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Calipers for Scribing Lines..Good or Bad?

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EmilioG

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#1
I've had second thoughts about using my good calipers for scribing lines on steel, blued parts after hearing that this can damage the jaws and cause premature wear. There are caliper jaws made with carbide tips, that I would like to have one day, but til then, I'll keep using my Starrett scribers, surface gages and Mit height gage. I'd like to preserve my calipers.
 

bss1

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#2
I have some cheap calipers that I use to scribe lines in Dykem. I try not to use my good ones for this purpose, but do on occasion.
 

jbolt

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#3
I've never thought twice about it. I still have the first 6" dial caliper I bought in 1980. Couldn't guess how many lines it has scribed over the years.
 

mikey

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#4
I have over a half dozen calipers in my shop and only one was bought used - a little 4" Mitutoyo that was in beautiful condition except the rounded nose on it that I couldn't see in the ebay pictures. That's why you were warned about using calipers for marking. However, using them this way is the most convenient way to do a rough layout and I admit I use one of my Starrett dial calipers this way but only scratching through Dykem. None of my other calipers have been mistreated this way.
 

Bob Korves

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#5
I use my HF calipers for scribing and never look back. I won't do that with my good calipers because I care about them more, but in reality the good calipers never get used at all. If I have something important to measure, I use a different tool than a caliper. I have scribed many hundreds of lines with my HF calipers over about 5 years, even hot rolled steel with the scale on it, and the tips of the jaws, inside and outside, are still sharp and look like new. No remorse here!
 
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EmilioG

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#6
I was using my old calipers for scribing layout lines, but after reading about it, I now realize that it's not a good idea.
Just a cautionary note to those who may want to preserve their new, precision calipers.
I was not aware of the possible harm and just want to let others know, that using your calipers this way will cause damage.
If you care about your gages. Caliper scribing can off-set the jaws causing more side play. Calipers are only good to .001" or so,
I don't want to increase this to .002, .003 or more.
 

darkzero

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#7
Like Bob, I have 1 pair of 4" HF calipers that I don't care about & use them for scribing. I haven't noticed any wear either but I don't do it often. I was taught that's it bad practice so I don't do it with any of my other calipers. If I need to scribe anything larger than 4" then I'll use the height gage.
 

pstemari

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#8
It's going to be fairly imprecise since you don't really have a good way to keep them square to the work without introducing cosine error.

Angle plate+height gage or a surface gage is the right way to do it.

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scwhite

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#9
I think It is a bad idea to use your calipers for
Scribing lines even in layout blue .
There is a ton of scribes and surface gage scribes
Made for layout . Deviders , combination square
Sets .
I will vote no to scribing with your calipers
 

Bob Korves

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#10
The beauty of using the digital calipers is that you can measure the distance, set the measurement, and scribe it, all with the same tool in your hand. It saves lots of time. Yes, there is some minor cosine error, but the work I am talking about is quick and dirty fabrication, git-er-done. I will not lose sleep over pushing my HF calipers too hard (~5 years now, still going strong, edges still sharp, an $8 investment), and I will not sweat a few thou of cosine error on fab work, the center punch is not that accurate, at least not on a quick fab job. When I do fussy work, then I get fussy...
 

woodchucker

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#11
Consider a caliper a disposable item (except vernier) . Dials get out of whack, wear, jaws wear, electronics become dated and start failing..
Use it, replace when necesary.
 

ezduzit

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#12
I scribe with my calipers. Why waste time and lose precision in the process?
 

Silverbullet

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#13
I only know , that measuring calipers are precision instruments not scribing tools. Always carried a scriber , hermaphrodite caliper and scale in my pocket . Everyday I worked those three items and a 0-1 Mic. we're with me in my apron..Oops forgot one my automatic center punch. I don't know when machinist became hammer men but when I pay two hundred bucks for an instrument I'm not going to abuse it. I don't even do it with my old Poland vernier. Squares rules and height gauges are made for it . Surface gauges have been around forever also.
 

