Is a Harbor Freight fractional dial caliper good for average woodworker?

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Forum topic by SMP posted 12-09-2019 07:48 PM 2405 views 0 times favorited 31 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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4839 posts in 1150 days

12-09-2019 07:48 PM

I have an old plastic/nylon dial caliper that i have grown not to trust. It seems the jaws aren’t parallel so the reading is different along the jaws. Good enough for a lot of work. But i have a couple projects which require closer tolerances. Don’t want to spend a lot. Was looking at the Harbor Freight fractional dial caliper(non digital). Anyone else have this? Looks like with coupon i can get for about $20.

31 replies so far

View GR8HUNTER's profile


8991 posts in 1957 days

#1 posted 12-09-2019 08:11 PM

i do have this caliper and it works rather well for me BUT for some it might not cut the mustard if you know what I mean :<))

-- Tony---- Reinholds,Pa.------ REMEMBER TO ALWAYS HAVE FUN :<))

View recycle1943's profile


5854 posts in 2867 days

#2 posted 12-09-2019 08:22 PM

I have a Wixey WR100 6” caliper $37 on Amazon It is precise and solid. I use it extensively on my bowls and for setting the fence on my table saw.
Worht the money to me !

-- Dick, Malvern Ohio - my biggest fear is that when I die, my wife sells my toys for what I told her I paid for them

View controlfreak's profile


2906 posts in 846 days

#3 posted 12-09-2019 08:48 PM

I have been using the digital one and don’t have any complaints. Of course something like this tends to work until you realize it doesn’t.

View SMP's profile


4839 posts in 1150 days

#4 posted 12-09-2019 09:02 PM

I have been using the digital one and don t have any complaints. Of course something like this tends to work until you realize it doesn t.

- controlfreak

The digital one is $4 cheaper than the dial. And that’s what i am afraid of is that it will act weird and then I won’t trust it. I saw some reviews that said moving the digital ones back and forth can make them glitch so to always zero out. Or if the batteries get low they may become inaccurate. That is why i am hesitant to get a digital one. If I don’t trust a tool it goes into the drawer where my inaccurate combination squares are that i don’t have the heart to throw away.

View fivecodys's profile


1761 posts in 2881 days

#5 posted 12-09-2019 09:06 PM

I have the digital version and it has been working fine for me for a few years now.
It was on sale for $10 when I bought it. I check it now and then with a set of feeler gauges I have.
It is way more accurate than I am. :)

-- A bad day woodworking is still better than a good day working.

View Knockonit's profile


978 posts in 1447 days

#6 posted 12-09-2019 09:15 PM

i’ve several in my reloading room, the HF and starrett, no difference otehr than cost. both in digital and dial,

i tend to gravitate towards the digital, less grey matter required.

-- Living the dream

View GrantA's profile


3164 posts in 2652 days

#7 posted 12-09-2019 09:16 PM

My experience is that the cheap ones are fine for woodworkers when they work. I’ve had to fiddle with the battery door, adding paper shims so it would make contact. That’s the 4” in the bottom of this pic. I’ve had it not turn off therefore burn up batteries.
I have been very happy with my kobalt branded ones from Lowe’s. The battery door screws on and I haven’t had trouble with it turning off. Then you have top of the line mitutoyo, you’re not splitting thousandths with wood working though

View MrUnix's profile


8774 posts in 3444 days

#8 posted 12-09-2019 09:57 PM

Wait for a coupon and you can get the HF digital plastic model for $1.99. It is more than sufficient for woodworking and works good enough for rough metal work as well. The more expensive metal digital one goes on sale routinely for $9.99 and is as accurate as hundred dollar models sold elsewhere. I have both and use the plastic one for most everything – leaving the metal one for more precise metalworking tasks. The upside to the plastic one is, at $1.99, you don’t mind too much when you drop it off a bench or run over it with the car :)


-- Brad in FL - In Dog I trust... everything else is questionable

View Gene Howe's profile

Gene Howe

12399 posts in 4673 days

#9 posted 12-09-2019 10:43 PM

The dial and the digital work fine for woodworking. And, mine give identicsl readings.

