Micrometers are amazingly accurate measuring tools. But for anyone just starting out it can be hard to know which ones are good and which ones are bad.
This has only gotten trickier in recent years as some of the once great manufacturers have moved their production to China and various other countries known for lesser quality. On top of that some of the Chinese manufacturers have really upped their game and are producing quality tools.
We’ll break it down for you and let you know which micrometers are best with some tips on what to avoid.
One last tip if you are very new to micrometers.
Think about what you plan to measure. What are the sizes involved? Most of the time people don’t need huge sets of micrometers. My advice for someone new would be to get the best set of 0-1” micrometers that they can afford. This is the tool that will get the most use.
A good starting point is a quality 0-1” mic from a company like Starrett or Mitutoyo. After that look into a cheaper set of 0-6” micrometers from one of the better Chinese manufacturers.
Now let’s break down our picks for the best micrometers.
Where to Buy
Mitutoyo QuantuMike 293-180-30
Best Overall Micrometer
Mitutoyo 293-340-30 Digital Micrometer
Best Digital Micrometer
Anytime Tools 0-1" Micrometer
Best Budget Micrometer
Starrett ST436.1 0-1" Micrometer
Best Standard Micrometer
Mitutoyo 329-350-30 Depth Micrometer
Best Digital Depth Micrometer
Starrett 440Z-6L Depth Micrometer
Best Standard Depth Micrometer
Fowler 52-225-116-0 Depth Micrometer
Best Budget Depth Micrometer
Mitutoyo 293-180-30 QuantuMike
The best overall micrometer is easily the QuantuMike by Mitutoyo.
Mitutoyo has long been one of the very best micrometer manufacturers. They make top of the line tools across the board. Standard micrometers, digital mics, depth mics. You name it and they are leading the pack.
Every micrometer on our best of list is incredibly accurate but the digital micrometers from Mitutoyo, including this one, are on another level. With accuracy of .00005” or .001mm, Mitutoyo’s digital micrometers measure tolerances 2x tighter than most standard micrometers.
For reference, the human hair is about .003”. Take a strand of your hair and split it into 60 pieces and that is how accurate these micrometers are.
Besides the accuracy, the other standout feature of the QuantuMike is the speed. Anyone who has used a micrometer knows they aren’t quick to open or close.
The QuantuMike is unlike any other micrometer on the market and opens and closes four times faster. Each turn of the thimble moves the tool .100” instead of the normal .025”. No arm rolling needed.
Combining speed and accuracy is not a feat easily accomplished but Mitutoyo’s QuantuMike has done just that and more.
For a more in depth look at what makes the QuantuMike so special, see our full review.
Best digital micrometer
Mitutoyo 293-340-30 Digital Micrometer
I am a huge fan of Mitutoyo’s digital micrometer line. Across the board they are quality all around.
Rather than gush over the quality of these things for paragraphs on end. I am just going to include a bulleted list of what makes them so good:
- Extremely accurate
- Quick to use and take measurements
- Battery life is long
- IP65 rating means they are protected from dust and splashing water
- Great build
- Excellent durability
Unlike standard analog micrometers, the cheap ones are not as close in quality to the budget tools. A budget digital micrometer is going to be a significant step down. That doesn’t mean it’s bad. It just means that the gap is bigger.
If the price is too high, I would recommend going with a standard analog micrometer instead. If you must get digital, then go with one from one of the bigger budget brands such as iGaging.
If you are still on the fence, re-read the bulleted list and contemplate whether its better to “buy once, cry once” or not.
Best budget micrometer
Anytime Tools 0-1″ Micrometer
There was a time where Chinese made knockoff micrometers were bad. I mean real bad. This isn’t the norm anymore though.
Many manufacturers such as Anytime Tools have made a name for themselves by providing quality measuring instruments at a fraction of the price of higher end tools.
And quality wise there just isn’t a big difference between the cheaper tools and the more expensive ones anymore. At least when it comes to the best of the budget tools. If the pricier tools from companies like Starrett or Mitutoyo are 5% better, honestly most won’t notice the difference.
One note about budget priced micrometers, don’t go buy some random mic made in China and expect it to have the same quality. The good brands that are cheaper are usually American companies that are purchasing the tools from Chinese manufacturers. They have performed the quality control to ensure you get a good product.
If you want a quality tool that is accurate and built to last but your budget doesn’t allow for the best from Starrett or Mitutoyo check out Anytime Tools.
Best standard micrometer
Starrett T436.1 0-1″ Micrometer.
For standard analog micrometers, Starrett has put out a line of excellent measuring tools for a very long time. Founded in 1880, they were one of the creators of the modern micrometer and it shows.
