Curse you, digital calipers!

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I used to have a nice little 4-inch plastic caliper, with both decimal and fractional rings on the dial. It lived in the breast pocket of my shop apron, and was a really convenient size for woodworking. I'm sure that it didn't have the absolute accuracy that my metal calipers do, but it was always at hand and accurate enough for woodworking. Then one day, somewhere along the line, it went missing and no matter how I searched for it I never found it. And NOBODY sells anything like it nowadays, at least with a fractional dial. I've spent hours on the web trying to find someone who still sells it. No dice.
So I decided to finally step up into the 21st century, and bought a 4-inch fractional digital caliper from Rockler.
And it's just about useless to me. I've tried to use it, but when the thing tells me that what I'm measuring is say 55/128ths, there's no way that my mind can turn that into "just a skosh under 7/16ths". With a dial caliper, of course, it's obvious. So I go for a 6-inch metal caliper nowadays, even though I can't carry it around in my pocket like the little one.
But then yesterday I had reason to measure a router bit shank which I couldn't tell visually was 3/8th or 8mm, and I got out the digital caliper. And you guessed it.
The damned battery was dead.
So to hell with it.
Tom
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On 3/18/2013 2:32 PM, Tom Dacon wrote:

My "go to" caliper, which I use almost every time I walk in the shop, is indeed an analog, fractional dial caliper.
Handy as an apron pocket ... just too damn big for one.
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On 3/18/2013 1:32 PM, Tom Dacon wrote:

There's a 6-inch plastic fractional dial caliper here:
(Amazon.com product link shortened)63636291&sr=8-2&keywordsΚlipers+fractional+dial
If you really want a 4-inch one, you could cut 2 inches off.
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ch plastic caliper, with both decimal

ne day,

d

...or extend his pocket.
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On Mon, 18 Mar 2013 13:30:05 -0700 (PDT), DerbyDad03

General tools still makes a composite dial caliper - but it is a 150mm unit.
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Well, if anyone's still following this thread, my 4-inch dial caliper from Hardwick's arrived today (Seattle's not far away), and it's a good tool.
That little plastic one that I was mourning was a compact little piece of work, and actually shirt-pocket-sized. This one is just a somewhat shorter version of the usual sort of 6-inch capacity stainless steel fractional dial caliper, so it's not as compact. It's about 7 1/2" long, and fits an apron breast pocket pretty well but is a little too long for a shirt pocket. Visually, it looks just like the 6" iGaging fractional dial caliper that Rockler sells, but of course is a smaller length and is un-branded.
But it'll do, it'll do. The fractional dial is on the outer ring, where it belongs, and the usual major divisions are marked, with 1/64" minor divisions.
So if you'd like to have something like that in your shop, or your pocket, it's at http://www.ehardwicks.com , for $29.50, only a few bucks more than the plastic 6" ones I see around the web.
Best regards, Tom
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On 3/21/2013 10:24 PM, tdacon wrote:

Thanks for the feedback ... I've got it on the wish list.
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I've got one of these: http://www.woodcraft.com/product/2020110/19632/wixey-dual-display- fractional-digital-caliper.aspx
It reads in both decimal and fractional inch (64ths), but it only displays the fractional inch if within a certain tolerance. Sure would be nice if it displayed the indication all the time with an up or down arrow if it was close to another measurement.
I haven't changed the batteries yet, and it's more than a month old. Don't have to remove them either, unlike the other digital caliper I have.
Puckdropper
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"Tom Dacon" wrote in message
I used to have a nice little 4-inch plastic caliper, with both decimal and fractional rings on the dial. It lived in the breast pocket of my shop apron, and was a really convenient size for woodworking. I'm sure that it didn't have the absolute accuracy that my metal calipers do, but it was always at hand and accurate enough for woodworking. Then one day, somewhere along the line, it went missing and no matter how I searched for it I never found it. And NOBODY sells anything like it nowadays, at least with a fractional dial. I've spent hours on the web trying to find someone who still sells it. No dice.
So I decided to finally step up into the 21st century, and bought a 4-inch fractional digital caliper from Rockler.
And it's just about useless to me. I've tried to use it, but when the thing tells me that what I'm measuring is say 55/128ths, there's no way that my mind can turn that into "just a skosh under 7/16ths". With a dial caliper, of course, it's obvious. So I go for a 6-inch metal caliper nowadays, even though I can't carry it around in my pocket like the little one.
But then yesterday I had reason to measure a router bit shank which I couldn't tell visually was 3/8th or 8mm, and I got out the digital caliper. And you guessed it.
The damned battery was dead.
So to hell with it.
Tom
Tom... I ordered a digital depth gauge from Rockler. Would not turn on. Battery checked OK. I returned it and they sent another one. Same problem. One more time and I asked if they would test it before sending. I guess not, it was dead. They did cover all shipping both ways and returned credit to my card. But I no longer purchase any thing from them except HARD items, (metal tools etc.) WW
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I use one of these for a depth gauge in the shop: (Amazon.com product link shortened) No batteries to run down. Cheap, robust, measures accurately to 1/32", and allows estimation of 1/64" increments -- plenty fine enough for woodworking -- and won't be damaged if dropped on the concrete floor. No, no, I've never done anything that clumsy. Just speculating.
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On 3/18/2013 10:42 PM, WW wrote:

