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  1. #1
    Can'tre Member 3alarmer's Avatar
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    Reasonably Accurate Low End Vernier Calipers?

    I'm going to be teaching a wheel building
    course at the local bike coop here in the
    early part of next year and will require the
    participants to buy and learn to use a vernier
    caliper as part of the introduction.

    I'm old enough to be kinda shocked at the
    current prices of the quality made in USA stuff
    as well as the generally crappy nature of the
    stamped steel made in India stuff at Home Depot
    and Sears. A lot of chinese import stuff like
    optics has made a quantum leap in the last
    few years in terms of quality. I cannot reasonably
    expect these guys to spend more than 20 or 30
    bucks for a set of calipers, and I'm pretty set on
    vernier scale models both as the most durable
    and as a learning experience.

    Does anyone out there have any suggestions/
    experience with the stuff in this range available
    from an internet retailer like Amazon or AEBike?

    I've done a search on Amazon and the most likely
    alternative I can come up with is:

    http://www.amazon.com/Steelex-D1054-...=3IGKG90D4ORLJ

    Thanks for your experience/opinions. I'm sure glad
    I bought mine when they didn't require a bank loan
    for a decent one.

    Mike Larmer

  2. #2
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    Reasonably low priced but good quality verniers are still available at most industrial suppliers, but are harder to come by because the cost of dial calipers has gotten so low. Search "buy vernier caliper" and you'll come up with a bunch of potential sources. I still like to use verniers for lots of my machine shop situations because they're so bulletproof, and not prone to getting destroyed by a chip in the rack.

    Just curious, why are you requiring vernier calipers as part of a wheelbuilding course?
    FB
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  3. #3
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  4. #4
    Senior Member
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    I have been using the Harbor Freight digital calipers (6") for various purposes including lathe/mill work. Similar versions are available elsewhere as well.
    http://www.harborfreight.com/hand-to...crometers.html

  5. #5
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    Whole MM General tool at many auto parts stores , but for fractions of a mm/ thousandths of an inch
    you probably want those harbor freight kind of places ... maybe in Wally World?

  6. #6
    Can'tre Member 3alarmer's Avatar
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    FBin NY:

    1. My opinion is that they are fast disappearing because
    nobody bothers to learn their use anymore, even though
    as you so eloquently put it :" because they're so bulletproof,
    and not prone to getting destroyed by a chip in the rack."

    2.I'm trying to turn out students who are able to measure
    the dimensions of any and all hubs they may encounter
    and then use those measurements to plug into a spoke
    length calculator (probably online like Wheelpro). A caliper
    is the handiest way I've found to do this.

    3. I encounter a distressing number of individuals at the
    local bike coop (Sacramento Bicycle Kitchen) who don't
    even know what the goddam things are. Call it my
    own quixotic attempt to save my civilization.

    Mike

  7. #7
    Senior Member DannoXYZ's Avatar
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    Here's the same item for $12.95. Amazon - SE Vernier Caliper & Depth Gauge. I bought the same one from Harbour Freight for $10 a couple years ago. It has held up well and remains very accurate. Having 0.1mm precision is good enough for wheel-building (even the $2 plastic ones are fine for that). Once you get in the $15-30 range, you can get much more resolution and accuracy with dial-calipers. But that removes the good lesson on reading vernier calipers.

    Here's a good thread on digital calipers.

  8. #8
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    Don't waste your money on vernier calipers, get dial or digital calipers. We didn't use verniers in a machine shop, even back in 1971. Dial calipers were the norm back then. These days, digital is most common.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by 3alarmer View Post
    Call it my
    own quixotic attempt to save my civilization.
    I understand, and as someone who still has and uses a slide rule fro quick work, appreciate your sentiment. But quixotic is the right word. Time passes, and alternate technologies become so inexpensive that just about the only good things you can say about the old reliable stuff are just that - old and reliable.

    I checked the harbor site, and they have some unbelievable deals on magnetic scale electronic calipers, or maybe plenty good enough for your purposes the plastic verniers. I have one of these and they're very adequate for your purposes, both teaching, and measuring spoke hole distances, plus they won't break the budget.
    FB
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    An ounce of diagnosis is worth a pound of cure.

    “Never argue with an idiot. He will only bring you down to his level and beat you with experience.”, George Carlin

    “One accurate measurement is worth a thousand expert opinions” - Adm Grace Murray Hopper - USN

    WARNING, I'm from New York. Thin skinned people should maintain safe distance.

  10. #10
    Senior Member clasher's Avatar
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    I'd go with digital for use in a co-op. Almost everyone knows how to read those ones... a bunch of the older guys at our co-op don't have any idea how to use verniers or understand the way the dials work either. Nice skills to have though. What about a slide rule for the spoke length calculations?

