Learn About ‘Register Calipers;’ Hunt One Up for Yourself


For those of you who won’t be able to attend Handworks in May, you can still find yourself a pair of Studley-like calipers for your shop with the help of the always-digging Jeff Burks.

Jeff did a little research on the so-called “register” calipers, which is the name that some manufacturers (but not all) used for this tool. Below are a good number of links that will help you search for the different brands.

The best link? The last one. It’s to a Japanese company that still makes this tool. Stainless steel. Several sizes. Hardened tips.

And metric.

The good news on the manufacturing front is that we are hopeful that a modern toolmaker will produce these for sale. The company borrowed our prototype and all our photos and measurements from the Studley version. So keep your fingers crossed.

I’ve been using our prototype in the shop for many months and find it to be a useful apron tool for handwork.

For the most part, I use it as an “adjustable mullet” – there’s a thumbscrew on the back of the tool that locks in a particular thickness. So when I’m raising a panel by hand, I lock the caliper at the groove’s width and use the caliper to determine when I’m finished.

I use the same basic procedure when cutting rabbets and surfacing stock by hand.

You can, of course, use a locking dial caliper to do the same job. Or a block of wood. This is just another way to do it.

— Christopher Schwarz


Links from Jeff Burks:

Illustrated Price-List of W.C. Duyckinck, 1877

Illustrated Catalogue of General Machinery and Supplies – Cooke and Co., 1883

A book of tools: Chas. A. Strelinger & Company, 1896

1890 Seeger and Guernsey’s Cyclopaedia of the Manufactures and Products of
the United States has a listing for all the caliper manufacturers in the
U.S. (Scroll to bottom) One of these companies likely made the Studley
register caliper.

Using that list I found an auction for a register caliper on Worthpoint. The style matches the Studley caliper, though it appears to be one of the larger versions. This one was stamped with the name Wm. Johnson Newark NJ. This company was founded in 1834 and operated from a building complex called the Hedenberg Works.

1898 G.W. Davis patent register caliper that piggybacks the earlier design.

1899 Seeger and Guernsey’s added a category for register calipers with one company: Kraeuter Co. Newark, NJ – founded 1860 and also operated from the Hedenberg

Several books printed after 1900 contain illustrations of the register caliper:
1906 Henley’s Encyclopaedia of Practical Engineering.

1913 The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia: Volume 2

Niigata Seiki of Japan currently manufactures a stainless steel version of the register caliper under the SK brand name. They are available in multiple sizes with metric graduations and hardened tips.

About Lost Art Press

Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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14 Responses to Learn About ‘Register Calipers;’ Hunt One Up for Yourself

  1. bobstrawn says:

    The one that Lee Valley sells is graduated in 32nds of an inch. http://www.leevalley.com/en/wood/page.aspx?p=43199&cat=1,43513,43550&ap=1

  2. David Pickett says:

    A digital vernier caliper would be more accurate, more versatile and easier to read. However, the register calipers won’t get flat batteries.

    For someone prepared to set them to a rule, or to the job in hand, an ordinary pair of engineer’s outside calipers would do, and available very cheaply.

    • Devon says:

      Fair warning: Chris will mock you if you bring digital vernier calipers to class. Its a good natured mocking but a mocking nonetheless.

      • David Pickett says:

        Don’t worry – I don’t own one. I do have an old-fashioned vernier one (on which the batteries won’t go flat, either), and some outside calipers. Both I would heartily recommend, though not necessarily for normal woodwork.

      • Tom Pier says:

        Are we talking about the same person who was recently mocked about his choice in saws? Sort of a glass house thing going on?

  3. Bob Davidson says:

    Great stuff for tool junkies like me….

  4. Thomas says:

    If your are a turner then you may want to look at a tool called GALBERT CALIPER at http://www.petergalbertchairmaker.com

  5. Take Alberts says:

    For a moment there I read it as: “I use as an adjustable mallet”

  6. Graham Burbank says:

    Please post photos of you using said “adjustable mullet” a la ” wayne’s world”

    • Graham Burbank says:

      And what’s with the half useful? Half amusing doesn’t reach today’s standard? It was much easier being a half-wit, yesterday

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