Different Types of Calipers and Their Uses [With Photographs]

An agreeable fact in the repairs and tuning sector is that your practice is as good as the tools under your possession. While the quote may seem cliché, it bears some truth as a variety of devices means you are versatile to handle any task. Among the instruments you need to possess are calipers. There are different types of calipers in the repair sector, and it is prudent if you know them.

They are measuring tools, and they come in a variety of shapes and have different specifications to perform their role accordingly. They are among the most widespread instruments, and they feature in various fields such as in the lab, in workshops, and also in the study of maps.

A pair of calipers sports two movable tips, which you use to measure two opposing sides of an item. They are very accurate in their reading, and that explains their extensive use.

Here are the various types of calipers that you may find in a mechanics tools box.

Inside Caliper

Inside Caliper

Inside calipers are standard tools in an auto-garage or workshop, and they come in handy in measuring the internal distance of objects. They are also ideal in determining the inner linear dimension of surfaces featuring grooves, holes, or apertures.

The inside caliper has two legs with feet that jut outwards. There are several measuring instruments of this kind, with one featuring a manual adjustment, where you manually adjust the legs when taking your measurements.

The more advanced type features a screw adjustment near the pivot of the caliper. You extend the legs by turning the screw. This type features more accurate results as the legs are firmer.

Outside CaliperOutside Caliper

The outside caliper is another type of caliper that you may encounter in a workshop or laboratory. An outside caliper definition relies on its bow-shaped legs. The design makes it ideal for measuring curved surfaces such as pipes.

The bow-legs give these workshop implements the handiness to determine the values of three-dimension objects, and they are precise while at it. They provide a great angle during scaling due to the feet’s extensibility. This feature makes them suitable for gauging long distances.

Like the inside calipers, there is manual and screw-adjusted varieties.

Divider CaliperDivider Caliper

The divider caliper features prominently in architecture, fine arts, and also in mapping. They are sometimes referred to as a pair of compasses, and they are ideal for scaling distances between two regions.

Its two legs are sharp at the tips, which helps make points between the two points you are measuring.  They are some of the most versatile equipment in the mechanics’ tools list. A typical way of using this scaling tool is to put one sharp point at the origin and the other at the final point. It is excellent when determining linear distances.

When measuring irregular distances, you first put it on a ruler to get its arc distance and use it in a swinging manner on your surface. This way of computing is prominent in architecture and mapping.

Jenny CaliperJenny Caliper

The jenny caliper is also known as the hermaphrodite or odd-leg caliper, is a unique instrument due to its features. One of its legs is bent and has a needle on its tip for scribing, while the other leg has a blunt tip and is straight.

It is ideal for scribing lines parallel to the edge you are working on. In the auto repair shop, you can use it to determine the central point of objects such as discs, especially if you are into engine rebuild and refurbishing works. Some feature a replaceable needle, which you can renew should it wear due to repeated scribing works.

Vernier calipersVernier calipers

The Vernier calipers are one of the most accurate measuring tools, and they are a standard item in laboratories and manufacturing halls. It is a 1631 invention by Frenchman Pierre Vernier, a mathematician and government official.

Its structure looks like a ruler with a set of jaws near its edge. The two sets of jaws consist of a large pair, which measures the external diameter the same way as an outside caliper. The smaller set of jaws works in the same way as a pair of inside calipers to grade internal width.

It has two scales, the metric and Vernier scales, which contribute to the precision of this pair of calipers. There are different types of Vernier calipers, and below are some examples.

Dial Caliper

Dial Caliper


Reading the Vernier calipers is difficult and requires some experience for you to provide accurate reading by checking the values on both the main and Vernier scale. The dial caliper is a type of Vernier tool that has a dial that provides the readings. You do not have to strain much to read it like the standard Vernier as it shows the final result.

Digital Caliper

Digital Caliper

A digital caliper is an option for the analog dial caliper. It features the set of jaws like a regular caliper, the difference being that it sports an electronic dial, which shows you your measurements. It is an efficient tool due to its user-friendliness, which makes it easy to use, even by beginners.

There are several other classifications of calipers, which focuses on the opening mechanism, and also the manner of reading the gauges. Under the former category, we have the firm-joint caliper and the spring caliper.

The firm joint variety needs you to move the legs manually when measuring the distance of two points. On the other hand, the spring calipers allow you to extend the legs when scaling with a screw near the calipers.

When looking at the manner of reading, we have the micrometer screw caliper. It uses a calibrated screw gauge to tell you of your readings.

Frequently Asked Questions of Calipers

Q: What Is The Principle Of The Vernier caliper?

The Vernier calipers are one of the most advanced sets of measuring tools, and its principle of working relies on the Vernier scale for precision. To understand this pair of measuring devices, you need to understand all its components; here, we focus on the set of jaws.

It has two pairs of jaws, one for measuring the internal dimensions of an object, while the other grades external measurements. There is also the depth probe, a metal sheet that runs across the calipers’ length, which quantifies hole distances.

When reading a Vernier caliper, you place the jaws on the object you are measuring. The movement of the jaws causes the Vernier scale also to move. The digit on the main scale adjacent to the zero is the first part of the reading.

Look at the millimeters or fractions mark on the Vernier scale, corresponding to the mark on the main scale. This is the last part of the reading. If the mark on the main scale was 7.2cm on the main scale and aligns with 3.2mm on the Vernier scale, then your final reading will be 7.232cm, after converting the millimeters to centimeters.

Q: Which Type Of Caliper Is Easiest To Use?

The question of the easiest caliper to use is relative and looks at the most user-friendly pair that you can get. The manual outside or inside calipers are simple and may be easy to use, more so if they are the spring variety.

The dial and digital Vernier calipers are the most user-friendly calipers as they have high degrees of accuracy. They also give the final readings without much of a hassle when it comes to interpretation.

Q: What Is The Formula Of The Least Count?

In physics and other disciplines that deal with measurement, the least count of a scaling tool is the smallest and accurate value that you can determine on its scale. When it comes to the Vernier calipers, the least count formula is the difference between one main scale division, 1 mm, and one Vernier scale division, 0.9.

As such, the Least Count= 1 mm- 0.9 mm = 0.1 mm

Another formula is taking the smallest digit on the main scale and divide it by the total numbers on the Vernier scale.

Hence, the formula is 1 mm/10= 0.1 mm.

Q: What Are The Main Parts Of A Vernier caliper?

The Vernier caliper parts consist of a ruler-like device with two sets of jaws, one on the upper region, and another on the lower part. The lower jaws measure external diameter, while the upper ones grade internal dimensions. The depth probe is the metal sheet that runs horizontally across the ruler of the calipers and scales depths.

Different Types of Calipers YouTube Video

Final Word

When it comes to your tools list, measuring instruments need to feature prominently, especially if your workshop tasks require a touch of precision. When talking of accuracy, calipers are among the best gauging tools, which have a wide area of use from mechanics to labs and also the mapping and fine art sector.

There are different types of calipers, as evident in this article. Clean the mechanic tools regularly when not in use to make them be in good shape always.

Purity Wachira

Hi, I am Purity a researcher and technical writer since 2015. I hold a Masters in Supply Chain Management working in an automotive company. I am a resourceful lady with vast knowledge and interest in vehicles. My enthusiasm for cars drove me to more research, and the more information I got, the more I felt the need to share the knowledge through writing. My biggest win is to leave a positive impact on the automotive field and solve people's problems through articles, product descriptions, and product reviews.

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