View Full Version : digital or dial ?

Dave the Nave
08-28-2001, 11:06 PM
I'm thinking of buying some new 6in. calipers.For reliability,and accuracy,should I go with good o'l dial calipers or digital electronic ones?

08-28-2001, 11:47 PM
Well, it's like this....I've got both, but I almost never use the digital. Reason? The dial always reads 0 when it's closed, and if it doesn't you can see that. The digital may or may not, or it could read 0 at some point that isn't 0. To simplify, I once screwed up a boring because I was using the digital and it wasn't zero'd, though I thought it was. Never used it again, the dial is always accurate and 0 is never in doubt.

Lead Screw
08-28-2001, 11:47 PM
Ive never owned a digital set but I have used them. One thing about the digital is that you dont have to worry about a chip or dirt and grim getting into the rack that is on a convention dial set. I like that. I got a set of Brown and Sharpe and the rack is not exposed like the Starrett 6". My Starretts jump everytime they get the slightest bit dirty... It is impossible for me to keep them perfectly clean in my work enviroment. My advice on buying dial calipers if you go that route is to make sure the rack is not exposed. My Brown and Sharpes are 6 years old and I use them everday --They have never failed----not once. A good friend of mine at work bought a set of Fowlers (digital) the same time I bought my B and S (dial) In my opinion they are just as good plus with the digital you can get metric measurment with the touch of a button.

08-29-2001, 06:59 AM
I'll tell a story, at work I have had the opportunity to look at several digital calipers and check them out. I get my round 1.0000 Starrett mike standard out and measure it. To date out of about 6 sets of digital calipers only one read 1.0000, but every set of new cheap verniers I have checked always have said 1.000 and 25.4

I use a set of Brown and Sharp dials, the best, dirt just doesn't bother these as much others. I also use a set of Mitutoyo metrics I picked up at a pawn shop, Mitutoyos are good, but they will jump.

My first set of dials was Helios, was proud of them at the time, but I only counted on them to .005 and with the .200 dial the lines were a bit close together.

Nowdays one can buy a set of 19.95 dial calipers that are amazingly close.

Ron LaDow
08-29-2001, 12:56 PM
I assume the digital calipers are electronic. I really try to avoid anything battery-powered that might need a battery when the stores aren't open.

Dave the Nave
08-29-2001, 01:40 PM
I definately agree with Ron L.,any digital caliper that I've ever seen does require batteries and that can be a problemwhen your battery decides to "check out".95% of my measuring is by the use of my calipers.They're within my reach all day long .But my 6 in. Starretts that I've been using (for 20 years now)are showing sighns of age and are accurate to .002.And I'm allways taking the air hose and blowing out the dirt in the rack and pinion.
I've recently discovered that Mitutoyo Digimatics has a new "solar powered" caliper.HHHhhhmmmmmm.....
Thanks to you all for your input.

08-29-2001, 09:40 PM
I own and use both regularly. Digitals are by far more accurate, dependable, and durable! They can take a good drop to the floor better than the dials. The only problem I have with them is they don't work when they are wet. If you have to use them around coolant, go with the dials.

08-29-2001, 10:34 PM
I agree with Sulkybuilder. I have several calipers but I trust my 8" Mitutoyo Digimatic most. Chagrinned to say that I've done the drop test (had to grind back those nice long internal jaws.) I do work with coolant so I have to be careful, one drop on the beam if smeared out by the slide will cause a problem, but a thorough wipe with a dry cloth fixes it. I think Mitutoyo has a waterproof model now. As for batteries, they use common watch/camera batteries that you can probably find at a 24hr. supermarket. And if you're really worried, keep a spare in your toolbox fer-cryin-out-loud. If you get the "absolute" model you don't need to zero it every time you turn it on, mine maintains origin unfailingly. (Better than my dials.) The incremental zero is nice for comparative measurements. The only thing lacking is a "reading hold" button (for measurements in difficult-to-view positions). With some calipers you can zero the display, then withdraw the caliper, close the jaws, and read the measurement as a negative number. The incremental zero on mine must be operated with a fingernail on my left hand, so it's not as useful as it might be. When someone comes out with a solar-waterproof-absolte-reading-hold-inch/mm model I'll buy! (That being said, most of the guys I work with prefer their dials. I think they're retro-grouches.)

