View Full Version : Why are height gauges so $$$?

11-17-2009, 02:24 PM
They're just calipers, really, with a weighted base. I can get nice Mit calipers for $60 but a dial height gauge? Prices seem out of sight for what should be a pretty basic item.

Are there good sources for a basic dial height gauge? (Not looking for digital. If I were, I see Lee Valley sells one for $48.)

Optics Curmudgeon
11-17-2009, 02:35 PM
I'd say it's volume, they sell a lot more calipers than height gauges. As for affordable, I bought a Grizzly G9620 a few years ago and it works fine for me. They're $59.95 today.


11-17-2009, 03:00 PM
You can probably find them used for much less than new. There is not as much a demand for them as it was years ago. Why in the world would you want to buy one new. I have two of them and have only used them once or twice. No, their not for sale I like to see them on the shelf with the other tools I seldom if ever use. Some tools are so specialized that you'll seldom have a use for them. I buy them at auctions as cheap as possible if I have a hankering to own them. If I like the tool and it's cheap I will buy it just to have it if I never use it.

At one time I wanted to have a tool museum but realized I could not afford the building to show them or buy all of them. I still buy what I find interesting. Boy, will my two sons have a hell of a time selling my stuff and keeping what they want :eek: ;) .

11-17-2009, 03:36 PM
Edit: Sorry I posted a digital H/Gage.

Jack F
11-17-2009, 04:15 PM
Height gauges are used for more than measuring height. I use mine to scribe layouts for some machining. Therefore they have to be stouter than a caliper. I bought my 21" Brown & Sharp used for $60.

Like Carld I buy some tools (if I can get them cheep) just to have them, even if I will never use them. I have 3 sets of interchangeable anvil mics (6" to 24") that I will most likely never use but they are beautiful displayed in their wooden boxes.:D


11-17-2009, 06:49 PM
Frank McLean showed how to make one from a regular caliper (Shop Wisdom of Frank McLean). 'Twould be be much more useful nowadays to use a digital one.

I ended up getting a 1957 Brown and Sharpe on E-Bay in perfect shape for about $55. Came with a huge dose of basement mustiness!! It is a vernier style and I got it because I don't use it very often and they go for a lot less than dial or digital ones.


11-17-2009, 06:57 PM
Whatever you do, don't get 800watts one off ebay, or anyone selling one with the same picture. a seller shiped me one that was not as pictured (but as 800Watt pictured) and it was so crappy, 2 buttons did'nt work at all, 2 more buttons worked 10~50% of the time (like the set and zero button), and when I finaly got the one I PAID for and was as pictured, I could see the vertical collumn was about 1/3rd the size and the base was about 1/2 the size as well.

Oh, and the fine adjust setscrew was striped and undersize, or the thumbwheel was oversized im not sure. Basicly everything that could possabley be wrong with it was wrong, and I did'nt even get around to testing its accuracy or squareness to the base.

http://www.tlead.net/tools/guiliang/pic_12.jpg I believe this is the model here. Avoid this exact model like the plauge.

11-17-2009, 07:08 PM
Ishamura has made several.

11-17-2009, 10:41 PM
I have a good 12" (300mm) digital height guage as well as a surface guage.

Each has its uses.

Both are OK on a surface plate but can be a PITA on a machine.

I prefer the surface guage as I can tilt it, use longer or short masts and scribers, it has a very fine adjustment and I can mount a scriber or a dial indicator on it.

If I am using slip guages for either absolute measuring on the machine bed or a surface plate, I prefer the surface guage as it is lighter' less awkward and can get into "tighter" spaces.

There is not a lot that the height guage can do that the surface guage cannot.




11-17-2009, 11:07 PM
Plate glass base, that's a good alternative to Granite, thanks for the tip.

And by George, Grizzly does sell a reasonably priced dial height gauge, I did not see that before! Thanks!

J Tiers
11-18-2009, 12:52 AM
The surface gage is much more useful if you have comparison standards, like gage blocks to stack up. Otherwise, it has nothing but rules to work from, and the H/G has the advantage of its own calibration and ease of use compared to a lot of measuring with caliper etc.

if you use it right, The H/G is a sort of "poor man's one-dimension CMM". Now that I think of it, I should be using mine more.

Paul Alciatore
11-18-2009, 02:26 AM
I have two height gauges, the 12" dial model from Grizzly and a 24" Starrett vernier I got on E-Bay.

I have to strongly disagree with those who say that the height gauge has very few uses. I would say that I rarely use them to actually measure parts.