  11. #11
    tcs
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    Plenty good enough for measuring hubs and entering the data into a spoke length calculator.
    Last edited by tcs; 11-15-10 at 08:00 AM.
    "When man first set woman on two wheels with a pair of pedals, did he know, I wonder, that he had rent the veil of the harem in twain? A woman on a bicycle has all the world before her where to choose; she can go where she will, no man hindering." The Typewriter Girl, 1899.

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  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by clasher View Post
    I'd go with digital for use in a co-op. Almost everyone knows how to read those ones... a bunch of the older guys at our co-op don't have any idea how to use verniers or understand the way the dials work either. Nice skills to have though. What about a slide rule for the spoke length calculations?
    I think you missed (or made) the OPs point about why he wants to teach the use of verniers. As to using a slide rule for spoke calculation, it isn't what a slide rule is best for. the spoke length calculation is a multi step process involving trig functions, and you want 3 place accuracy. Easily done with pen and paper or a hand calculator, or using a program available on the net. The slide rule is for quick estimates, and confirming that results gotten with a digital calculator are in the ball park.
    FB
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    An ounce of diagnosis is worth a pound of cure.

    “Never argue with an idiot. He will only bring you down to his level and beat you with experience.”, George Carlin

    “One accurate measurement is worth a thousand expert opinions” - Adm Grace Murray Hopper - USN

    WARNING, I'm from New York. Thin skinned people should maintain safe distance.

  13. #13
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    I have a couple of dial calipers I use for reloading, bike work and general around-the-house projects. They are Chinese made decent quality stainless steel and ran about $25 each. They are accurate and the readings are less ambiguous than any vernier, even in [racticed hands. Several of the reloading supply houses sell them under the RCBS, Lyman or other brand names but they are all the same as you can get locally.

    I do know how to read a vernier and also know how to use a sliderule but see no compulsion to stay with what is basically obsolete technology or to insist others do. It's like insisting any new driver learn on a manual transmission car with no sycromesh.

  14. #14
    Senior Member clasher's Avatar
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    Digital callipers will give you more than accurate enough readings to build wheels. They're intuitive for most people these days. OP said he was teaching a wheelbuilding course at a co-op. I'd imagine people that are signing up to build wheels don't really care all that much about using verniers, slide rules, or even an abacus. If you're going to do it all in-depth by explaining all the calculations and how to do it on paper then yeah, teach verniers too... but digital would help you get onto the actual wheelbuilding quicker, just like using a pre-made calculator.

  15. #15
    Senior Member Homebrew01's Avatar
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    I think it would make sense to require calipers, and then give them options of which ones to buy based on their own budget, understanding of the varying qualities and types, and future usage.
    Bikes: Old steel race bikes, old Cannondale race bikes, less old Cannondale race bike, crappy old mtn bike

  16. #16
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    At a Whopping $1.59 the plastic caliper which is plenty adequate for this and future bike related uses, such as measuring seatposts and fork crowns is perfect to the OPs needs, and could be a giveaway with the course, or at least not raise the cost to the students materially.

    One virtue of vernier calipers for bike work is their near indestructability. I keep one in my toolbox, no worries about batteries, or physical damage from any of the other tools. Yes there are niftier, easier to use tools that anybody can use, but that's like saying why ride a single speed bike when gears are so good. Sometimes the most basic item is the right item.

    BTW- Spoke hole distance can be measured easily enough with a grade school bow compass and ruler, so no tools need be purchased for the course.
    FB
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    An ounce of diagnosis is worth a pound of cure.

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    “One accurate measurement is worth a thousand expert opinions” - Adm Grace Murray Hopper - USN

    WARNING, I'm from New York. Thin skinned people should maintain safe distance.

  17. #17
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    Two and a half bucks at enco:
    http://www.use-enco.com/CGI/INSRIT?P...PARTPG=INLMK32
    Although, frankly I agree with the 'get a digital caliper' sentiment. I do machine work, and my vernier calipers just sit in a box. Call it intellectual laziness if you will, but I call it declining eyesight!

  18. #18
    17yrold in 64yrold body
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    I have three digital calipers. Two steel, one of which reads fractional English, and one plastic--the one I end up using most of the time. As many above have stated, extreme accuracy is seldom required for bike work, and the plastic one is quick and easy. All were purchased online for less than $20. If I remember right, the most accurate one came from surpluscomputers.com, and was about $15 plus shipping.

  19. #19
    Senior Member BCRider's Avatar
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    As someone that learned to read verniers early on I think it's a nice bit to teach them how to read a vernier scale on both a set of calipers as well as a "tenths" micrometer. Bring along your nice metal version to show them off and hand out the plastic ones to them as a "freebie" to use for the course and as a tool box handy item for later.