C. Tate
08-29-2001, 11:12 PM
I prefer the dials to the digitals for most of the same reasons some of you guys have stated. I have both and both are mitutoyo. For some reason I get varied readings on the digitals of about .001 up or down my dials will always give the same reading, which is usually different from the digitals, each time. They do however read metric with the push of a button which is nice and they do servive the ocasional knock on the floor better. It is always good practice to close the caliper of any length completely face to face to insure they are "zeroed" properly before measuring. Don't let anyone else use your measuring equipment they can wreck the feel of the tool.
I have a man who works for me that uses a pair of inexpensive import dials everyday. When I saw him pull them out his box and check the first set up he made on one of my cnc turning centers I cringed. He has made many set ups since, runs two machines everyday and makes fewer errors than anyone else. He is a good machinist for sure but even great machinists are hampered by bad tools. They must be decent quality. I still prefer mitutoyo dials to anything else.

08-30-2001, 12:46 PM
GO DIGITAL,My feelings on this is that once or twice you will need to convert inch to metric you can do it with one push of a button, abd batterys are cheap buy an extra set,though i have had a set in my b&s for 3 years, it has auto off. my mitutoyos dont.just my 2 cents worth

08-30-2001, 10:33 PM
Well, Dave, it looks like the world is 50-50 on this one. Aren't you glad you asked?

08-31-2001, 04:19 AM
Mitutoyo has dust & coolant proof calipers series #500 (6" & 8")- they can be used submerged if you like. They keep their zero with their "absolute" positioning. $220 & $285 Canadian.

I prefer digital or a standard vernier over the dial, but I use the dial type when I do sheet metal brake work.

Buy digital but I would go with Mitutoyo, B&S, TESA, or Fowler (the last three are made by TESA in Switzerland - I believe)

Dave the Nave
08-31-2001, 11:36 AM
O.K.,that's it, I'm goin digital.I think I'll take my (Geore W. Bush)tax rebate and buy a set of Mitutoyo 8in.solar digital calipers.

C. Tate
08-31-2001, 04:35 PM
How is one better than the other when working on the brake? just curious?

08-31-2001, 05:44 PM
If you want metric and inch, you can always learn to read a vernier scale (you probably can already) - I have 19.95 Chinese inch/metric 6" vernier calipers; works bee-you-tiff-lee. I have had the experience of measuring hole to hole with digital ones though. Now that is nice - zero on the diameter of one hole than measure the outside to outside dimension of the holes and voila! (assuming they're the same size holes)

09-05-2001, 12:15 AM
Actually, in the bad lighting of the shops I have worked in, I find the white faced Mitutoyo dial (50 div.)is easier to read than a digital model. If I could get a backlit LCD Digital Caliper I would use it instead.

I prefer a vernier to a dial type - nothing much can go wrong with it - remember the K.I.S.S. principle! I like the Digitals the most, but I use them only at home where I have good lighting.

Bifocals suck.

Dave Smith

G. Barnes
09-09-2001, 12:53 PM
One nice feature of my digitals is that when making multiple pieces of the same size, I can set the required dimension and then zero the caliper at that point and use it as a reference as to any over or under size condition.

09-27-2001, 01:51 PM
I have a set of both. since i dont use them for final measurements. +.005 then out come the mics, they both have a features i like.

Paul H
10-08-2001, 08:51 PM
Another vote for digital, and a vote for 4" over 6". I guess it depends on what you work one, but for the hobby stuff, my 4" mitutoy digital has been fine for 95+% of what I do. As far as batteries, I know I'm risking mine dying by saying this, but the one in it has lasted 5 years. The up side is the backup 6" dial!

I also agree that the comment about the $20 imports, mine is good to .001".

10-10-2001, 05:49 PM

10-10-2001, 05:58 PM
Chinese calipers have 2 spring loaded pinion gears. One rides over grit while the other one stays in the rack. I've had very good luck with them. However, I like the feel and accuracy of a Starret dial. BandS have been a little too fragile in a shop environment for me. I'm using my Mitutoyo digital mostly when I need to use the tenths and half tenths reading.(Also to convert to metric)

10-11-2001, 08:10 AM
Dials. I've had both, and two Starrett digitals that succumbed to coolant. The wost of it is that Starrett wouldn't fix them but offered a half price deal on new ones. I passed.

I have three chinese dials around and none of them read the same on the same piece even though they're within .002" of each other.

Two Starrett dials read identically and my mikes agree with them to tenths. I hope that lasts forever, but one and two years ain't bad as they're going strong. Incidently a little Starrett #1010 gadget that I picked up just because it's neat agrees with both of the other Starretts. Am I just lucky?

Anyway, I consider the electronic things finicky and I don't need finicky tools.

10-12-2001, 01:47 AM

Mitutoyo IP-68 calipers are submersable in coolant. They are not finicky at all and compare well with micrometers.

Starrett was being nice to you - it would have cost much more to repair most likely. I had a Digitape display pack it in, and they replaced the whole tape with a new unit no questions asked - excellent service! That is why I buy their stuff - quality and service.