Having never used a micrometer from the 1800s, I can not attest to their quality from 100 years ago. What I do know is that anything made on this side of the 1950s has been excellent. In machine shops all over the world, Starrett micrometers bought decades ago are still in use.
They are built to last. Often the only tell-tale sign of their age is a slight polishing of the frame or thimble from heavy use.
The quality does come at a price though. If you won’t be using this tool all day every day or for an extremely critical measurement, it might be best to think about our best budget micrometer below. If you are going to put this tool to use constantly, you would be hard pressed to find a better tool.
Best depth micrometer
Depth micrometers are another monster. Certainly more difficult to manufacture, as a result they are quite a bit higher in price.
Because they are so expensive, I am going list a few different options.
As a side note, when it comes to depth mics think about looking for used options. Many people take excellent care of their tools and you can save a pretty penny by picking up a second hand set. My only recommendation would be to find a way to verify them before buying. Bringing a set of gage blocks along could save you quite a bit of headache in the future.
Best digital depth micrometer
Mitutoyo 329-350-30 Digital Depth Micrometer
Just like their outside micrometers, the digital depth mics from Mitutoyo are excellent.
They are easy to use and easy to read. Most importantly, they are extremely accurate. Unlike normal micrometers, depth mics are one tool that the Chinese knock offs have really struggled to replicate. Many times cheaper depth mics are not accurate. The quality simply isn’t there.
This is not the case with Mitutoyo depth mics.
Mitutoyo depth mics, like their other digital micrometers, are in a league of their own. Unfortunately, their cost reflects this.
These depth mics are the best of the best but I only recommend them if you plan to put them to heavy use. If not, look into one of the non-digital options below to save more than a few bucks.
Best standard depth micrometer
Starrett 440Z-6L 0-6″ Depth Micrometer
Both Starrett and Mitutoyo make great depth micrometers of the non-digital variety. Both companies make depth mics that are strikingly similar to their standard outside micrometers.
Really the differences are minor. Both are highly accurate. The ratchet on the Starrett is a little better. Additionally, the base is slightly smaller which I prefer.
The Mitutoyo depth micrometers have two types of bases. One that is larger such as what is seen on the digital version above. The other type is smaller. This makes it slightly more tipsy. The base of the Starrett depth mic feels like it is just right, smack in the middle.
It really is only small differences that give the Starrett depth micrometer the edge. You can’t go wrong with either, especially if you can find a good deal on it somewhere or pick one up used for a good price.
Best budget depth micrometer
Fowler 52-225-116-0 0-6″ Depth Micrometer
I’m sure you have noticed that the prices are pretty high on all of the listed depth mics so far.
This is because the quality and accuracy don’t come cheap with depth micrometers. This depth mic from Fowler is the about the closest thing you will find to cheap and accurate.
I don’t know about all of their tools but many of Fowler’s gauges seem to be made in China. Nothing wrong with that in particular as seen with some of our other mic recommendations. Unfortunately, Chinese made depth mics are not something that they have perfected.
I have used Fowler depth mics that are every bit as accurate as Starrett or Mitutoyo, I just wouldn’t count on every single one coming off the line that good.
The nice thing about many online retailers is that they have good return policies. So if you absolutely need a depth mic and need it as cheap as possible then order away. Just make sure you check it for accuracy when you get it and send it packing if it isn’t up to snuff.
Things to consider when buying a micrometer
Know your tolerances
A common mistake the newbies make is thinking they need a micrometer when a caliper will do the job just fine.
If your tolerances are +/- .001” or more then you can likely get by with a dial or digital caliper. These can be had for prices well below the cost of a good micrometer.
Another benefit is that they are much more versatile and have larger measuring ranges.
For more info check out our Micrometers vs Calipers post to see what makes these tools different.
Digital vs analog micrometers
Digital micrometers are a good choice because they are quick to read. This is especially helpful for anyone just starting out. It’s not that hard to read an analog micrometer but some people struggle a little learning to read a mic. Digital simplifies the process but it is a good idea to still learn how to read a standard analog micrometer.
Analog micrometers have the benefit of always being ready to use. Digital mics require a battery and some are better than others when it comes to battery life.
An analog mic will always be ready to pick up and use. If you only use your digital micrometer occasionally then it might be a good idea to take the battery out when not in use. This way it isn’t dead when you need to use it.
Unless you are purchasing a digital micrometer, you will only get a reading in one set of units. Take note of the units you will be working with and buy accordingly.
This seems pretty self explanatory. I include it only as a reminder to double check your units before purchasing and to contemplate getting a digital micrometer if you are going to be working in both units constantly.
