A Small Measure of Panic

1 min read

The world is in a Pre-Dystopian state of mind. The zeitgeist simmering below the surface is panic. There is no longer any confidence that the systems of modern convenience and consumer civilization will continue, and people are acting accordingly in preparation. This is now confirmed.

How is it confirmed, you ask?

Three years ago you could not give these things away:

Nothing gets made or manufactured without extensive use of some version of these devices. NOTHING.

Purely mechanical tech and only two moving parts with one of those being the human brain. As my former workplace was being decommissioned there was a cabinet full of pre-WWII precision measuring hand tools better than anything being now manufactured. I think one of the old QC guys had to take them home because he couldn’t bear to see such craftsmanship consigned to the landfill to spend eternity amalgamated with dirty diapers.

Bear in mind that the modern version, even the cheapest $15 knockoff, works fine so long as you keep fresh batteries in it and is 1000x more convenient to use. Also: If you drop it, no biggie. You buy another one. If it fails, no biggie. You buy another one.

I use the cheapos to scribe lines onto workpieces. An old timer machinist would blow his top if he saw that, and think you were abusing a quality measuring tool. Super handy. Like paper towel handy.

But the clunky, though serviceable and eternal, ancient-forgotten-in-a-drawer version is becoming higher priced than the “good” quality electronic version. And that’s telling. Why would that be? People are nervous about their ability to have the utility of these devices given the possibility of supply chain/manufacturing breakdowns. This was unthinkable three years ago.

Now? Not so much.

Pro Tip: You can get the mechanical “dial” version that requires neither mental nor optical gymnastics to operate and will, with care, outlast you and possibly your progeny.


  1. Have both and been using them for over 30 years of reloads, both 70s vintage. Great tools never die if properly cared for.

    • And you’ll never have to worry about some kid stealing them. Without a digital display a punk will think it’s a weird wrench.

  2. Have a few cheapies I use for transferring measurements wherein I don’t even read the scale, like if I need some pretty thin, weird dimension on my table saw.
    But for reloading, I bought a pretty nice one (can’t afford Mitutoyo, but a close second). I don’t trust the calipers equipped with a dial, though. More moving parts means more to break. I grant that the ones with a dial are MUCH easier (esp. than trying to read 1/128″) but a bit less rugged. Still, learning to read the veneer scale (in 0.001″ or in 1/128″) is a valuable mental exercise and shouldn’t be avoided. I do cheat with the dial plunge indicator of the lathe/mill. I usually just read the metric and convert (25.4 mm = 1 inch, exactly).
    Either way, find the OLD, RELIABLE tools NOW. Especially ones that do not require external power. I do have a number of power tools, including big machine tools I inherited from my dad, but I also have hatches, drawknives, hand saws, chisels, and “cordless” screwdrivers. And I know how to use those too. I use the power tools to get stuff done fast, I use the hand tools for the privilege of just doing stuff.

  3. “I use the hand tools for the privilege of just doing stuff.”

    I like this sentiment. Very well put.

    The quality major brand dial calipers are plenty rugged when used within their intended purpose and care is taken with them. Old timer tip: never completely close the jaws and lock on a dial caliper when putting them away. Always leave them open at least .003″ to prevent temperature change abusing the mechanism.

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