Make Your Own Shop Calipers

Make Your Own Shop Calipers

Calipers are an essential bit of kit in the toolbox for many types of making, from traditional shop craft to electronics to high-tech, precision engineering. While digital calipers are the go-to tool for most of us these days, mechanical calipers can be just as good and you can even make your own. There’s not a lot involved in the build, basic shop tools can be used, and you can use any metal ruler of your choice for the measuring component.

In the following two videos, woodworker Jack Houweling, of Jax Design, shows you how he turned metal shop rulers into two different-sized wooden calipers. The first video shows him creating an improved design on his original build. The original calipers were big, at 28′, and designed in a more traditional manner. For the improved version, he made them smaller and designed them with bigger jaws and in such a way that they could also function a bit like a T-square for marking off cut lines and squares along a work piece.

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Yo can also see the full instructions for his build on his website.

In this video, another YouTuber, Trevor, of Trevor’s Workshop, built his own set of wooden workshop calipers, inspired by Jack’s design. I love the evolution of these, with Jack making improvements on his in a second design, and then Trevor picking up on that and adding his own improvements. For his, he added a set of additional jaws so that the tool could also handle inside measurements. Very cool.

I also like the way he starts off the project, by doing a web search, finding a mechanical drawing of a set of calipers, printing them out, and using them as a template in cutting out the jaws for his tool (gluing the paper print-outs directly onto his wood). Too often, we forget that these resources are out there, just a Google search away.

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Gareth Branwyn is a freelance writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of over a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture. He is currently a contributor to Boing Boing, Wink Books, and Wink Fun. His free weekly-ish maker tips newsletter can be found at

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