Micrometers typically are capable of taking measurements over a one inch measuring range. You will find them available individually, such as a micrometer that can take measurements from 4″-5″ and you can also find them sold as sets.
Set sizes are generally sold in 0-3″, 0-6″ and 0-12″ varieties. They are available in many different configurations but these sets are the most common. Sets will usually start at 0″ and go up. Some of the bigger sets differ and only include larger size micrometers such as with a 12″-18″ set.
As the set gets bigger and the micrometers get larger, the cost gets significantly higher. Because this is the case, don’t go out and buy a set that contains tools you won’t be using. In many instances a 0-3″ micrometer set will be sufficient for taking the majority of your measurements. Think about the sizes you will need to measure and don’t overspend on a set larger than you really need.
Does your micrometer need to be calibrated?
Yes, but also no.
What you will want to do is check the calibration yourself. Use a known standard such as a set of gage blocks to verify the accuracy of the tool over its measuring range. At a minimum, verify the micrometer with the standard provided by the manufacturer.
What you should not do is pay extra to get a calibration certificate from the micrometer seller. Many sellers will offer a NIST traceable calibration certificate at a substantial upcharge. In reality, all the calibration certificate tells you is that the tool was found to be accurate at the time of calibration.
In between the time you receive it and the time the calibration was performed, the tool passed through many hands, most notably the hands of a shipping company. I shouldn’t need to tell you that those shipping companies are not always gentle in the transportation of your precision measuring instrument.
It will probably be packaged well and everything will be fine. Remember many micrometers have withstood harsh machine shop environments for decades and measure as accurately as a brand new tool.
Should I buy a used micrometer?
Used tools are an excellent way to save money when it comes to micrometers. This is even more true when talking about depth micrometers, if you can find the right deal.
Generally, I have found prices for used tools fall into two categories; cheap and priced like new. Avoid the like new prices. It just isn’t worth it.
Personally, I wouldn’t be too excited about a standard used outside micrometer unless it was pristine and from a brand like Starrett or Mitutoyo.
There are plenty of other brands out there that put out quality tools for years. The tricky thing is that over the years some of these manufacturers have taken a step down in quality. Case in point, Fowler and Browne & Sharpe. The older stuff is much better.
If you’re looking to pick up some good tools on a budget, then keep an eye on Facebook marketplace and Craigslist along with hitting up some local yard sales. I’m sure it depends on your area, but yard sales have always been where I find the best deals.
A good tip when looking for used tools is to look for ones that sill have the original case or box. It is usually a sign that they were well cared for.
For more info about used micrometers, see our post about the best micrometer brands to find out which ones stand the test of time and the brands you should avoid.
Carbide vs non-carbide tipped micrometers
Carbide tips have the benefit of increased resistance to wear. The downfall is that they are more prone to chipping of the anvil face.
If you are careful with either type, it is unlikely that wear or chipped anvils will be an issue.
A good case will go a long ways towards keeping your tool protected and safe. Whether you’re working in a machine shop or using it in your garage, there are hazards everywhere. Coolant isn’t something you want on most precision tools. The same can be said of dirt and brake dust.
Give them a good wipe down after use and keep them safely in a case or toolbox to make sure they will be in working order for years to come.
A good ratchet makes a big difference when it comes to micrometers. If the ratcheting mechanism is bad, then the tool could give bad readings.
Ratchet mechanisms come in many forms. The most common types are the click style ratchet and the friction thimble.
Personally, I prefer to use the click style or no ratchet over the friction thimble. Just a matter of personal preference. Some companies claim that the friction thimble, which simply spins freely once it is at the correct size, is more accurate but I have never known this to be the case.
If possible, try out both the click style ratchet and the friction thimble and determine what you prefer. If this isn’t possible, I recommend starting with a click style ratchet for your micrometer.
If you go with a digital micrometer, pay attention to the IP rating of the tool. The tables below show how well protected the device is from the elements.
The first number is for protection from solids such as chips and dust. The second number is for protection from liquids such as oil and coolant.
Both of the Mitutoyo digital micrometers recommended above are rated IP65. This is a very high level of protection. The next level down that is commonly seen is a IP54 rating which would be sufficient for most environments as well.
Many micrometers are capable of transferring measurement data to a computer. I don’t believe this is something that will prove useful for most users unless they are working in a high volume industrial setting so I will be brief on the topic.
Please note that there are multiple ways of transferring measurements to a computer including:
- Wireless, including Bluetooth
- Other proprietary wired and wireless formats
If data transfer is a feature you are interested in then please pay attention to the manner in which the tools communicates and the price of any required accessories. The cost of a simple cable can often be half the cost of the micrometer itself or more.