How do you use Digital Calipers

Digital Calipers – How to Use then and More

How do you use Digital Calipers

Whether it’s metalworking, carpentry, or a hobby that involves working with small pieces, getting the correct measurements right is pertinent. The more mistakes you make in this area, the more time-consuming and costlier it’ll be for you to complete your projects. Is there such a tool that can make gauging easier and accurate? The answer is yes.

A digital caliper is capable of measuring all areas of dimensions on small objects. This includes depth and diameter as well. Lots of special parts need pinpoint measurements for them to fit on other parts. This type of caliper, a staple in my workshop, is easy to use but does have a small but important learning curve. For the inexperienced, as much info as possible should be learned before their use, which leaves us at the details below. Follow each of the steps when using a digital caliper, and you’ll get the hang of it in no time.

Things that You’ll Need to Begin

When using a digital caliper, remember to acquire these items to make the steps easier:

  • Digital Caliper – You won’t be able to measure using the ways that are described below without one. There are many brands of digital calipers. Most of them work well, even the cheaper models. High-end digital calipers tend to be built better and less prone to breaking when dropped. The battery may also last a bit longer than a cheap model.
  • Test Pieces – This can include any number of metal or wood pieces that you have in your workshop. Given that this is a tutorial, you don’t have to start off measuring pieces that’ll be used later. It’s suggested for you to start with wood or metal. Find pieces that are hollowed out so that you can learn to measure depth and diameter.
  • Small Brush – Use a small brush to clean the caliper before and after every use. The caliper’s accuracy as reading measurements can be affected by specks of dirt and debris. To prevent inaccurate readings, you’ll want to use something to wipe down the surface area of the calipers, particularly the areas that come into contact with whatever you’re measuring. If you can’t find a small brush at your local home improvement store, a toothbrush will suffice.
  • Paper and Pencil – You’ll need paper and pencil to jot down your measurement. Even with a digital caliper, you should make a habit of writing things down, more so when gauging multiple sides to a single piece. That way, you won’t forget the measurement that you need for another section that attaches to the one that was previously gauged.
  • Extra Batteries – Most digital calipers use lithium batteries to display and measure readings. They’re the small batteries that are commonly placed in watches and some small remote controls. Finding them is easy, with most being sold in batches of several batteries in one pack. If measuring with a digital caliper is something that you anticipate doing daily, a purchase of lithium batteries are suggested. But if not, you should be okay for a while with the battery that’s included with the caliper already.
  • Work Surface – Find a clean work surface that’s flat. If you’re a woodcutter, wipe away sawdust residue. You don’t want to get any debris in the calipers. With a caliper, you’ll likely be handling very small objects, keep the table as clear as you can to avoid losing anything, and ready your laptop/PC when transferring your readings via SPC output (more on this later).
  • Storage Space – Find a safe place to store your digital calipers before you begin. Place them away from other tools that are dirty. Given that some of the items you measure may have oil or grease on them, wipe down as you work (and as needed).

Instructions for using a Digital Caliper

Step 1: Clean and Zero the Caliper

Based on the region you live in or your preferences, choose either metric or imperial numbers to get measurements for your items. US customary units are always available, but typically similar to imperial. Many digital calipers will display either unit of measurement, which is customizable on the digital screen.

Before measuring, remember to always clean the calipers, especially along the jaws that are going to touch the objects being gauged. Even the smallest piece of debris can give you inaccurate measurements, so take a clean cloth and wipe them down. Most digital calipers will a have “zero” button located somewhere near the digital readout. Press it once when you’ve got the object needed to be measured nearby, then proceed to the next step.

Step 2: Extend and Secure Item to Measure

Start by getting all exterior measurements. Unless you’re measuring off something that has an awkward shape, always place it close to the back of the jaws, away from the tip. Most of this is similar to using a pair of pliers. Open the jaws to a wider size than the object, place it inside, then gently close. Don’t vigorously press down on the jaws when measuring. If you do, there’s a good chance that it won’t be accurate due to the pressure of your hands making the numbers off from an accurate reading.

Step 3: Measure the Diameter on the Opposite Side

For any hollowed-out objects, you’ll need to get measurements by using the upper exterior jaws on the opposite side of the front jaws. It’s a lot smaller than the large jaws, made this way since many objects that require a diameter measurement are tiny. Instead of going in like the large jaws, however, you’ll expend the exterior.

Open the jaws until it doesn’t move anymore, making double sure to keep it centered for an accurate reading in diameter. You might have to try this more than once if you’ve never used a caliper before. Sometimes, it helps to adjust towards the center after the calipers are hugging the walls of what you’re measuring.