OTOH, I use them all the time to do layout work. I like to do an actual layout on a part before taking it to the milling machine. I can't tell you how many times I have avoided making a mistake while milling or drilling just by having the centers and outlines scribed on the parts. And many parts can be scribed and cut to the lines or punched for drilling. I find the height gauges to be one of the most useful tools that I own.

Another item that has had it's usefulness questioned here is the 1-2-3 blocks and their big brothers, the 2-4-6s. I find both of these very useful for that same layout work. A thin part can be easily held vertical on the surface plate with one or two of the bolcks for easy and accurate layout with the height gauge.

I guess if you have a CNC mill these items are going to be used less. But for manual machining, I find them almost essential.

11-18-2009, 03:47 AM
I have to agree that the height gauges are still very much a viable tool in today's modern shop. I have three myself, a 12" Etalon dial, a 12" B&S Vernier, and a 24" Mitutoyo Digital. The 12 inch gets pretty much constant use, the vernier is retired, the 24... well, it's BIG. The big surface plate, the 12" Etalon, 123 blocks, a good angle plate, and a bottle of Dykem will get me along way. I never use the height gauges with an indicator, those go on a home made Schmidt MG -1 style surface gauge (https://www.hschmidt.com/productcart/pc/viewPrd.asp?idcategory=8&idproduct=185).

You can't go wrong investing time in good layout practices, They can save you from making costly mistakes. Moreover using these tools forces one to slow down and really look at the work their doing.

As to the high prices on some of them, I think alot of it's wishful thinking on the part of the folks selling them. My 24" Mitty was somewhere around $2k new, and in the right circumstance it would be worth that. Sure wasn't a price I'd have paid though, as I rarely use anything that size. However the $160 or so I paid for it was well worth it. I would, without hesitation pay going new prices for a 12 inch digital or dial if I had to replace my Etalon today as I use them that much.

11-18-2009, 05:52 AM
Strange why you would fit a "Clock" and adaptor in a Vernier or Digital HEIGHT gauge??

Main usage when I was toolmaking was for accurate marking out OR inspection of measurements. If you want to use it as an expensive COMPARATOR ?? why not use the scribing block we all started with cos a "Vernier" was the ultimate precision scriber, the purchase being outside the wage range of young slaves, bit like a set of Slip gauges, (Guage blocks) for setting a sine bar.

A cheaper alternative (NASA not withstanding) is one of the new cheap digital calipers converted with a base block and a scribing jaw fitted.(See Sir Johns conversion using them as sheet scribers). Also, you don't need to buy any larger than 150mm/6" versions as using a 25/50/75 (1/2/3") block as a range increaser ain't rocket science.

Ever tried using a 600mm/24" one for marking out?? I must admit, it seems obvious why some peoples scrap/Rework material bins have an endless supply of raw material if the marking out function has been transferred to direct machining thanks to DRO's.

Regards Ian.

11-18-2009, 06:20 AM
OP Thread title:
"Why are height gauges so $$$?"


They're just calipers, really, with a weighted base. I can get nice Mit calipers for $60 but a dial height gauge? Prices seem out of sight for what should be a pretty basic item.

Are there good sources for a basic dial height gauge? (Not looking for digital. If I were, I see Lee Valley sells one for $48.)
Answer: because there are enough people paying that price to both make it viable and profitable as well as keeping stocks "moving".

In short - charge as much as the market will pay - aka "(free) market forces".

11-18-2009, 06:38 AM
Strange why you would fit a "Clock" and adaptor in a Vernier or Digital HEIGHT gauge??

Ahhh, I can think of many uses. How you use a height gage has as many answers as how you use 1-2-3 blocks. (There are two 123 blocks currently holding up my keyboard so I can slide it closer to my monitor)

Over here in our shop, the height gages mostly have indicators in them. It makes checking round stuff very easy, get her close, slide her over, find the high spot and adjust for zero. You can do the same with the bottom of a scribe, but then there is a feel that goes into it, and I tend to not be confident when its 'there'.

For instance, the end of a shaft, turned down, needs to be concentric to the OD of the shaft within .002, the end has a flat or a keyway and a crosshole that has to be centered on the end with in .002 and square to the flat or keyway. You could use multiple measuring tools and block stacks, or a height gage with an indicator, and have that sucker inspected in seconds with one tool.

I could live without calipers, but I don't think I could live without my height gage.

11-18-2009, 08:01 AM
Sorry bobw53 but your explanation suggests you're still using the height gauge as a clock stand and not as a measuring tool.

Regards Ian.