caliper. The flats on the edges will give false readings and the smaller the hole the worse the reading. Its OK for measuring hole centers as its measuring the difference and the error will not show up.

  3. Tips and tricks for using a Digital Caliper - MakerBot Industries

    […] A digital caliper is one of the most useful accessories to a 3D printer.  With a caliper in hand you can ensure you’re going to end up with accurate replacement or upgrade parts.  Some Skeinforge guides even suggest using calipers to assist in calibrating your printer.  The guys over at Buildlog.net have put together a short guide with some tips and tricks for using your digital calipers. […]

  4. MerlinJim

    My calipers have tiny knife-like edges at the very tips – you can use those to measure the insides of holes with more accuracy.

    macona is right though, on very small holes it’s hard to get an accurate reading. Of course, there’s kind of a minimum hole size anyways – it’s hard to get those prongs into very tiny holes, they have a non-zero size…

  5. Digital caliper tricks « adafruit industries blog

    […] Digital Caliper Tricks at Buildlog.Net Blog via MakerBot. A digital caliper is one of the most useful accessories to a 3D printer. With a caliper in hand you can ensure you’re going to end up with accurate replacement or upgrade parts. Some Skeinforge guides even suggest using calipers to assist in calibrating your printer. The guys over at Buildlog.net have put together a short guide with some tips and tricks for using your digital calipers. […]

  6. Measuring Instruments

    Simple calipers are uncalibrated; the measurement taken must be compared against a scale. Whether the scale is part of the caliper or not, all analog calipers—verniers and dials—require good eyesight in order to achieve the highest precision. Digital calipers have the greatest advantage in this area.

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