Step 4: Take Depth Measurements at the Bottom

Next, it’s time for measurements of your object’s depth. Notice the piece at the bottom of your calipers that extends out? This is the depth gauge. Begin at the top portion of the item, then extend the rod down until it no longer moves. Holding the caliper’s edge (where the ruler ends) near to the edge of what you’re measuring helps a lot. When getting depth, ensure that the rod isn’t cooked. It should be as straight as possible.

Step 5: Record Measurements on Paper

As you take these measurements, you should be writing down what you gauge on paper. Some digital calipers may do this for you on the digital screen, but most don’t feature anything other than providing readouts. The digital display will show numbers that begin with a whole number, then a decimal after. This will be the case regardless of what unit of measurement you rely on. Once you take notes on your findings, you can begin working on your project.

Additional Information

What Is a Digital Vernier Caliper?

Like all calipers, a digital vernier caliper is a precision tool that allows users to obtain accurate measurements of small objects. For many skilled jobs that involve metalworking or carpentry, knowing the correct distances of objects is important since it can determine how other objects will be cut. A digital caliper takes away the burden of having to rely on the manual readout of the ruler to do this since all measurements are displayed on an LCD screen.

What Is a Digital Caliper Used For?

The most common use for digital calipers are measuring the sizes of various interchangeable parts. As long as the object isn’t too large, it will fit into the jaws without a problem. The jaw extension is wide, and measurements show up immediately. Unlike a ruler, measurements require no estimation since it reads out where the object begins and ends when held by the jaws.

When dealing with tiny pieces, measuring by eye is difficult or next to impossible to do, at least without error. Calipers clear up the frustration since gauging takes less time, and results in better accuracy than the untrained eye. Alternatively, there’s lots of unique ways that digital calipers are tweaked to make everyday activities easier.

How to Reset Mitutoyo Digital Caliper?

If you own or are planning to own a Mitutoyo Digital Caliper, you’ll need to learn how to zero it out. Start by pushing the jaws closed, then free the screw near to its dial. Since the dial is free, use it to turn the pointer until it aligns accurately to the zero decimal on the body of the dial. Try it a few times until you can memorize how to do it without reading any instructions.

How to Read a Digital Caliper?

With a digital caliper, you can read manually by looking at the numbers on the primary scale, or checking out what’s shown on the digital display. Since most purchase digital calipers for the latter, you’ll likely be relying on the display only. To stress the point, zero out before measuring, then wait a couple of seconds until the numbers are shown to cease fluctuating on the screen. The number you see is your measurements, either in metric or imperial units.

What Is a Digital Caliper Used For?

A digital caliper is a specialized tool that isn’t only useful for carpenters and metalworkers. Anyone that undertakes a project that’ll involve measuring off lots of pieces would find them extremely useful. Whatever their geometric shapes are, getting pinpoint accurate measurements will keep you from wasting parts from inaccurate measurements of distance. Whether it’s a door, a piece of wood, or even a screw, you’ll be able to proceed with your project with more assurance than what a standard ruler can provide.

What Is SPC Output on A Digital Caliper?

Digital calipers with SPC output can take away the burden of having to stop and take notes after every measurement. While it’s something that you might want to do regardless, an SPC output will link your caliper to a PC or laptop, where you can record all of your readings on the fly. Most models attach the board located in the digital display via a USB cord. From there, the calipers will automatically transfer your readings to your template of choice. Spreadsheet templates are most recommended when saving files with caliper measurements.

What Is the Least Count of Digital Vernier Caliper?

On a typical vernier caliper, there’s a vernier and main scale. The vernier scale is small while the main scale consists of the longer piece that resembles a ruler. When the main scale’s smallest measurable number is divided by the sum of all vernier scale divisions, it’s known as a list count.

As an example, if you have a ruler that has no readings after one centimeter, then it cannot be used to measure the dimensions of anything other than centimeters. The smaller the least count, the more accurate the digital caliper is. So to determine the least count of your caliper, always divide the lowest reading that’s displayed on your primary scale to its division count or the number of divided markings.


Enjoyed the information presented? How comfortable are you with using a digital caliper now? They’re not as difficult as things might seem when reading. It’s easy to get the hang of, and most are built with parts that won’t break or easily damaged when handled with care. Getting correct measurements for all of my projects is important and must be done correctly the first time.

This is to save on time, funds, and headache when working with intricate parts that must fit with other pieces. But maybe you need a digital caliper for something entirely different. If so, please do tell! Write your thoughts and suggestions in the comments. Don’t forget to share with your friends if the information provided is helpful.

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