Digital Caliper Guide: Mitutoyo, Starrett, Fowler & Fractional Reviews


To understand the value of a digital caliper, you first must understand the need and use of a caliper.  Calipers are precise tools used to measure outside diameter, inside diameter, depth, or length of a given object.  It is typically used in manufacturing for inspection or in engineering and design.  It is used to measure small measurements (typically under 6”) very precisely ( up to 1/10,000 ) of the unit in use.  One of the advantages of a digital caliper is that it easily displays the smallest units in a digital format, helping to eliminate human error in reading a scale or gauge.  Another advantage is that it can display both English and Metric units without having to do the math yourself.  Some digital calipers can even display the measurement as a fraction rather than a decimal.  One more advantage of a digital caliper is the ability to “zero” at any point along the bar, allowing for easy comparative measurements without subtracting one measurement from another.  Common industries that use calipers are metalworking, woodworking, medicine, mechanical engineering, handloading, gunsmithing, and woodturning.  The newest generation of digital calipers has the ability to connect to personal computers or data collectors, giving inspectors the ability to log large numbers of measurements quickly and easily.

Mitutoyo Digital Calipers

Mitutoyo was founded by Yehan Numata in 1934.  It is now the largest metrology company in the world.  At the time of its creation, Yehan wanted to create the best mechanical micrometer in the world.  He didn’t just want to create the best, however, he wanted to produce it at a cost low enough that every manufacturing company in the world could afford to purchase as many as they needed.  He succeeded.  Since that time, he has expanded to produce more gaging products, maintaining the same philosophy of producing the world’s best while keeping focused on keeping them affordable for everyone.  Today, Mitytoyo digital calipers are still considered by many to be the best digital calipers in the world.  While more expensive than some of the competitors, they are not out of reach for the average user, and are certainly very affordable to almost every business, large and small alike.  Mitutoyo continues to produce a full range of dimensional measurement tools, and is dedicated to developing breakthrough technologies that has made it, and keeps it, the leading metrology company worldwide.  Online digital caliper reviews regard Mitytoyo as the best digital calipers in the world.

Starrett Digital Caliper

In Athol, MA, you will find Starrett World Headquarters.  Founded in 1880 by L.S. Starrett, this company has such a solid reputation and history that the name Starrett has been associated with the word “quality” for years.  Among the 2,000 employees worldwide, you will find toolmakers with 30 or more years of experience.  It is not uncommon to find that some employees today are third and fourth generation Starrett toolmakers.

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Starrett products are a broad line of precision measuring tools.  They  include electronic gages, dial indicators, levels, gage blocks, optical measuring projectors, granite surface plates, vision systems, tape measures, and much more.

Starrett has a new line of digital calipers.  They are the 799 Series Electronic Calipers.  They are constructed to include the features that machinists ask for most including a “zero” button, large LCD that is easy to read, long battery life, a button to change units from inches to millimeters, and a streamlined profile.  These calipers are easy to use, light and comfortable.  There are three models, measuring 0-6”(150mm), 0-8”(200mm), or 0-12” (300mm).  Each digital caliber comes in a fitted case designed to protect the caliber during storage or transfer.  Each one will shut off after 5 minutes of rest.  Just in case you were distracted and left the caliber sitting for too long, the last measurement is retained so it can be recalled when turned back on.  All sizes also feature an integrated depth rod, which is a feature not often found on digital calibers.  Most models do not have this feature available, let alone standard.  For fine adjustment, there is a thumb screw, as well as a thumb screw to lock the caliber at a set measurement.

Fowler Digital Caliper

When it comes to quality control and inspection equipment, Fred V. Fowler Company is recognized as a global leader.  It was founded in 1946.  The company focuses on developing the most innovative products.  The digital measurement tools developed by this company have been designed to integrate with today’s computers and software to provide the best interfacing with the newest industry software for inspection and quality control.

Fowler Company is focused on customer service.  It is their priority to provide integration, and innovation of products in demand at the cost and quality expected by their customers.  The Fowler salesmen are in the field, talking with their customers, and reporting to the company.  This method of quality service based on customer demand has aided in the development of tools that are designed for the customer, and helped the company to grow and develop some of the best digital calipers and other tools on the world market today.

