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Sometimes convenience trumps micron-level precision, and for those times plastic vernier calipers rule.  Their shape makes measuring inside, outside, and depth dimensions simple — much easier than with a standard tape measure and about as accurate — but I’m loathe to carry my quality dial calipers where they might get damaged, lost, or stolen.  That’s why I keep a set of cheap-ass plastic vernier capliers in every toolbox.

We found a few sets from a place called “Widget Supply” (and from Amazon) for around $2 each — cheap enough to dunk underwater to measure a broken pipe fitting or to throw in the truck glovebox “just in case.”  Compare that $2 to a minimum of $20 for even a crappy set of “accurate” calipers, and you see our point.

How to read a Vernier caliper [Maryland Metric]
Plastic Vernier Calipers [Widget Supply]
Lots of Sources [Google]
Via Amazon [What’s this?]


9 Responses to Cheap-Ass Tools: Plastic Vernier Calipers

  1. Randy says:

    Verniers are OK, but I sure like dials better. Digital are cool too, but I still don’t think they beat a dial caliper. I wouldn’t put my dial (or digital) underwater though. Just so folks know, here’s a website with a Java applet that shows how to read a vernier scale.


  2. Krazmo says:

    I’ve always used cheap stainless steel calipers, available for about $8 from Enco. They’re pretty accurate, far better than plastic, but tough and cheap enough to use as a scribe.

    Be sure to get the ones that will lock at one measurement with a thumbscrew.

  3. Stuey says:

    I’ve had bad experiences with clones of these before, but to be fair – a $2 caliper will suit many purposes. I wouldn’t use these in high accuracy applications, but they could be good to have around.

    Widget Supply also has a steel one for $13, a digital for $20, and a dial one for $25.

    Eh, if I was going to spend $25, I’d opt for an “economic caliper” from McMaster Carr’s selection.

    If anyone gets these, make sure not to bend the sliding metal rod. Even if you don’t see a visible bend, any slight deviation in its trueness will make the calipers a major pain to use.

  4. Kurt Schwind says:

    Randy, thanks for the ‘how to read’ sites. I’ve never really used venier calipers before. Never really thought about it before, but that was well explained.

  5. ambush27 says:

    Yeah I got one of these from the local Canadian tire for a buck a while back, they definitely have many uses, after all its a real pain to measure round stuff with a ruler.

  6. Chris S. says:

    Just a heads up.
    Harbor Freight has 2 cheap-o calipers in their coupons this week. $6 for the digital, $1 for the plastic

  7. Freddie says:

    We used these in high school.

    Hey if it works, it works. Cheaper is better.

  8. Ben Doan says:

    These cheap little calipers are handy for use on wood measurements -not terribly accurate, but really tight as far as wood is concerned.

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