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Best cheap tool for ID measurement?

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  • Best cheap tool for ID measurement?

    Well, as usual I want something precise, accurate, repeatable, a joy to own and I want it for less than $20.....but being realistic about things, what am I best to get?
    I have a set of cheap import telescope gauges and they are, out of those requirements, just cheap. I have a Mitutoyo caliper and that is all of the requirements apart from cheap. It may not be ideal for IDs but it IS better than the telescope gauges I have....even the one I fettled slightly. I know the gold standard here is a decent brand three-point bore gauge.....but I can't afford the resulting divorce and it's really overkill for the sort of stuff I'm likely to be doing. So I really have two options - although I'm open to other suggestions:

    1. A set of Mitutoyo telescope gauges. Relatively pricey but I suspect they will be a joy to own once paid for...if the caliper is anything to go by.
    2. A cheap inside micrometer such as this one. Specifically the 5-30mm.

    Yes, I'd like a nice Mitutoyo one but I just can't justify the outlay if I'm honest.
    I was also considering their depth mic for very similar reasons. Definitely better than the nothing I have (other than the back of the caliper) currently but worth the outlay in your opinion or just a disappointment waiting to be paid for?

    Thanks guys, opinions and experience much appreciated.

  • #2
    Any time you prefix "precision measuring tools" with cheap you have a problem,at least if real accuracy is what you want. You would be better served by looking for used high quality tools, in good condition, then cheap imports, Generally Chinese measuring tools are questionable. May OK frequently not. I went down the Cheap tool road and crashed badly.
    The shortest distance between two points is a circle of infinite diameter.

    Bluewater Model Engineering Society at

    Southwestern Ontario. Canada


    • #3
      Originally posted by Cenedd View Post
      Well, as usual I want something precise, accurate, repeatable, a joy to own and I want it for less than $20.....but being realistic about things, what am I best to get?
      That price is NOT being realistic about things. Gotta call you on that one.



      • #4
        Spring calipers along with a “good” dial caliper with give repeatable measurements once you have developed the “feel”. Like reading a telescoping gage.
        And after looking at the original post a little closer, that inside micrometer is Not what is typically used to measure ID’s.
        Last edited by knedvecki; 04-26-2020, 10:02 AM.


        • #5
          You have to be more specific on your requirements. Like range of IDs that you want to measure. A good set of telescoping gauges works fine for IDs over approx. 0.300". Under that, you will probably need a set of precision hole gauges to make the measurement.


          • #6
            I liked the inside micrometer. I hadn't actually seen one before. I have a set of the cheap telescoping gauges, but never really trust the measurements I take with them.
            Brian Rupnow
            Design engineer
            Barrie, Ontario, Canada


            • #7
              I've got every kind of ID measure thing you can think of, but the basics that still cover it 99% of the time and belong in every tool box are small hole gauges and telescoping gauges. Buy used quality stuff rather than crap, it matters with these tools.

              Under $20? start turning go no-go gauges, nothing with wrong with that if you have to
              in Toronto Ontario - where are you?


              • #8
                Another vote for "small hole gauges".
                CNC machines only go through the motions


                • #9
                  Thanks guys. I wasn't being serious about $20 being an actual limit, just that of the "there are three things: pick two!" type of thing, I obviously want all three. I realise this isn't realistic...but it doesn't mean that isn't what I want
                  I do have a set of small hole gauges and at worst I've been known to use the shank of my stub drills as pin gauges - obviously mic'ing them rather than assuming nominal is actual.
                  As for range, I think 5-30mm would cover most of the cases I've had so far. Of the telescope gauges it's the 19-32mm that was left out and I don't think I've ever had call to use the 90-150mm - not sure I could even swing something large enough to have a bore in that range! .... although I'm equally sure that wouldn't stop me trying!
                  I could buy individual Mitutoyo telescope gauges as I need the size I guess. What I wasn't sure about is whether I'd be better with an inside mic than telescopes.
                  Sometimes the Chinese stuff is good enough or even pleasantly surprising....but sometimes it's just dire like the telescope gauges I have. I don't really have easy access to used tools I have any faith in when it comes to things where precision is even vaguely important. Best I have is eBay and it's a crap-shoot whether you get something good or have just wasted good money you could have put towards something decent.
                  The manual and digital outside mics I have come into the category of good enough but I have no experience with the inside type or even whether they are a particularly good idea for bore sizes.


