Even though the majority of new calipers are digital, a purely mechanical Vernier caliper still has it's place in the workshop.
Unlike digital or dial counterparts a Vernier caliper:
- will stay accurate and precise for decades,
- isn't affected by temperature,
- works underwater,
- doesn't require batteries,
- can be frozen, boiled, buried, burnt or greased and it will still work,
- isn't affected by strong magnetic field and
- dropping it will likely not damage it in any way.
This caliper given to me by my father-in-law is a case in point. He worked as a construction engineer, but has been retired for 20 years now. He used this caliper when he was still employed, so I wouldn't be surprised if it's much older than me and I'm in my mid 30's. However, it still works without fail as the day it left the factory (which itself is probably long gone). These things simply last forever.
Despite their daunting look, a Vernier caliper is easy to use and allows for high accuracy, high precision measurements.
You can measure three different dimensions; external using the larger jaws, internal using the smaller jaws and depth using the probe at the end. You'll read the measurements for all three in exactly the same way.
The main scale is used to read millimetres and the Vernier scale is used for micrometres.
How to measure
Gently close the jaws around the object that you're trying to measure. Since we're looking for sub-millimetre results, pressing too hard against the object can negatively affect the measurement.
Next, find the position of the 0 on the Vernier scale and notice where it falls on the main scale. Do not look at the edge, but only at the 0 mark! This will give you the millimetre part of your measurement.
In the photo above, the 0 falls between 5mm and 6mm so the final result will be within this range. You can already estimate if it's closer to 5mm or 6mm by whichever is closer to the 0.
Finally, find the tick mark on the Vernier scale that best aligns with one of the markings on the main scale. You already have an estimated guess from the main scale. In the photo below, the Vernier 0 is closer to 5mm on the main scale, so look at the left half on the Vernier scale. Each mark between the numbers on the Vernier scale represents 0,02mm. This will give you the micrometres part of the result.
To get the final measurement, simply combine the two numbers together, separated by a decimal point.
Calipers of lesser quality will have a so called zero error. If you close the jaws completely, the 0 marks on main and Vernier scales should align perfectly.
If they don't, calculate the value as you did before (but with the jaws completely closed) and write it down somewhere. Then, subtract that value from each of your future measurements to compensate for the zero error.
Amazon affiliate links (US and Germany only)
If you wish to buy a Vernier or digital caliper, you can use my Amazon affiliate links below. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.