Every machinist knows that using quality tools is the first step to producing quality work. The right machinist tools ensure accuracy, precision, and efficiency during every project.

But knowing which tools to use for which applications can be difficult, especially as a beginner. That’s why we’re here to help. Keep reading to learn about the five basic types of machinists tools, what they’re used for, and why they’re important to have on hand.

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Machinist Tools for Beginners

Here are the five essential metal working tools you’ll need to get started as a machinist.


What Are Calipers?

Calipers are a type of precision measuring tool that’s designed for use on workpieces as well as finished products. Machinists recommend them because they’re extremely versatile and easy to use.

What Are Machinists Calipers Used For?

Calipers are used primarily to accurately measure various dimensions, including the following ones:

  • Internal and external
  • Depths
  • Step heights
  • Complex shapes and contours

If you’re trying to measure any kind of dimensions, a caliper is the tool you’ll need.

Why Are Calipers Important?

Calipers are an important tool for beginner machinists to use because they ensure that quality and efficiency standards are upheld from the beginning to the end of a project.


Common Types of Calipers

Calipers come in three different varieties:

  1. Dial Calipers: Dial calipers are easy to read and don’t rely on batteries to operate.
  2. Digital Calipers: Digital calipers provide instant measurements. They also have a long battery life and are increasingly affordable compared to older models.
  3. Vernier Calipers: Most machinists don’t prefer vernier calipers because they have a longer read time, which hinders project efficiency.


What Are They?

Micrometers are another type of precision measuring tool that beginner machinists use regularly.

What Are They Used For?

Machinists use micrometers to measure small dimensions that can’t be measured as accurately with other tools.

How Do They Work?

As a calibrated screw rotates, the anvil touches the workpiece. The measurement appears on a dial. Micrometers feature a calibrated screw that rotates, causing the anvil to touch the workpiece. The final measurement appears conveniently on a dial attached to the device.


Common Types of Micrometers

You can choose between three types of micrometers:

  1. Outside micrometers (for external dimensions)
  2. Inside micrometers (for internal dimensions)
  3. Depth micrometers

Dial Indicator

What Is It?

You guessed it—a dial indicator is yet another type of measuring tool that beginner machinists use.

What Is It Used For?

Machinists use dial indicators to accurately measure slight alterations in both position and height. These alterations can impact the following factors:

  • Surface flatness
  • Parallel surfaces
  • The alignment of cutting tools and holding fixtures

Why Is It Important?

A dial indicator allows users to inspect multiple parts of a machine with great accuracy, which improves project outcomes.

dial indicator

Common Types of Dial Indicators

The two types of dial indicators are dial test indicators and drop indicators.

Types of Accuracies Available

Dial test indicators come in various accuracies, including the following:

  • .001”
  • .0005”
  • .0001”

Higher precision models are also available. Remember, the lower the accuracy, the more precise the measurement will be. The higher the accuracy, the less precise the measurement will be.

Edge Finder

What Is It?

An edge finder is a compact, handheld tool that’s extremely ergonomic. It features a cylindrical probe that has a pointed tip mounted in the spindle.

What Is It Used For?

An edge finder is designed to make precise cuts. It does so by locating workpieces during the milling setup process.

edge finder

Why Is It Important?

An edge finder allows for precise cutting without leaving unwanted marks behind on the workpiece.

Prick Punch

What Is It?

A prick punch—also known as a center punch—makes a small indentation in the workpiece. It’s a simple, efficient, and cost-effective machinist tool. You'll want to make sure you have one in your workshop.

What Is It Used For?

A prick punch is used for the following functions:

  • As a starting point for drilling or punching to prevent the drill or punch from slipping
  • As a reference point for aligning, positioning, and measuring various features
  • As a layout that guides further operations
prick punch

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