Fabrickator

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#14
Heck yeah, I use an old pair of HF calipers with Dykem blue for light scribing layout. It's pretty hard to dull the tips in aluminum or brass which are the primary metals I use. Like was said earlier, HF's are basically through-aways. I buy a new pair when I get a coupon or they go on sale. The old ones can be cut off and used for a tail stock, Z Axis or cross slide DRO.
 

bfd

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#15
I have used my calipers for years to scribe lines never noticed any wear the part you scribe with the very tip is not used with most measuring. as far as that goes maybe you shouldn't slide them in and out ( that causes wear) yes I'm snide and nasty. the machinist that taught me this trick ( I questioned him about your same concern) told me that they are hardened stainless steel and it wont hurt them. yes it is not for precision layout but for rough layout it works fine I guess rubbing then on your part to find center and get an accurate measurement would be out also sorry bill
 

pstemari

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#16
I tend to use a combo square for that sort of thing, but you're right: there is no point in worrying about a HF caliper.

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BRIAN

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#17
I have a digital caliper purchased from the supermarket. that I have cropped the end of the outer anvil so it can be used as a odd leg caliper If the point ever wears I will simply sharpen it by stoning back the outer edge as this has no effect on it's ability to measure.
This is one of my Go to tools for setting up and often used to confirm that my digital readouts have got me in the right place.
Perhaps I just don't do work that requires the fantastically high standards of measurement that others appear to need.
P1013272.JPG
Brian.
 

Bob Korves

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#18
Perhaps I just don't do work that requires the fantastically high standards of measurement that others appear to need.
Agreed. If you need those high standards you should find a different tool than a digital caliper...
 

bfd

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#19
calipers are only good for plus or minus .001" this has been repeated on this website many times. if that is all you have then do your best cheap mics and snap gauges are better and not that expensive like all hobbies (shooting golf kayaking tennis radio controlled toys ) it all cost money. bill
 

darkzero

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#20
I know there's people out there who can machine down to a scribed line with great accuracy, I'm probably not one of those guys & I have never tried. I use scribed lines mostly for visual reference so an "inaccurate" scribed line with a caliper is more than good enough for me.
 

sanddan

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#21
I use my Mitutoyo 6" whenever I need to mark something. I don't use the tips to measure with so even if they did get dull it wouldn't matter. They are at least 15 years old and still sharp so should last long enough.
 

kd4gij

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#22
I was taught calipers for close mics for precision. :dunno: My cheap calipers get me just as close as Mit. do. And every machinist I know uses there calipers to scribe lines in dykem.
 

sanddan

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#23
I was taught calipers for close mics for precision. :dunno: My cheap calipers get me just as close as Mit. do. And every machinist I know uses there calipers to scribe lines in dykem.
I like the feel of quality tools. It's not that a less expensive tool couldn't do the job, but for me the journey is as important as the destination. Using a quality made tool is part of the job satisfaction.

My first caliper was a plastic one with a dial. It worked great for measuring the odd item, better than the tape measures I had. That was replaced by the Mit and sees use on the welding table as often as the machine tools. That and a pocket scale are my go to measuring tools for most work.
 

Bob Korves

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#27
i used to use my cheap dial calipers to scribe lines all the time, until i finally got a hermaphrodite scribe.
i don't use good dial calipers to do any scribing
For ordinary work, I have a couple hermaphrodite scribe/calipers, both old Starrett, but they are in the tool box and my HF calipers are in my hand or on the bench. The Starrett scribe/calipers each cost someone more new than my HF calipers cost me new. Let me think on that for a nanosecond... If I was doing higher tolerance layout work on the surface plate, then no doubt my decision might well be different. Like I said above, I do not use my good calipers to scribe, or for anything else...
 

Wreck™Wreck

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#28
It is not a matter of "good or bad" if it works for you then do it, calipers are one of the least expensive tools that you will ever buy. I do realize that in this forum the actual use of a tool is a secondary condition to who made it.

Never use a Starrett tool to measure anything as it may wear, save them in unused condition.
 
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homebrewed

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#29
Like many I use my cheap imported calipers for scribing, but am not very concerned about wear affecting the accuracy of their measurements. The wear is only at the tips of the caliper jaws, nowhere near the contact region used for real measurements. Sure, wear would eventually affect the accuracy of the scribed lines but no one interested in accuracy would depend on a scribed line anyway. Or for that matter a .001" accuracy caliper.

I don't scribe lines with my micrometers, not even the cheap ones :grin:
 
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