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Toolmonger Simon rightly points out that even if you’re willing to deal with the potential inaccuracies of cheap-o calipers, you’re still stuck with the fact that they don’t turn themselves off correctly, meaning that pretty soon you’ve got a useless plastic stick in your drawer. He’s found one solution: a solar powered model, pictured above.

I can’t see a brand on it, so hopefully he’ll comment here and let us know who makes it and where he found it — for just $10. I actually wouldn’t mind owning one.

Of course a friend of a (shop) friend found another solution: He’d cut his up and carefully install a tiny switch, allowing him to manually shut ’em off before putting ’em away. I noticed Simon’s has a switch, but it’s the kind that you just know will get bumped in a drawer/bag and turn the thing on.



15 Responses to From The Flickr Pool: A Better Cheap-o Caliper

  1. SharkyTM says:

    Even the HF ones have an on/off switch, but it doesn’t really turn it OFF. they slowly drain the batteries over the span of a month or 2. The easiest thing to do is take the battery out after every use… fun!

  2. Jerry says:

    It still looks like a piece of plastic that has too much flex/give if you need a truly accurate measurement. Probably just fine for the average user that isn’t building a rocket though.
    The real issue with solar-powered things like this is that when you are getting your measurements, you always seem to block the panel somehow and the display just goes blank.
    As Sharky says, the batteries are going to die in the regular, non-solar ones anyway after sitting in your tool box for a few weeks. So, maybe this will solve the issue of pulling the batteries out each time and then wondering where the battery went.

  3. Jerry says:

    Now that I looked at the site I have to say, “OOOPS!” It is made of stainless steel, not plastic.
    Now, where did he locate this for only $10? The web site says, “Typical price £48.15” If I recall, that’s about $75 US Dollars!

  4. mbaker says:

    I use regular non-digital caliper all the time. No need to replace batteries or worry about them dying. Some things should just stay the way they are. Also, calipers are an item where cheap is not acceptable. You can spend $40 and get a half way decent set that you can rely on.

  5. Bob D. says:

    Nope didn’t get cheap site, just name of mfg.

  6. Simon says:

    I bought this at Princess Auto which is kind of the Canadian version of Harbour Freight. It’s plastic and cheap enough to throw in a tool bag or loan to people so they don’t borrow my rather expensive and only slightly more accurate steel one.

    The best thing its for is doing imperial metric conversions at my desk…


  7. JH says:

    I wouldn’t rely on calipers anyway, digital or not. The abbe error is considerable even on good calipers. In metric mode the final digit is really useless. If you want precision use micrometers where possible.

    Having said that, a caliper is still a precision instrument. Precision instruments and the warm sun don’t mix. Solar powered caliper sounds like a silly idea.

  8. river1 says:

    i have a browne and sharpe that i paid good money for, not a lot of money (i’m not rich) but a fair price. i’ve had probably 5 years and while i don’t use it everyday i do use it often, it has an automatic shut off and i have yet to replace the battery in it.

    later jim

  9. Chris says:

    A decent pair of dial calipers should do the trick. I just checked mcmaster and they have an “economy grade” 0-6″ for under $30. The entry level mitutoyo 0-6″ are $88 for comparison’s sake.

  10. Neal says:

    What about this one. No batteries here. They claim stainless steel too as well as 0.001″ accuracy. Anyone use this one?


  11. Jerry says:

    Good old HF. They have a “polymer” caliper for 2 bucks! A digital (on sale) for$16.
    Looks like they have about 14 different calipers to pick from.

  12. rg says:

    I have a few inexpensive, nicely made Polish and Japanese-made vernier calipers which never run out of batteries and don’t have lasers or solar panels. Simple is best. Seriously, guys, a vernier scale is not hard to read.

  13. Simon says:

    I am one of the biggest tool snobs out there but to dismiss a tool because it is not made of unobtanium or is affected by the sun is a bit extreme. CNC

    I have screwdrivers that cost 50 cents that I use as much as my Swiss ones which I bought in Japan for a ridiculous sum. Some jobs are not worth wrecking a good tool. And loaner tools are an excellent way to protect your good ones from those with less appreciation for proper tools.

    (I just spent $11,000 on cordless drills so having some cheapo Ryobis to loan out is a worthy investment for instance)


  14. Bill says:

    I go through a lot of batteries on my calipers, and I’m sick of paying 2-3 bucks each. I found LR44 button cells for about 9 cents each, shipped, from DealExtreme. Got a dozen CR2032s for the keychain remotes and garage door openers too.

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