Fractional Digital Caliper

A fractional digital caliper is simply a digital caliper that has the option of displaying a fraction rather than a decimal output.  This option is not available on all digital calipers, and is usually  only found on the higher-end, more expensive digital calipers.

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Amazon.com Products

The most popular digital caliper sold on Amazon.com is a 6 Inch LCD Caliper by Pit Bull.  It comes with an extra battery and case, at is being sold at an amazing $10.  The list price on this tool is just under $50, so you know you are getting an amazing deal!  The display can be changed between inches and millimeters, and is large so it is easy to read.  This digital caliper will measure from 0 to 6” or 155 mm.  It is made from stainless steel so that it will last for years without corrosion.

Customers who reviewed this product feel that it is the best digital caliper for the money because it is accurate, well built, and the case is fantastic.  More than one person was surprised at the accuracy and quality of this caliper at such a great price.  They point out that it is not the best digital caliper on the market, just that it is the best at this price.

The next most popular digital caliper is the Mitutoyo 500-196-20.  This caliper is a bit more expensive, at $112.07, but is often regarded as one of the best digital calipers available.  It is lightweight, yet sturdy thanks to the hardened stainless steel construction.  The large digital display is easy to read, and measurements can be made in four ways- inside diameter, outside diameter, depth and step.  This digital caliper has position memory for retaining measurements.  This caliper can also display inches or millimeters.  After 30 minutes of rest, the caliper will turn off to help save battery.  It has the ability to “zero” the display in order to do comparative measurements without subtracting.  To make fine adjustments, this model has a rolling thumb wheel.  If you are using the caliper for marking, there is a thumb screw that allows you to lock the scale in a set position.

The customers who reviewed this product state that they love this caliper because, unlike cheaper models, the speed the jaws move does not change the accuracy of the meter.  The measurements are consistent, accurate, and they don’t have to second guess this meter, where multiple measurements are sometimes needed to ensure accuracy with a cheaper digital caliper.  The general consensus is that these digital calipers are worth the additional cost, and would definitely recommend this to others.  Customers who use calipers every day, and have compared this one with the cheap models feel that this caliper is definitely worth the extra cost because of the durability, sturdiness, accuracy, consistency, and reliability.

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The last digital caliper that I would like to tell you about from Amazon.com is a model from Starrett.  It is the model 799A-6/150 Electronic Caliper.  It comes in a plastic case, and is also a 6” model that will measure 0-6”or 0-150mm.  This model sells for $122.38, and is also considered one of the best digital calipers by many customers who have done online digital caliper reviews.

Like the other models, this light, easy-to-use tool has a large LCD screen that is simple to read, and is made from hardened stainless steel.  This caliper also has a rolling thumb wheel for fine adjustment and a lock screw that will hold the meter in one position.  There is a separate button for “zeroing” quickly and easily for comparative measurements.  Unlike most digital calipers, this one includes an integrated depth rod.  The last measurement is retained when the unit is shut off, which is useful if you are distracted and the 5 minute automatic shut off turns the meter off to save battery life before you write down the measurement.

Reviewers find that this digital caliper is high quality and a well-constructed tool.  They feel it is reliably accurate, and would recommend it to others “without reservation”.

Summary

Today’s digital calipers measure more accurately, quicker, are easier to read, and more versatile than the dial and mechanical calipers of the past.  Beware of the cheap lines, however, as you may be disappointed in the accuracy, consistency, and quality.  Spending the money the first time will ensure your satisfaction and the longevity of your tool.  This is one item you should only need to buy once in a lifetime.  Do it right the first time and choose one of the high-quality brands you have read about here today.  You will be glad you did.

Jeremy D

Jeremy is the editor at TopToolTips.com where we're passionate about providing you with the best tips about a DIY and the tools to get it done. There are a lot of questions out there asked about all aspects of this topic and that's where we come in, to answer them quickly and helpfully.

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