First Impressions of LeeValley Blind Man Digital Fractional Calipers.

OK, It seems that it is hard to be with out a decent caliper for measuring in the shop. In particular I like to use them for checking the thickness of the wood going through the planer. They are also handy for measuring the depth of holes, the height of the TS blade, small gaps, etc.
For several years I used a General brand, plastic, dial caliper that measured hundredths of an inch. I paid about $25 for it 7 years ago. It worked but one that displayed fractions would be better. About 2 years ago I purchased a stainless steel dial caliper that displayed in fractions of 64'ths and in hundredths of an inch. It was much easier to use. IIRC about $29.
Friday a week ago I ordered the new Digital Fraction caliper from Lee Valley. Features include, Stainless Steel, LCD display with the largest numbers being almost 1/2" tall, It will display in increments of .01 mm, .001" and 1/128" fractions. It comes in a decent protective plastic caring case.
The caliper came with 2 batteries, 1 was a spare, and instructions that are......somewhat lacking, buy hey, its a caliper, what's to learn. Either way the caliper is very easy to use and is intuitive. 3 buttons either turn the unit on or off, toggles between decimal mm's, decimal inches, or fractions of an inch, and resets to zero. Accuracy is pretty good, if you open it up to 4 1/2" reset to zero and close, the display will read -4 1/2". Do that in the decimal inches display and you might get -4.4995, almost always within one half of .001". Good enough for woodworking. While working within the tolerances of 1/128" of an inch is certainly good enough also for 99.9% of your wood working needs sometimes working with those tiny increments of a fraction can be a bit of strain on your mental resources if you are trying to visualize and recognize the measurement. 3/4" is easy to visualize but 96/128" requires a bit of thought. Fortunately all fractions are immediately reduced to the lowest possible denominator but again if you are planing and shooting for 3/4", how close are you if the board measures out at 97/128", or 99/128"? This IMHO this is where the reset to zero button shines. Simply open the caliper to 3/4", press the zero reset button, and then measure your wood. If you are dead on, you get "0". If you are a little wide at 99/128" you get a reading of 3/128" which IMHO is a lot easer to visualize than 99/128".
Lee Valley has them at an introductory price of $24.99 plus shipping. IMHO a very good deal if you have been thinking of getting a caliper for the shop.
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Because of there are several on their site, here is the direct link, I hope.
http://www.leevalley.com/wood/page.aspx?c=2&pV741&cat=1,43513,49782
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OK, make that $26.50
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And looks like a good deal even at the regular price of $39.50.
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I'm in almost exactly the same situation: replacing a plastic General from the BORG that I was forever flipping over to read the decimal->fraction table. I was very close to picking up their regular electric caliper (and carrying on with a table) when this came along with the perfect features, and I had to snap it up. I must say the heft and rigidity of the metal is a step up. Leon's right about the reasonably-well-but-not-perfectly translated instructions, but I actually got something out of them because I hadn't realized you could use the head of the calipers to measure depths (as well as the post at the end.) My only complaint is that the unit lacks a thumb wheel, which makes measurement of small or irregular objects something of a juggling act. Well, I also have trouble with the tiny fraction increments, but they pretty much have to work that way, so I can make due.
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On Sun, 6 May 2007 16:03:43 -0500, "Leon"

It sounds like a great tool, but the above is why I like an analog dial. I have a fractional dial caliper and I can easily visualize how close things are with just a glance at the dial. I guess I just old fashioned or something.
-- "We need to make a sacrifice to the gods, find me a young virgin... oh, and bring something to kill"
Tim Douglass
http://www.DouglassClan.com
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Yeah, like the real person on the other end of the line, some things are best left alone.
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Oh.. niiiiice!... and guess what? My oldest daughter just gave me a nice gift-card for LV for my birthday... I'm an obsessional caliper fanatic... this one sounds like even more reason to check into the Betty Ford Caliper Wing. Not only does it satisfy the obsession...it does so in BIG FARKING NUMBERS!!
Life doesn't get any better than this.. I'm buying one.
Thanks for blazing the trail, Leon... <G>
r
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Leon,
Thank you for posting the review. Tell me, does it have auto off?
-Jim
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Yes - four minutes, and it also has a data out port and specs for the signal it puts out.
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Data port??!!! SCHWINNNGGG!!! I hope you're not just teasing me!
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Russ wrote:

He's not teasing. However, on mine at least the actual port isn't there...just bare pads and a silkscreened rectangle where the jack would go.
Still, someone with access to a scope should be able to figure out the pinout of the pads assuming they haven't left out other components.
Chris
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Yes, after a couple of minutes.
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Which is nice. I bought a Starrett digital read-out tape once which had the uncanny ability to eat batteries when sitting in my tool box. A button or something would be inadvertantly pushed, draining the battery...which pissed me off to no end as they were only available at our local radio Shack for 16 SIXTEEN farking dollars.
Yup.. had to have it.. too much toy-value to leave on the store shelf... Learned the hard way..many, many years ago. (as I look at my $ 700.00 CD player....) damn those coin-style batteries!!! Ohhhh and those digital cameras...now there's a battery-racket. THIS time, I bought one which takes rechargeable AA's and I bought a Maha charger and Powerex batteries like the cops use in their radios. (At least around here they do.) Last camera had a 'proprietory' battery (Nikon) never again.
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Yes!, I have a 5 year old Fuji digital that uses 4 AA batteries. I too use a Maha charger and the 2.7 Powerex batteries. My first set of 12 lasted about 5 years.
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I've been wanting something like this for awhile and the price is right. Thanks for the tip on the tool and the other hints on how to use it.
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After having read this post I just HAD TO have this tool! I went immediately to the Lee Valley site and ordered mine. When I arrived home from work yesterday, it was there - woohoo!. I whisked it away so the wife wouldn't know I bought ANOTHER gadget (got away clean) and eagerly opened it. First of all, you are right about the directions, it looks like they were translated on a free internet translation site - not good (but pretty comical).
After I finally figure out how to get the damn battery in (the directions were just plain wrong about the procedure), I went to test it out. UNFORTUNATELY, something was very wrong with the tool. It was completely wrong and, even after changing the battery, powering down and restarting several times, the tool is still giving completely erratic readings. I'm going to send it back to Lee Valley and ask for a replacement. Hopefully this was just an isolated example because I really like the concept and the price. I'll repost after the replacement arrives. I wonder if other have had the same experience that I did...
Chuck
The quickest way of ending a war is to lose it. -George Orwell
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I did the same thing. Got it yesterday, put it in my pants (she'll never look there) and snuck it into the workshop. I found out the same thing about the battery, after I went and dug up a jewler's screwdriver to take that little screw out (maybe that's where the data port its). Anyway, I haven't tried it with my setup bars, but it appears to be accurate. I put it on a 3/4 piece of maple and got 97/128. Then I tried it with my analog caliper and it was a p-hair over the 3/4 mark. I'll try it against my set up blocks tonight.
-Jim
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Just in case anyone was following this; I got the replacemnt caliper from Lee Valley today. Works like a charm and seems to be dead on accurate! Their customer service was excellent and the exchange was completely painless.
Chuck
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That's the usual way with Chinese tools. Just keep going through them till you find a good one.
wrote:

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