Both tools are common instruments you’d find in many hobbyist and professional tool kits. However, beginners might not know the difference between the two given how similar they look.
Most people would be familiar with calipers given how popular and widely used they are. Micrometers have an identical design with a vastly different purpose. Having both in your arsenal is great for a home improvement hobbyist, but it does depend on the projects you want to undertake.
To understand their benefits and differences, let’s take an in-depth look into each measurement tool. Let’s get right into it.
Main Differences Between Micrometer vs Caliper
The main differences between Micrometer vs Caliper are:
- Micrometers have greater accuracy of 0.0001”, whereas a caliper measure to an accuracy of 0.001”
- Micrometers can only serve its singular measurement function, whereas Calipers are multi-purpose.
- Micrometers are generally more expensive, whereas calipers are relatively cheaper.
- Micrometers have a small learning curve and will require adjustments
Exploring Micrometer vs Caliper features
As mentioned above, the differences between micrometers and calipers seem small but have a significant impact on their functionality. Taking a look at their construction, accuracy, measuring ranges and types should build your understanding.
Design & Construction
Micrometers and calipers have a similar size and use the same general structure. But, a quick glance at both is enough to start noticing some differences. Starting with micrometers, they have six main design elements–namely its: C-frame, anvil, spindle, sleeve, thimble, and ratchet.
Its C-frame supports the anvil and spindle while determining the range of its measurement. The size of the frame itself changes across brands or models allowing for greater or smaller range.
The anvil is the cylindrical part fitted into the frame. It provides support while holding objects being measured. The anvil and C-frame are stationary parts that do not move from their place.
The spindle, on the other hand, is also cylindrical, but it is a moving part that connects to the micrometer’s sleeve. It moves back or forth depending on the ratchet’s input. This allows objects to neatly fit between the anvil and spindle for accurate measurement.
Measurements are recorded by the sleeve. It connects to the thimble whose revolutions allow for gauging readings. The value is determined when the values on the sleeve and thimble align. The last part of a micrometer is the ratchet, which forms the mechanism by which the moving parts shift on a given axial direction.
All this allows the micrometer to provide accurate, consistent and reliable readings while being user-friendly.
Much like the micrometer, calipers are also mechanical measurement tools. Its parts, however, are different; they consist of: external and internal jaws with two sliding and two fixed jaws, a fixed and sliding scale, and a locking screw.
Unlike micrometers, calipers are able to measure the external measurements as well as the internal measurements of an object. It has two sets of jaws for measuring the length, thickness or width.
The jaws are fixed on one end of the caliper while the other sliding jaw is connected to a rod. It uses a combination of scale and dial indicators to provide precise readings. Additionally, the locking screw mechanism will hold a specific reading so you can repeatedly reproduce it without having to use any additional tools.
Even from their construction alone, you can probably tell how significantly they really differ from each other. Therefore, your decision depends on the measurements you need to take. There are a few more aspects for you to understand.
While both micrometers and calipers come in different sizes, the former tends to be more accurate.
Micrometers deliver precision from 0.01mm to 0.001mm. Whereas calipers have an accuracy of 0.1mm to 0.02mm. That said, micrometers do have to be adjusted a bit more than calipers do and therefore, their exactness is more variable depending on the user’s understanding.
If you need your measurements to be precise or you’re measuring smaller objects, the micrometer is the right tool for the job.
Different brands and models may have their own ranges depending on their usages. For example, digital calipers may have a larger range than its traditional counterpart. Calipers overall have a larger range with the smallest at 0-6”. Other variables of 0-8”, 0-12” and 0-24” are also common.
Whereas the micrometers typically have a much smaller measuring range of 1”. It comes in variations of 0-1”, 1-2”, 2-3” and so on till 5-6”. Additionally, it has various types, which may influence the range as well. These include:
- External micrometers
- Internal micrometers
- Caliper style micrometers
- Tubular/Rod micrometers
- Depth Micrometers
As you might’ve concluded by the above, the micrometers vs calipers discussion is a matter of purpose. Their design, range, and precision values make them unique from each other. However, how can you know whether they’ll suit your handy tool needs?
If you’re looking for a multipurpose tool, calipers can serve different functions. Its jaws allow you to take internal, external, and depth readings, all through one instrument.
Whereas, if you’re looking to get the same functionality with micrometers, you may have to buy three different types. Additionally, the standard micrometer can only measure the external diameter or thickness.
