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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.


2 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.

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