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  • Digital vs. Dial Calipers

    At the risk of hijacking another current thread, what is the draw to digital calipers? I have three calipers, two 6" Mitutoyo's and an 8" Craftsman (don't know who made it for Sears in the 80's)... all analog type. I have no issues with any of them, they never run out of batteries, they feel more hefty (no plastic other than the dial face), and they are a bit more compact in the reading area. I am using a couple digitals for a poor man's DRO on my POS mill/drill, but for measuring, I can't see replacing my dials.

    Am I missing the boat?

    Mark

  • #2
    Look Out...............

    1601

    Keep eye on ball.
    Hashim Khan

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    • #3
      i have digital calipers and i like them there really good for stuff that does not have to be 100% bang on , but for the bang on stuff i use a mircometer....as for the dial calipers there kinda cool but i don't use them at all in fact i don't own any as yet to busy putting money into other tools right now..

      i prefer the digital calipers also because its saves some math and memory stuff for sure, plus you get the advantage of metric and SAE at the push of a button..

      most of the work i do is metric based

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      • #4
        Airsmith makes a good point on the inch-metric conversion, and I do have a set of Red Chinese digitals that do that job if I remember to put in fresh batteries! But, I still prefer the feel of a dial caliper (eyes are too far gone for my quite accurate verniers) and use them most of the time that I don't use a mike. My 1" Starrett mike that I bought in 1975 lives in my shop apron pocket, and I rely on it for anything critical.

        David
        David Kaiser
        “You can have peace. Or you can have freedom. Don't ever count on having both at once.”
        ― Robert A. Heinlein

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        • #5
          Originally posted by airsmith282
          i have digital calipers and i like them there really good for stuff that does not have to be 100% bang on , but for the bang on stuff i use a mircometer....as for the dial calipers there kinda cool but i don't use them at all in fact i don't own any as yet to busy putting money into other tools right now..

          i prefer the digital calipers also because its saves some math and memory stuff for sure, plus you get the advantage of metric and SAE at the push of a button..

          most of the work i do is metric based
          Bingo for me. Saves math, quick and easy to figure out the reading, and the batteries last damn near forever (mitutoyo) so that's not an issue. But it's different strokes for different folks I guess. At work there are guys who still use dials. I used to work with a guy (retired last year) who still used a vernier. Just a matter of personal preference I guess. I can read a vernier scale, but I'm certainly not as quick as with digital. Plus the opportunity for mathematical error as well (still there with digital too....inc/abs).

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          • #6
            I never owned a pair of dial calipers for one simple reason, they can skip a tooth in the gear rack and become .025" out of calibration. Some of the shops I worked in banned dial calipers as just too much scrap was generated for this very reason. Until I bought my Brown & Sharpe digital I relied on vernier calipers and still have a 8" vernier caliper, a 12" vernier height gage, and a 48" vernier caliper.

            Yes verniers are slower to read. That's why I have several of the HF 6" digitals around the shop along with a 12" in my tool box.

            And oh yes, I forgot about the vernier bevel protractor.
            Last edited by Dr Stan; 04-07-2011, 08:27 PM.

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            • #7
              Each type have advantages and disadvantages. You will never get a chip caught in the rack on a digital caliper and you can convert from inch to metric with a digital. With a dial caliper the batteries will never go dead and you will never turn it on and accidentally zero it in the wrong place. There are other issues with both that others will touch on. I use both in my shop and I recommend using both to decide which you prefer.
              Mark Hockett

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Dr Stan
                I never owned a pair of dial calipers for one simple reason, they can skip a tooth in the gear rack and become .025" out of calibration. Some of the shops I worked in banned dial calipers as just too much scrap was generated for this very reason.
                NEVER had that happen, been using dial for 30 years.... Inch/Metric Dial calipers....... Both scales on ONE dial

                With regular dial calipers, I just don't "see" the 0.025" "out of cal"....... Seems that if the pinion skipped, it would move the zero on the dial, but one simply re-zeros the dial, and off you go..... there isn't an absolute position as far as I know.