That said, micrometers have a smaller range, and do not cater to objects with larger diameters. You will only use them when you need an extremely precise reading. Calipers can not only provide you flexibility in its functions, but also allow you to lock your measurement in case you want to replicate it. This generally makes calipers a more useful tool in any home renovator’s toolbox.
Specifications for Micrometer vs Caliper
|Measuring Range: 0-1”, 1-2”, 2-3”, 3-4”, 4-5”, 5-6”||Measuring Range: 0-6”, of 0-8”, 0-12”, 0-24”|
|Accuracy: 0.001mm||Accuracy: 0.01mm|
|Useful for: Accurate readings of smaller objects for example mechanical engineering constructions||Useful for: Multi-purpose functionality for accurate measurements. Typically used in the construction industy.|
|Types: External micrometers, Internal micrometers,Caliper style micrometers, Tubular/Rod micrometers, Depth Micrometers
(Digital and analog versions are available)
|Types: Vernier caliper, oddleg caliper, dial caliper, micrometer caliper
(Digital and analog versions are available)
|Scale: Rotating scale||Scale: Sliding scale|
Micrometer vs Caliper – Ease of use
What’s simpler than sliding some scales and getting a reading? That’s exactly why calipers are generally much easier to use. Even with its digital version, you can get easier, consistent results every time. Additionally, its locking mechanic allows you to hold your readings to its exact point without worrying about losing it.
Micrometers are not rocket science either, but they do require a little fidgeting around to get accurate results every time. Once you do have a hang of it, however, you shouldn’t have a problem. Therefore, in terms of ease of use, traditional calipers are generally more user friendly.
Comparing Micrometer vs Caliper – Pricing
Given their characteristics, can you tell which one would be more affordable and which more costly?
Calipers are the all-rounders, whereas micrometers are singular-purposed. While price will be a smaller factor in your choice due to the nature of measuring, it is still something to consider.
Generally, calipers are less expensive than micrometers, which have a higher accuracy. The cheapest caliper can run you about $20 with high end ones being $100. On the other hand, micrometers are typically more costly, running between $50-200.
Micrometer and Caliper Recommendations
There are a number of vendors to choose from. But picking a reliable manufacturer helps ensure your measuring tool is reliable, consistent and durable.
If you’re familiar with measuring tools, Mitutoyo is a name you’re likely familiar with. This japanese manufacturer is known for their high quality instruments. Mitutoyo 293-340-30 Digital Micrometer is a popular all-purpose micrometer for getting precise measurements.
If you want to measure the external diameter of an object, you’ll need an outside micrometer. Mitutoyo offers a set of 12 ranges in its Mitutoyo 103-908-40 Outside Micrometer Set which you can’t go wrong with.
You can find decently calibrated micrometers at a fraction of the cost. The Fowler Inch Digit Outside Micrometer is decent value for money. However, if you want the basic tool with no frills, the OMGAI 0-25mm Standard Outside Metric Micrometer Set will do the trick.
On the other hand, digital calipers are less expensive. Mitutoyo also has a selection of professional calipers with Mitutoyo 500-196-30 being a stand out for its ease of use and durability. Whereas the Neiko 01407A is a cheaper alternative if you don’t need something as robust.
Investing in these tools once should be enough to last you through numerous projects; therefore getting one that is durable and accurate should be your ultimate priority. Our recommendations are based on just that, and shouldn’t go wrong with adding any of those in your toolkit.
Micrometer vs Caliper – Pros and Cons
- Highly accurate precision measuring tool
- Measures up to 0.001mm
- Durable frame and light-weight construction
- Storage friendly
- Rachet speeder allows for uniform measurements
- Comes in various specialty versions
- Comparatively costly
- Single purposed
- Limited measuring range
- Provides precise measurements with a greater range
- Accuracy from 0.02mm till 0.1mm
- Versatile, multi-functional design
- Can be used to take internal, external and depth readings
- Integrated scales
- Solid construction in most stainless steel models
- Cost efficient
- Digital versions are available for improved features
- Due to its size, its scale may be difficult to read
- There is room for errors or the scale may slide unknowingly if the lock is loose
Are there any alternatives?
If you’re on a complete budget, never underestimate the good ol’ steel scale. It allows for linear measurements in centimeters and inches. There are also a number of other versions available, which may fit your style more. These scales are handy tools that most people have lying around their homes. It may be tempting to buy new tools for making those kitchen cabinet markings, but you can renovate your kitchen without the fancy toys.
