The last item or two in every Anarchist’s Gift Guide are a little more expensive than the others. I feel bad recommending expensive gear, but I’m passionate about these particular selections. This year is no exception.
First is the Brown & Sharpe Dial Caliper. I use dial calipers throughout the day and am picky as hell about them. Many imported calipers are difficult to read, they move roughly and they’re fragile. The Brown & Sharpe has none of these problems.
I’ve had this pair for about 10 years. The dial is easy to read with silver numerals on a black background. The gears move just as smoothly as the day I bought the tool. And they have outlasted all the other brands we’ve had in the shop.
Some hand tool enthusiasts might scoff at a dial caliper, saying it’s a machinist tool. I make no apologies; I love the things. They are invaluable for toolmaking – we have to hit certain specs for the Crucible parts we make here. Plus the tools are great for diagnosing woodworking joinery problems. When I have a tenon or spindle that is too tight, the dial caliper shows me where the problem is. And it can point out how much material I have to remove.
When I’m fitting shelves in dados, the caliper can tell me how many passes I need to take with a smoothing plane to get the part to fit in its dado. And on and on.
Plus, when you have a contest to see who can saw the thinnest slice off the end of a board, the dial caliper can declare the winner.
The calipers come in a hard-shell plastic case. The case isn’t the best (the locking mechanism is kinda crappy), but if you keep the tool safe in its case when not in use, it should last your entire woodworking career.
— Christopher Schwarz
P.S. Thanks to Thomas Lie-Nielsen for introducing me to these excellent dial calipers.