                  • #10
                    George Britnell designed an ingenious device that eliminates the need for just the right "feel" when measuring bores. It is easily built in the home shop.

                    Here's my version of it...

                    Regards, Marv

                    Home Shop Freeware - Tools for People Who Build Things

                    Location: LA, CA, USA


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by mklotz View Post
                      George Britnell designed an ingenious device that eliminates the need for just the right "feel" when measuring bores. It is easily built in the home shop.

                      Here's my version of it...

                      Brilliant, now I know my next project.


                      • #12

                        Disregarding size, just how far down the hole do you need to measure?

                        A caliper will reach in maybe 3/8" and do wide range of sizes. I often use an inside mic if the hole isn't very deep. But neither tool will tell you about the condition of the hole beyond their reach

                        Telescoping snap gages are the defacto standard for most hole measurement. They do require you to learn the proper feel for them to be accurate. And some continued practice to keep it. They can kind of "map" a bore, but they can only measure points. They won't give you a continuous view of the bore. Telescoping gages are as "cheap" as I go for hole measurements. Buy whatever brand you like and can afford. Even "cheap" ones can be fine with a bit of TLC when you get them.

                        If you need to measure and "map" a bore, dial bore gage are the cheapest tool to get. Air gaging being the best I've used. You can easily determine tapers and tight spots with a dial bore gage. And they come in a wide variety of sizes. They can also reach through deep bores.

                        Small hole measurements are generally done with pin sets. Worth the money when you are sizing 1/4" and under holes. They are quick and easy to use. But it's easy to lose them pins, (I think I've single handedly keep Fischer Tool in business somedays).

                        So determine what you need to do. Then go looking to buy.
                        If you think you understand what is going on, you haven't been paying attention.


                        • #13
                          That's a slick way to get the size but it still relies on technique. Holding at bad angles at any point in the initial capture and reading with the mic can still result in the wrong size. Care to minimize angular error would still be paramount. Particularly so when trying to read down to tenths.

                          I'm not saying I have the answer mind you. And that DTI transfer tool IS pretty slick. Just pointing out that any method that relies on the transfer of a value still needs to be done with great care to ensure accuracy. Heck, even using the inside micrometers that are for large bores that are basically an adjustable "stick" need to be used with a sense of feel. Measuring an inside more will never be as easy a technique as doing an outside dimension.

                          Cenned and Brian and anyone else that has a set of cheaper telescoping gauges that are snaggly and horrid to use. This video from TOT might be helpful to smoothing up what you have.


                          It would be interesting to bore and hone a hole that was a size that just allows micrometer standard to fit with just a slight snag. The same sort of snag that it has between the jaws of the micrometer used to test it when calibrating. And use that as a practicing and technique confirmation exercise tool for reinforcing our technique. Because be it spring calipers, snaggly telescoping gauges, inside mics or that snazzy DTI capture tool these methods all rely on technique and feel.
                          Chilliwack BC, Canada


                          • #14
                            And if your getting persnickety on bores over 2 inch, there are dial bore gauges like this:


                            • #15
                              I have a set of telescoping gauges which are Chinese or Indian which don't get used unless the old Moore and Wright ones don't cover the range. The cheap ones could probably do with a little fettling and lubricating. As already mentioned, for one offs, a home made male go no-go takes a lot of beating.
                              We always had a laugh at work reading the Mitutoyo catalogue, the sets of telescopic "rocker" gauges came in two flavours, metric and imperial, with different part numbers.
                              Last edited by old mart; 04-26-2020, 12:51 PM.