However, steel scales are not the most accurate measurement tools and leave a lot of room for error. Additionally, you can only measure the length and width of objects. So, if you’re in a bind or don’t need much accuracy, making use of steel scales is an easy solution.
Vernier Height Gauge
On the other hand, there are a number of specialized measuring instruments available as well. Vernier height gauge is one such tool.
It uses a vertical slider mechanic to accurately calculate the height of an object. The vertical scale grounds against its smooth-surfaced base, where an item can be placed. Much like a caliper, its readings are taken by moving its slider and it comes with a locking device too.
It is accurate up to 0.01mm and comes in various sizes for ranges, such as from 150mm to 500mm. These are mostly used in an industrial or specialized setting where height precision is key.
Answer: Standalone micrometers and calipers are available for taking quick and precise readings of small objects. Calipers have a greater range, but micrometers tend to be more suitable for smaller objects. They can both be used in industries such as construction, engineering, medicine, metalworking, and for completing other such projects.
There are also additional types of each available which serve a specialized function.
For example, tube micrometers consist of a cylindrical anvil positioned perpendicularly against a spindle. It is specifically made to measure tubes. For example, for plumbing or bathroom renovations; if your project requires measuring the depth of tubes, you might want to opt for a tube micrometer. Or they may be fitted as a tool in other devices, such as trim routers may come with micrometer adjustments.
Answer: When it comes to home improvement tools, you’ll come across many different models and versions of the same product. This stands exceptionally true for calipers and micrometers. After all, hobbyists, schools, metalworkers, professional construction companies or engineering firms, often use it. But, choice makes decision making a difficult ordeal.
Price is a small concern, instead quality, your application purpose and the accuracy you need matters more. Moreover, yes, quality does matter. Plastic calipers are cheaper alternatives but it affects their durability and accuracy. A standard stainless steel caliper should not cost you a fortune and allow you to take ultra-precise measurements.
It is important to mention that when you’re starting out, you may need to manually adjust some tools in order to make it accurately work for you. Micrometers are notorious for needing calibration.
Hence why you should take a moment to calibrate your tool before first use. Adjusting periodically after that should be enough for you to confidently take measurements without worry of errors.
Answer: Both measuring instruments are able to provide consistent and accurate results, which is what makes them so popular. However, as previously mentioned, a standard tool might not do the trick for your project. Therefore, there are a number of different types of micrometers or calipers available.
The types of calipers include:
– Vernier Caliper
– Digital Caliper
– Spring Joint Caliper
– Micrometer Caliper
– Dial Caliper
– Jenny Caliper
The types of micrometers available on the market include:
– Ball Micrometers
– Digital Micrometers
– Blade Micrometers
– Tube Micrometers
– Universal Micrometers
– Pitch Micrometers
– Bore Micrometers
– V Micrometers
Answer: To get a reading with a standard micrometer, use the following recommended steps:
1. Remove from casing and dust off any particles from your instrument, so you can easily read its scale
2. Position your object against the anvil. You can hold the object and tool in your hand or stabilize the object on a smooth surface and handle the micrometer only.
3. Start by spinning the ratchet in a clockwise direction until the thimble aligns with the scale at a nil or zero position.
4. Twist gently to allow the spindle to come into contact with the object.
5. Once adjusted, you can secure the reading using the thimble lock.
6. Slide object out of the micrometer and record your measurement.
7. Ensure that you remove the object slowly to avoid any damage.
8. Additionally read scale aligned with your eyes to ensure accurate comprehension.
Answer: To get a reading with a standard caliper, use the following recommended steps:
– Open its lock screw and close the jaws completely. Make sure to take a quick look at the caliper and wipe it off for a clear reading.
– Depending on the object and reading you want to take, you can open its jaws for and slide the object either between or outside its jaws.
– Once the object perfectly aligns within the jaw, write down the measurements from the main scale and Vernier scale.
– Add them together to get your final reading.
Our Verdict: Micrometer vs Caliper – Which is better?
To conclude our micrometer vs caliper comparison, each instrument serves its own purpose. Their built, design, accuracy and measurement ranges are all different factors. As mentioned before, your decision should be based on your project and measuring requirements.
However, if we had to recommend one tool to keep around for all handy men, it has to be the caliper for its sheer versatility, durability and function. It’s a 3-in-1 instrument, which can be used around the house to make repairs or streamline larger home renovation projects.
Micrometers will be an excellent option if you require a tool that is precise and allows you to calculate readings of smaller objects. It is often used in handy work, and is a definite must have if your caliper does not give as detailed measurements as you need.