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Andrew C writes: “Harbor Freight has an acceptable (+/- about 0.002″) dial caliper, which is a great tool when you need ‘precise’ measurements.  I last used mine to measure the shelf pegs for a custom cabinet that used (it turned out) 17/64” pegs.

‘I’ve also got an HF digital caliper, but it seems like every time I want to use that one the batteries are dead.  The dial caliper keeps working so it’s the one I take with me.”

It’s better to have more accurate calipers — especially for machining work — but 2/1000ths is fine for most day-to-day measuring.  We use ours (from Starrett) all the time, often for the kind of thing Andrew’s talking about — like measuring a piece of rod found around the shop to pick the right die for threading.

But you won’t get a Starrett for $20 — or carry it out of the shop much for fear of losing it.

6″ Dial Caliper [Harbor Freight]

Note: Andrew, a friend of mine used to have the same problem battery-wise even with much more expensive digital calipers.  It turned out that they were turning themselves on while stowed in a drawer.  He eventually modified his to include a small switch — at which point they lasted much longer.


3 Responses to Reader Find: A Cheap Harbor Freight Dial Caliper

  1. Nick Carter says:

    I heard on one of the machining forums that the HF electronic calipers are always on, even when off, which is why the batteries run down.

  2. Rick says:

    i have one of the digitals, the battery has lasted 6 months so far with no problems. But whenever you go to open the jaws they auto turn on… something to watch out for.

  3. pishta says:

    Ive had this for 15 years. If the needle starts to not return to zero, there is a fix. Pop the top off (pry ring off) and remove needle. take face off and remove the 3 mount screws. There are 2 pinions, closest to jaw having a clock spring under it. put needle back on and hold the far pinion against the rack while tilting the left side up to clear the 2nd pinion, now turn the needle clockwise a turn or until you feel some tension. Hold it and put left pinion back into rack. Tighten the 3 screws and your needle will now be solid again. If its still wiggle loose , repeat procedure of preloading the left pinion. worked for me. Returning to zero like new and no more play in needle.

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