Precision. Whether you’re a machinist, carpenter, metalworker, or avid DIYer, precision is a key element in everything you do. Your workshop, shed, or garage is probably full of precision tools…but what about ditigal calipers?
If you’re planning to buy your first caliper or just need a replacement, stick around. In this article, we’ll be discussing digital calipers: what they are, how they work, and what to consider before purchasing one. We’ll also go over our top five picks to give you a sample of what’s on offer.
By the time you finish reading, you’ll be much better equipped to make the best possible purchase for you and your measuring needs!
Frequently Asked Questions
It’s important to be familiar with the basics of any tool you plan on purchasing. To help you get better acquainted with the digital caliper, we’ve answered some of the most frequently asked questions about them. This information should give you a good idea of what to expect from your upcoming purchase and your first few times using this tool.
What is a digital caliper?
A caliper is a tool used for taking a variety of measurements:
Some calipers can take only certain measurements, while others—like digital calipers—are versatile and can take multiple types of measurements.
This tool is known for its incredible precision, and is used in numerous fields including medicine, woodworking, metalworking, and forestry.
A digital caliper is a variety of caliper that is battery-operated and uses linear encoding to perform measurements. This type of caliper, while more expensive, is increasingly popular due to its enhanced features. These include things like ease of use, an easy-to-read LCD screen, and additional functions that allow for more efficient measurement-taking.
What is a good digital caliper?
There are a few factors you should consider before purchasing a digital caliper:
- How accurate is the device?
- What extra features does it have?
- Is it designed to last?
- Does it fit within your budget?
Accuracy is the number-one factor here—make sure the digital caliper you purchase has a high accuracy rating and provides consistent measurements. We’ll discuss this in more detail under “How accurate is a digital caliper?”
Digital calipers tend to have more functions and features than other types of calipers. Features to watch for include a ‘hold’ button, serial data output, and the ability to choose your measurement unit (millimeters, centimeters, or inches).
Unfortunately, digital calipers are known for being less hardy than their non-digital counterparts. While their accuracy and user-friendly design more than make up for this, it’s important to purchase a digital caliper that’s built to last. If you can, opt for a digital caliper with a sturdy, durable, and non-fussy construction.
Finally, you always have to consider your budget before making a big purchase. Do your best to find a product that gives you the best functionality and features for the price range you’re looking at. Avoid going for ultra-cheap models, but don’t feel like you need to splurge above your comfort level either. For a decent digital caliper that will get the job done, you can expect to spend anywhere from $20 to $40; for a high-end model, expect to spend upwards of $100.
How accurate is a digital caliper?
Digital calipers are known to be slightly more accurate than other types of calipers, ranking in at a 0.001” accuracy for six-inch caliper models. However, the accuracy for longer measurements decreases slightly.
How does a digital caliper work?
Digital calipers take measurements using a linear encoding mechanism. The most common type is capacitator linear encoding. In short:
- There is a circuit board inside the caliper, on which there are several bars etched.
- As the slider moves, the electrical charge between the bars changes.
- These changes in electrical charge allow the device to register the correct measurement.
- The measurement is then displayed on an LCD screen.
You can also find digital calipers that use inductive linear encoding or magnetic linear encoding, though these are less popular.
Tips for Using a Digital Caliper
Regardless of the digital caliper you purchase, there are a few things you can do to make the most of it and get the best possible readings:
- Keep the device clean at all times.
- Clean the object you plan on measuring.
- Zero the caliper just before use for a more accurate reading.
- Ensure that the object is parallel to the jaws for outside dimensions.
- Ensure that the object is perpendicular to the jaws for thickness, depth, and inside dimensions.
You should also become familiar with the different parts of the digital caliper before attempting to use it. Here’s a quick breakdown:
On / Zero Button
This button serves two functions: turning the device on and setting it to zero.
You use the thumbwheel to open and close the jaws as needed.
These are the larger jaws, located on the bottom of the caliper. They’re used to take outside measurements.
These are the smaller jaws, located on the top of the caliper. They’re used to take inside measurements (such as the dimensions of a slot).
The depth gauge—the long point at once end of the caliper tool—can be used to measure thickness or depth.
The step gauge allows you to measure from an edge to any other point on the object.
The locking screw is used to keep the jaws in place while you read the measurement.