    But that was then and this is now as the old saying goes. Most machinists and others that use calipers a lot went over to dial as soon as they became reasonably priced. Not to mention that a lot of the old vernier guys are no longer able to see well enough to properly read a vernier. Asking the students to purchase a set of calipers is fine. But it should be THEIR option to get vernier, dial or digital since it's THEIR money and will be THEIR tool... See where I'm going with this? It's really not your place to decide what they should buy with their money. I tend to agree with the option of buying a big discount box of the plastic ones to hand out as part of your course and require them to use the plastic vernier tools for your course but let them buy what they want for their own tool.

    Insisting that they buy a vernier caliper is like insisting that they do the spoke calculations by hand using pencil and paper and trig tables instead of a scientific function calculator or the online computer programs. But actually while you're at it why not do one spoke calculation manually on the board just so they see what the factors are and how all the triangles involved in a spoke calculation work out. That way they understand what the online calculators are doing for them.

    Frankly my money is on dial calipers. Even with my reading glasses in the shop the vernier scale seems to writhe around like a snake caught under a pitchfork I've got a couple of digital ones but it seems like I'm forever changing batteries in the darn things. On the other hand I've got about 5 or 6 of the dial calipers around because I'd buy another whenever I found them on sale for under $20. These days that niche is filled by the sub $20 digitals and I find I'm paying a little under $30 for my dial options. It's still worth it to me since it means not replacing dead batteries all the time.
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  20. #20
    Team Water Andy_K's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tcs View Post
    Plenty good enough for measuring hubs and entering the data into a spoke length calculator.
    +1 I've got this and use it all the time when I don't need exceptional accuracy. You can read it within a tenth of a millimeter, though I realize it's not actually that accurate. I trust it within half a millimeter. That's not bad for the 99 cents I paid.

    I also have a digital version that I got from Harbor Freight for $18. They claim it's accurate to within 0.01mm, and I have seen little reason to question that.

  21. #21
    Senior Member peripatetic's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by HillRider View Post
    I do know how to read a vernier and also know how to use a sliderule but see no compulsion to stay with what is basically obsolete technology or to insist others do. It's like insisting any new driver learn on a manual transmission car with no sycromesh.
    If you don't understand the basics, chances are you're not really understanding the whole thing. Your analogy actually illustrates the point. If every new driver were to learn to drive on a manual transmission, my guess is there'd be a much higher percentage of good--or even decent--drivers compared to nowadays. If you just think the trick is pushing a button, dropping your feet on the pedal and then going as you talk on your cell phone or check e-mail on your crackberry, you're likely not very aware of the fact your car is a large, heavy, incredibly complex physical force moving through space. All of those things come as a natural byproduct of understanding the basics of how your car is moving.

    Besides, the investment of time and effort required to read vernier calipers is all of what--5 minutes? Ten if you really just aren't getting it at first? Seems a worthwhile cost for having a slightly wider breadth of knowledge of basic shop schools, especially if you've got an interest in wheel-building in the first place. The difference between understanding the basics and then moving on to something more convenient or just learning the convenient thing and not getting the basics is undefinable but real.

    OP, I have some cheap-o vernier calipers at Home Depot that are marked within .1 mm. I've got to say, at times, they're not accurate enough for me to get a helpful reading (if you're trying to measure a seatpost diameter, there's a big difference between 26.8 and 27.1). They also began to rust while sitting in my tool kit. I'm following this thread to see if there might be something better I can afford.
    Last edited by peripatetic; 11-15-10 at 11:11 AM.

  22. #22
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    The plastic ones are not good enough. I misread a seat post with one, am considering the $10 with coupon 6" digital one from harbor freight as an upgrade. I wouldnt' trust the plastic ones below 1/2 mm.

  23. #23
    Team Water Andy_K's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SCROUDS View Post
    The plastic ones are not good enough. I misread a seat post with one, am considering the $10 with coupon 6" digital one from harbor freight as an upgrade. I wouldnt' trust the plastic ones below 1/2 mm.
    Be careful which digital one you get from HFT. They've got a digital model that is only accurate to within +/- 0.2 millimeters. It doesn't sound like that's the one you're looking at, but its existence is something to be aware of.

  24. #24
    Team Beer Cynikal's Avatar
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    To the OP. I'm happy to hear you are teaching this at the Bike kitchen. I'm a former volunteer at SBK. I'll be sure to take that class. Are you going to require that everyone have the same caliper? I already have a dial caliper that I could bring.
    I'm not one for fawning over bicycles, but I do believe that our bikes communicate with us, and what this bike is saying is, "You're an idiot." BikeSnobNYC

  25. #25
    Gear Hub fan
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    If you insist on a Vernier caliper then Grizzly still offers a 6" vernier caliper with claimed .001" accuracy for $12.95.

    http://www.grizzly.com/products/6-Vernier-Caliper/G9698

    and here is their 8" for $16.95. Same claimed accuracy.

    http://www.grizzly.com/products/8-Vernier-Caliper/G9699

    Both claim to be marked in both metric and imperial measurements.
    Last edited by tatfiend; 11-16-10 at 10:09 AM.
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