So goto HF and get the dial metal fractional. its worth the $19.99 I got it on sale for. It used to be $29, and is now regularly selling for 21.99 still worht it.
I might get another. Damn nice.
As far as plastic, I have never seen a plastic dial caliper, only vernier in plastic.
Yes I have a blindmans fractional digital from Lee Valley.. but I don't use it anymore. I have 3 other digitals.. having a dial fractional is easy to read and calculate. and no batteries.
--
Jeff

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On Mon, 18 Mar 2013 12:32:25 -0700, "Tom Dacon"

I have one of these from Starrett and love it. It's available many places for less than the $98.00 list price. Or you could go to Searz and pay...
http://www.sears.com/starrett-1202f-6-dial-caliper-w-case-fractional-6-in-2zue6/p-00940176000P
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On 3/18/2013 1:32 PM, Tom Dacon wrote:

I have two of these:
http://tinyurl.com/calg3mj
(Amazon.com product link shortened)
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"Tom Dacon" wrote in message

Some of those "fine" numbers do get to be a bit useless in most woodworking... especially on machines with "give it a tap" fine adjustments!
I use my Starrett fractional combination square for most stuff like this... I either set it using my finger to detect "flush" or I lay the board down flat on the bench/saw table and then press the body of the square down so the scale slides into the head until the body is flat on the board. Then I read the scale and adjust my machine using its scale and a tap as needed. There is enough backlash in the adjustment threads, even when approached from the same adjustment side (e.g., always clockwise, or always counter clockwise), that a tad more may be needed than the scale would suggest.
I seldom use calipers with wood... an exception being in setting up the stacked head dado cutter where it is handy to measure shims to adjust the width of the cut.
Thinking back, the fences on the table saws I used way back were crude enough and moved enough in use that maintaining a 1/16" tolerance was a good feat. I guess our expectations have changed!
John
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On 3/19/2013 9:08 AM, John Grossbohlin wrote:

I use a fractional caliper almost daily to check/verify the thickness of purchased stock and sheet goods, particularly when they come from a different supplier, batch or lot.
Thickness being that one dimension which, when it varies from part to part in a project, can cause a good deal of grief to the unsuspecting, from "square", to dadoes and grooves cut to the project width no longer fitting when the material comes from different lots/bins/suppliers.
I recently purchased from a supplier where the thickness of the "S2S" hardwood in the same bin (sold as 4/4, 5/4, etc) varied by as much as 3/32" in thickness from board to board.
IMO, and considering the importance of "thickness" in most of my woodworking, that is totally unacceptable for material sold as "surfaced two sides", and a potential problem for the unwary.
It's why I like having a fractional caliper that can easily fit in a pocket. :)
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"Swingman" wrote in message
On 3/19/2013 9:08 AM, John Grossbohlin wrote:

This actually raises a good point that stems from the type of work one does and the type of wood (a term I use loosely here)... I almost always use rough cut air dried wood when I'm using solid wood. Sometimes I end up with surfaced pine but even that tends to be reworked to flatten/straighten.... but generally even the pine I work with is rough cut and air dried. It helps to "live in the woods" of the Catskills and Hudson Valley where there are a lot of bandsaw mills.
When I'm doing one off pieces, particularly those with hand cut dimensions and joinery, the actual measured thickness is not nearly as important to me as the visual "measurement," i.e., it has to look right where it's being used. Put another way, as long as all the related stock is the same thickness I don't care what the thickness measures as long as it looks right. Using hand cut dovetails and working from the reference face when using mortise and tenons (either hand cut or machine cut) lets me "get away" with this...
If I were a production shop I'd be far more concerned with meeting specific measured thickness dimensions. This as parts generally aren't made relative to what is already there they are made to a specification.
Sheet goods are another story... sheet goods involve power tool dimensioning and joinery! That is where I use the calipers to help shim the dado blade...
John
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On 3/19/2013 10:19 AM, John Grossbohlin wrote:

Bingo ... that's precisely why I find fractional calipers very handy devices, to insure a corresponding relative thickness of like parts, the more portable the device, the better. ;)
Reminds me ... I need to run back out to the shop and grab mine ... heading out momentarily to buy 8/4 walnut for table legs for a custom table for a client. <g>
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Reminds me of a very formative experience of mine many years ago.
While I was in my 20's, I started metalworking. I have already been doing woodwork for a number of years. I used to go to this salvage yard. It had a bit of everything. I would crawl through the boxes and warehouses full of fascinating materials and scheme on how I could convert them to something useful for my purposes. It took that junkyard thing I learned growing up on the farm to a whole 'nother level. I bought all kinds of things from them. Tools, teflon metal, plastics, cable, pulleys, industrial plywood, paints, consumables and even some kitchenware.
I always carried calipers to measure the thickness of anything I bought. I always had a tape measure on my belt. I just thought it was the way to do it. I had a question, one day, about some stock sitting in a bin. I went over to the guy who works there and asked him about the item in question. He answered my question and referred to me as a "professional". I was shocked. I had only been working with metal for a few months and certainly did not consider myself to be a professional just yet. So I asked him why he called me a professional.
He gave me this little presentation, from a guy who works in the salvage yard perspective, as to why he referred to me as a professional. "I see these guys come in here al the time and buy things. A lot of times they come back and complain. We are a salvage yard. This is recycled stuff. The materials vary widely in hardness and thickness. You have to be careful of what you buy. I have guys come in here and buy a $100,000 worth of stuff and return it because it wasn't the right thickness. I see these guys in here in fancy suits. I don't trust them. Only about one guy in twenty carries calipers. I never have any problem with those guys. You come in here and measure everything. You are very careful. You are not a big guy obviously. You don't buy that much. But everything you do is careful and precise. I am sure your work is good. I know I will not have any problems with you. And in my mind that makes you a professional."
My chest swelled with pride. I never forgot that little talk he gave me. I have calipers everywhere. In all the vehicles. In my office. In the shop. And a tape measure laying along side of it. It just seemed natural for me to verify the thickness of anything I build with. Be it metal, wood. plastic or whatever. How can you possible expect to do a good job joining different material together if you don't know their exact size? As pointed out to me by a kind salvage yard guy, it is the "professional" way to do things.
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On 3/19/2013 10:25 AM, Lee Michaels wrote:

And there you go, Bubba.
"Attention to detail is the difference between mediocrity and supremacy"
A concept drilled into me in both growing up, and in training in the service when lives counted on it, to the point it becomes pertinent to everything you do. (Thanks, Dad.)
<Scroll down to "Residential Construction" header on my website below>
:)
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"Lee Michaels" wrote in message

Reminds me of my father... he went through an apprenticeship as a tool and die maker and worked as same early in his career. Precision, tolerances, and good workmanship and machines matter. I also recall him saying half jokingly that "Williamsburg ruined you." He was referring to my time working as a skilled craft interpreter at Colonial Williamsburg. The day he made the comment I was wrestling with a home renovation decision... Assuming equal physical and workmanship quality, there were various options and to me it HAD to look right or it would detract from the whole.
Williamsburg sensitized me to the whole notion of aesthetics and making parts relative to other parts instead of to detailed technical drawings. Both things became an important part of what I do. The aesthetics part takes time to plan out... Golden mean, Fibonacci progressions, etc. Making parts relative to what is already there, but within the design, frees me from "hard" plans. Often my "plans" are a rough sketch with gross dimensions, the rest is built to fit.... yellow sticky notes are sometimes enough paper. ;~) I apply the quality workmanship to the design... Seems to work out well judging by my success at shows.
John
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