Inch / Millimeter Button
This button allows you to choose which measurement unit you would like to use: inches or millimeters.
The ABS button sets the caliper back to zero (or absolute mode).
This is where the battery goes. Make sure you know where this compartment is located so that you can quickly change its battery when needed.
The Best Digital Caliper Options
To make your life just a little easier, we’ve compiled a list of the best digital calipers on the market. These products offer a range of features and are available at different price points, so you’re bound to find one that fits your project and budget needs. Let’s dive in!
This versatile caliper from VINCA can easily be used for both smaller-scale DIY projects and more detailed professional jobs. Its stainless-steel construction provides durability and a smooth measurement process, all the while boasting a simple but attractive appearance. This caliper takes very accurate measurements, and each unit is pre-calibrated for you.
The caliper comes with a spare battery, a sturdy protective case, and a user’s guide—you can also opt to purchase a date transfer cable separately so you can transfer measurement data to your personal computer. Better still, its 1-year warranty means you can rest easy while purchasing (and using) this product.
Do be prepared to change its battery often; some users found that the caliper turns on too easily, especially when being transferred from one place to another.
Aside from this small drawback, you really can’t go wrong when using this eight-inch digital caliper. See for yourself!
If you need a reliable digital caliper that’s designed to last and promises accurate results, it doesn’t get much better than this model from Kynup. Its most charming quality is its IP54 stainless-steel construction; this product is not only durable and attractive, but also splash-resistant, anti-rust, and dust-proof. This means you won’t have to hold your breath every time you take this caliper out of its protective case!
You’ll also appreciate its simple three-button operation. It features an On/Off button, a Zero button, and an mm/in/F button to change your desired measurement unit (millimeters, inches, or fraction). And its user-friendliness doesn’t stop there: the caliper also features an automatic 5-minutes shutoff to preserve battery power, so you won’t have to worry about forgetting to turn it off.
This caliper comes with two spare batteries, a protective case, and even a screwdriver to help you access its battery compartment. Some users did find the compartment a bit difficult to access when compared to other models on the market, but this is really the only drawback you would have to worry about. All in all, this is a fantastic digital caliper product for both home use and professional projects.
This digital caliper from REXBETI boasts a stainless-steel construction that’s free of burrs and specially crafted for smooth operation. The device is tested multiple times for accuracy and overall quality, and this little guy is built to last. You can rest easy knowing that even in less-than-ideal conditions, this caliper will come through with the accurate measurements you need.
With just the push of a button, you can change its measurement unit to inches, millimeters, or fractions, to best suit your preferences and needs. Another feature you’ll appreciation is its auto on/off functionality, which turns the device on or off as needed to save battery power. Some users did report that its batteries drain even when the product is not in use, so you should expect to change the batteries frequently.
But with that in view, this product comes with a 2-year warranty to offer you that extra peace of mind. Your purchase also includes a spare battery and a protective case.
With all of these great features at an affordable price, what do you have to lose?
This simple yet effective digital caliper from iGaging has everything you could possibly need for your upcoming measurement tasks: a smooth stainless-steel construction, IP54 protection, a straightforward design, and an included protective case—you can even purchase a USB cable separately to transfer measurements to your personal computer!
You can choose to measure in inches or millimeters using its mm/in button, and rest assured knowing that your measurements will be accurate. You don’t even need to set the unit back to zero before starting a new measurement—its special memory technology takes care of the dirty work for you.
There are two small drawbacks worth noting: its thumbwheel leaves something to be desired in terms of smooth operation and its display time is on the sluggish side. But if you’re willing to overlook these small flaws, this is the perfect device for basic measuring tasks around the house.
This caliper comes with a 2-year warranty, so you have something to fall back on if this product doesn’t work for you. Why not give it a try?
We hope you feel more confident about your upcoming purchase after reading this article. Equipped with the information, tips, and product picks provided here, you should have a much better idea of what a digital caliper is, how to use it, and what kind of digital calipers the market has to offer.
Remember: a digital caliper is a precision tool. The product you opt for should provide accurate readings, have a durable construction, and be easy to use in a pinch. Each of the products on our list are of high quality and are available in a range of price points, but if none of these did it for you, we encourage you to find a caliper that checks all your boxes.