-- Gene 'The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.' G. K. Chesterton

View SMP's profile


4839 posts in 1150 days

#10 posted 12-10-2019 12:19 AM

Thanks all for the feedback! Just a quick update. I stopped at HF on the way home. Since most of you vouched for the accuracy I decided I was walking out with one of them(after paying of course), kind of leaning towards digital for no-thinking reading I opened all of the various 6” models. There were 2 that were fractional a digital and dial. Something didn’t feel right to me about the digital one. The plastic to metal on the thumbwheel seemed to slip. And if I moved it back and forth it jumped around and landed where it landed. The digital also had a LOT of fractions. Fractions i’ve never seen or forgot since high school math, or maybe one of the snap on 300 piece drill bit sets. The other thing on the digital was that it looked like without the display it was pretty much useless, just inches and 1/10 of inches. The dial version on the other hand has an all metal thumbwheel mechanism and feels a lot smoother, more positive action and doesn’t “click” each revolution. The dial version, however did not have the zero button which is really nice on the digital version. You actually have to loosen up the bezel lock screw and rotate the bezel, then tighten the bezel screw without turning the bezel. I sat there about 15 minutes trying to decide and ultimately went with the dial version, $18 with coupon, mainly because of the smoother feel of the thumbwheel, and the fact that if the dial were to break, i can still use it like a stainless steel vernier with 1/8” markings

Ok now i can get started on my new CzeckEdge kits that came in the mail today.

View Rick  Dennington's profile

Rick Dennington

7170 posts in 4439 days

#11 posted 12-10-2019 12:25 AM

I have the Starrett digital calipers, and they are dead-on accurate…..You get what you pay for….!!

-- " There's a better way.....find it"...... Thomas Edison.

View Charlie H.'s profile

Charlie H.

410 posts in 1895 days

#12 posted 12-10-2019 03:03 AM

I have been using the HF fractional caliper for a couple of years.
It took me a while to get used to it being fractional but it has been a good tool.
The HF lives out on the workbench and has held up well.
I do have an expensive digital caliper but I might as well not have it since it stays put away in its case.

-- Regards, Charlie in Rowlett, TX --------I talk to myself, because sometimes I need expert advice.---------

View SMP's profile


4839 posts in 1150 days

#13 posted 12-10-2019 03:13 AM

Btw, this is what happened to my Swiss made nylon/fiberglass one after years of watch repair. Was hard to get a picture against a light bulb, but you can see the tip of the jaws seperate by about mm and then taper to the inner jaws being flush. But you can see why i want a stainless steel model

View Underdog's profile


1752 posts in 3280 days

#14 posted 12-10-2019 03:19 AM

I’ve bought quite a few of the 6” stainless digital calipers from HF. I’ve not been displeased with them. Of course I only buy them when they’re on sale for $9.99.
For that price if they get dropped or the battery door is lost, I can just buy another one.

Of course the two I have at home don’t have any problems whatsoever. It’s the ones at work that get dropped and abused. So given that, I’d buy the cheapo digitals every time. Why buy an expensive one if it’s just going to get abused?

-- Jim, Georgia, USA

View MPython's profile


398 posts in 1057 days

#15 posted 12-10-2019 01:25 PM

I have both fractional and decimal calipers. The fractional one is a dial caliper and the decimal one is digital. I use the fractional one all the time in my wood shop. I prefer the one with the dial readout because I can tell at a glance whether 27/64 is greater or smaller than 3/8 without having to stop and think about it. The decimal one is handy too, but most of my woodworking is done in fractions of an inch so the fractional caliper is a natural. Mine is an inexpensive one I got from Highland Woodworking years ago. I don’t know anything about the Harbor Freight one, but my guess is that it’s just fine. They’re not complicated instruments.

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