                Are there people who lock the zero position? Aside from verifying the calipers with a block, it seems that locking the zero might be excessive, but.......
                Last edited by J Tiers; 04-07-2011, 08:35 PM.
                1601

                Keep eye on ball.
                Hashim Khan

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by J Tiers
                  NEVER had that happen, been using dial for 30 years.... Inch/Metric Dial calipers....... Both scales on ONE dial

                  With regular dial calipers, I just don't "see" the 0.025" "out of cal"....... Seems that if the pinion skipped, it would move the zero on the dial, but one simply re-zeros the dial, and off you go..... there isn't an absolute position as far as I know.

                  Are there people who lock the zero position? Aside from verifying the calipers with a block, it seems that locking the zero might be excessive, but.......
                  I would think locking the zero would be rather important to keep from bumping the dial. That said, you should close the caliper and recheck that zero is zero often... And while some might say 'Thats a reason dial calipers suck!' you should be doing the same with your digitials, to make sure everything is in working order. (Low battery can make it skip a random distance, Usally its like 0.5"+ so its easy to tell, but could be much less, Contaminates can confuse it, a ding/scratch in the jaw could disturb it, etc etc etc)

                  Personaly, I just like digitial. But I can see dial calipers being as good, However I also am prone to buying really cheap chinese tools. Thier $20 digitial calipers are known to be very good. I havent heard much about chinese $20 dial calipers, but I would somewhat suspect with more moving precision parts theres more room for china to screw it up, or cheapen it to worthlessness. a $60~100 dial caliper would likey be dead on accurate as good as any equivilently priced digitial however.
                  Play Brutal Nature, Black Moons free to play highly realistic voxel sandbox game.

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                  • #10
                    During machining I strongly prefer dial calipers (unless mike is needed). For general measurements I use both, dial and electronic calipers depending on a situation.
                    Mike
                    WI/IL border, USA

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by J Tiers
                      NEVER had that happen, been using dial for 30 years.... Inch/Metric Dial calipers....... Both scales on ONE dial

                      With regular dial calipers, I just don't "see" the 0.025" "out of cal"....... Seems that if the pinion skipped, it would move the zero on the dial, but one simply re-zeros the dial, and off you go..... there isn't an absolute position as far as I know.

                      Are there people who lock the zero position? Aside from verifying the calipers with a block, it seems that locking the zero might be excessive, but.......
                      The one case I remember well was when I was working as an IE for a defense contractor. One of the machinists cut a bunch of missile parts .025" short due to this very problem. All I can say is I've seen it happen on more than one occasion.

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                      • #12
                        both have merits, dial is nice for the same reason a driver likes analog gauges...when roughing or grabbing stock a glance at the dial's position tells a lot whereas with digital you have to read and process, a small thing maybe, but like the paths worn diagonally across the grass everywhere, we are lazy creatures preferring the easiest route.

                        otoh, zeroing caliper where you want to measure a difference or switching between metric imperial has its moments.
                        in Toronto Ontario - where are you?

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Black_Moons
                          I would think locking the zero would be rather important to keep from bumping the dial.
                          I meant locking and sealing to "keep calibration"...... seems silly and unproductive, but can't see how there COULD be an issue of 0.025" otherwise. Unless, of course, the user NEVER checked zero..... seems like a quick check would have avoided scrap parts..... And why was he using calipers anyway.... because they are not so accurate?

                          I check zero all the time, and I don't particularly believe it when zero changes.... I look for the bits of crud in the jaws then. Close and sight looking for light between them ...... you see it, you will also see little shadows of grit in there.
                          1601

                          Keep eye on ball.
                          Hashim Khan

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                          • #14
                            The biggest problem I have with my digital calipers is they shut off or act screwy when it's cold in the shop despite fresh batteries. As a result I will have to keep them inside my coat to keep them warm. It can be a pain when the pointy parts snag on my clothing. As a result I keep an analog handy.

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                            • #15
                              I can't stand digital calipers. I use dial calipers for several reasons mentioned above, especially the ability to read it like a clock. Most people can read a clock that doesn't have any numbers on it and the same applies to calipers. At a glance I can see how close I am to a particular reading or instantly determine if I have the right tap drill.

                              Metric conversion is also no problem. I also like the ability to read between the lines, which you can see in this photo is entirely practical. These calipers read and instantly convert metric/inch. They are also very accurate.

                              Last edited by Evan; 04-08-2011, 12:49 AM.
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