A couple of years ago we published a look at precision measurement tools, in particular vernier calipers and micrometer screw gauges. It featured a look at how they work and how they’re used, and a comparison of good and bad quality instruments. When comparing micrometers we had three of them, a Mitutoyo and a Moore & Wright representing decent quality, and an £8 ($9.41) Daniu from Banggood from the cheaper end of the market. As you might expect, the Daniu was laughably bad, with noticeable play in its thread and jaws that were not parallel to the extent you could see light between them. You might consider it case closed for cheap micrometers then, were it not that while on my summer travels through the Benelux countries I spied a Parkside micrometer in a Lidl supermarket for €8.99 ($8.92). I had to buy it and investigate.
Some Measuring Devices With Your Groceries?
Lidl is a German supermarket chain that can be found all over Europe, and like their arch-competitor Aldi they feature the “Middle of Lidl” aisles full of all sorts of useful stuff that changes on a regular basis. Among this is a comprehensive range of tools under the Parkside brand, which is basically on par with the good stuff from Harbor Freight, and are in fact quite good for the price. Thus even though it’s about the same price as the Daniu I had higher expectations for the Parkside micrometer.
The micrometer is packaged in the usual plastic case in a small cardboard box, and comes with a large paper instruction sheet and a small spanner for zero adjustment. Taking it out of the case, it follows exactly as you’d expect from a micrometer with a solid drop-forged frame and an aluminium barrel on the micrometer head. It can measure up to 25 mm at a resolution of 0.01 mm, exactly like the others I tested in 2020. So my nine dollars or so has got me a micrometer, but is it any good? How do you evaluate a micrometer screw gauge? I re-borrowed the two comparison instruments from 2020, and set out to find out.
The Tiniest Sliver Of Light Gives It Away
It’s worth saying that the jaw faces are polished, but not to a mirror finish as those on the Mitutoyo and neither do they appear to have been hardened. In the first instance, comparing with the Daniu I closed the jaws against the force of the ratchet, and held it up against the light to spot any imperfections in the way they meet. Against the blue sky through my window I couldn’t see any, but a friend did the same thing against the more intense point source of an electric light and indeed there was the tiniest discernable sliver of light. Not the obvious wedge of light I caught with the Daniu back in 2020 and less than the visible sliver of light when it is measuring a human hair, but definitely enough to knock a few hundredths of a milimetre off my trust in its accuracy.
The next step in the evaluation involves opening the jaws about half way, and feeling for any play in the thread. None discernable, at least one win over the Daniu which had the barrel flapping around with significant play. Then a zero test, after adjusting the zero position with the spanner a few repeated closings with the ratchet, to check that it always returns to the same zero point. In this case as with all micrometers it’s possible to overshoot the zero and damage the thread if you apply too much force, but just on the ratchet it would land in the same place. A pass on a couple of tests then, so while it’s not the worst micrometer ever it’s obvious that the low price brings at least one compromise.
A Tiny Discrepancy In Measurement
Opening up the three micrometers from the 2020 piece again it’s immediately obvious in the silky feel of the thread and the lack of wobble in the ratchet just where the money goes in an expensive micrometer, and just how comedically bad the Daniu was by comparison. But it’s the Parkside in our sights today, so it’s time to make a few comparitive measurements between it and the Mitutoyo. First up were the old standbys of a piece of paper and a human hair in which the Parkside returned the same as the Mitutoyo, and then the machined shaft of the Moore & Wright which returned a difference of 0.01 mm.
|Sheet of paper||0.12 mm||0.12 mm|
|Human hair||0.05 mm||0.05 mm|
|Moore & Wright shaft||6.79 mm||6.80 mm|
The discrepancy in this table when measuring the shaft may be small, but it harks back to that sliver of light from imperfectly aligned jaws. As expected if the shaft meets the jaws at anything but the highest point of the jaw it will return a slightly smaller reading, thus it immediately has an error on everything it returns. Discussing it with friends there was raised the intriguing possibility of lapping the faces by drawing a sheet of exceptionally fine abrasive through the closed jaws, however I have my doubts as to whether this would do anything but make the gap worse.
What I can say about the Parkside micrometer screw gauge is that it appears reasonably well-built, but I can’t present it as the equal of the more expensive instruments when its faces are anything but parallel. I would say therefore that it would be good for basic measurements when machining or in CAD work where an error of 0.01 mm or 0.02 mm wouldn’t matter too much, but perhaps I wouldn’t quite trust it when working with extremely fine tolerances. Still, it’s not the worst among cheap micrometers and it’s on sale for a very reasonable price even if it’s not in the same precision instrument league as the Mitutoyo. If you don’t have a micrometer screw gauge yet then you could do a lot worse at this end of the market.