Tips & Guidelines to Use Caliper (Vernier, Dial, and Digital)

As a precision tool, you need to pay attention to the guidelines on how to use the caliper properly, be it the vernier, dial, or digital models.  This is not only giving you a long-lasting tool (that saves money) but also increases the confidence that your measurement is reliable.

Taking care of the calipers doesn’t require a lot of money, it’s easy. In this post, we collect some general guidelines to help you properly use the caliper in the following discussion.

Guidelines for Using A Vernier Caliper

A vernier caliper should be used in the following manner:

  • When using the vernier caliper, avoid as possible as you can to use the tips of the jaws. This practice is meant to avoid abbe error in the vernier caliper. Instead of using the jaw tip, you should put the object to measure at the central part of the jaws.
  • The initial step before using the caliper is to always make sure you clean it with a suitable cloth with the purpose of removing any oil or dust.
  • Make it a regular habit to first check the caliper for any zero error. If it’s impossible to fix, don’t forget to include it in the final calculation of the reading. 
  • Unlike micrometers, calipers don’t come with a mechanism feature to control the pressure like a ratchet. Therefore, never apply excessive for when clamping the jaws. For beginners, this procedure may sound hard to do, but practice will sharpen your feeling. Use a certain length of workshop grade gauge block, and practice. You will develop a feeling and play the caliper like a pro. Further, if you are not sure, you can use a low force caliper but it requires some extra money to purchase.
  • Since reading a vernier caliper involves a lot of calculations, therefore it is advised to use excel application program with automated formulas regarding calculation to automate the process to avoid unnecessary calculation errors.
  • Get the vernier caliper calibrated after every fixed duration to keep its accuracy and precision at the topmost level.
  • Keep the vernier away from water and moisture to prevent it from rusting, if its material is not rust-proof.
  • Always clean the caliper with a dry cloth to clean the water and oil that sticks to it during usage.
  • Wearing gloves while using the caliper to protect it from dirty hands during usage is a good practice to do.
  • The caliper must be stored in a dry place, and with the jaw slightly open to prevent it from unwanted changes/damage due to temperature or moisture.

Guidelines for Using A Dial Caliper

The dial caliper’s rack and pinion mechanism make it a comparatively sensitive alternative to other calipers. This requires a definite set of guidelines to ensure its rightful care

  • It is most important to clean the beam of a dial caliper (where the main scale locates) with oil and a soft clean cloth to prevent its rack and pinion mechanism from becoming stiff.
  • The use of gloves while handling the dial caliper is preferable.
  • Choose the dial caliper with the light reflective graduation so that it’s easy to read under dim light.
  • Parallax error may happen if you read from the sides of the caliper. If you have to perform such this way, make sure the crystal cover is clear to guarantee the ease of reading.
  • Apply decent force when clamping the jaws
  • Before using a dial caliper, zeroing the caliper is important. If the dial reading doesn’t display 0 readout when closing the jaws properly, simply adjust the bezel so that the dial shows a 0 reading. 
  • Always ensure storage of caliper in a dry environment. Use the storage box to save the dial caliper from damage.

Guidelines for Using A Digital Caliper

A digital caliper, be it be digital dial or digital Vernier caliper, must be used in the right way to make it perform accurately. Following important guidelines must be followed for digital vernier to be long lasting and top-performing

  • Keep the locking screw not tight while moving the jaws. The application of force on locked jaws can deform the jaw shape or disturb the electric sensor.
  • Always ensure cleaning of the inner faces of the jaws to remove debris and dust; this allows for the most accurate reading measurement.
  • Check the zero error if it exists. Zeroing the digital caliper is easy. After closing the jaws, push the zero button. Once zeroing, repeat closing the jaws to find a consistent zero reading. 
  • No excessive pressure to the object being clamped. Always ensure that the caliper jaws are at tangent or parallel to the dimension being measured to avoid abbe error.
  • When measuring the depth, keep the surface of the caliper square with the reference surface.
  • Remove the battery from its compartment if you are sure it will not in use for a long period of time. This way saves you battery power and avoids any possible leaks.
  • Put the caliper away from water, wet and moist places to save the internal electronic system. Always consider the calipers with a good IP rating
  • It is important to periodically check the accuracy of digital caliper by inspecting them with a set of gauge blocks or any other set standard to ascertain its accuracy. This practice has the purpose to scan any inaccuracy caused by the internal electronic system that is invisible.
  • Since digital calipers save time, it is important to not rely upon them heavily in all circumstances and ensure the use of other calipers where required as well. So, having a backup seems a wise practice.

Final Remarks

Those are some tips and guides on how to use a caliper. No rocket science treatment to apply for.  Some operations such as using gloves, checking the zero error, avoiding abbe errors, no excessive force, etc are some guidelines as a common thing. Meanwhile, a special treatment is required for a particular caliper model.

A typical vernier and dial caliper commonly come with a lower resolution (.001″) than a digital caliper (.001″). However, a micrometer is superior in terms of the smallest reading that it can provide. Although the resolution seems convincing, it can mislead you if it is not accurate. They need calibration to ensure that their accuracy is still within the tolerance.