Micrometer thimble I used to sit for hours flicking back and forth through the glossy pages, gazing at the full colour photographs of the stunning models in all their glory. This was the micrometer section of the Buck and Hickman catalogue of course!

There's something about micrometers; their precision and accuracy (for an explanation of the difference between precision and accuracy, see Wikipedia), clean lines, smooth operation and pearl chrome finish that makes them objects of desire. As a youth I would spend almost all my pocket money on tools, gauges, specialist spanners and so on.

My usual haunts were H.O. Davies and Ebby Hughes, both in Rhyl and both closed, sadly. H.O.Davies's shop was absolutely packed with all sorts of tools and ironmongery: everything you could imagine and even things you couldn't. It had that distinctive smell of linseed oil and paraffin, reminiscent of all genuine ironmongers of the time. The floor was covered in boxes, gradually spreading out from the bottom of the shelves that lined each wall. Deliveries remained where they were placed until needed. The lighting was a single dusty fluorescent fitting that failed to project any light into the most remote corners. You couldn't find anything yourself but Garth (the son of the owner) knew exactly where everything was, be it a ½" Whit coach bolt with a choice of hexagonal or square nut, an 18" hook and band hinge or a 1¼" brass bath plug. Garth's mother (the owner) was usually sat on a stool in one of the gloomier corners, mug of tea in one hand and a forgotten cigarette with a long piece of drooping ash in the other. Most of the items in the shop were still priced in shillings and pence even though decimalisation had occurred some years earlier and, as a result, I managed to buy most items at the old price.

The window display hadn't changed in years, probably due to it being now inaccessible from inside the shop. The cardboard boxes had been faded by the sun years ago so it was difficult to tell what they contained. Even coloured plastic items had been bleached to a pale grey.

Hughes's on the other hand was spotlessly clean and dazzlingly bright with everything in its proper place on shelves, on hooks or on racks. As I recall, they used to have a very nice display of Bedford chrome-plated open-ended spanners that went as small as 12BA.

I don't use micrometers much these days but I do like collecting them. The variety of styles and purpose-built models all add to the wonder. Below, I have shown a selection of the micrometers in my collection. Enjoy.

RECENT ADDITION - John Hall Tools (Rugby) Ltd. 1"-2" Limit Micrometer

Limit Micrometer A rare R-R No 25 limit micrometer from John Hall Tools (Rugby) Ltd. with imperial Moore and Wright micrometer heads. Limit micrometers are used in place of fixed dimension GO/NoGo gauges with the micrometers set to the upper and lower limits and locked in place. If the part to be checked goes between the lower dimension anvils it is too small; if it does not go between the upper dimension anvils it is too large. This particular model has chamfered anvils to make the workpiece easier to insert between them.

M&W 916 ½" Tube Micrometer

Micrometer 916 Used more or less exclusively for measuring the wall thickness of tube materials, the radial thickness of hollow items such as washers or the distance from a drilled hole to the edge of a component.

M&W 933P ⅜" Pocket Micrometer with large anvils

Micrometer 933P Probably used by an inspector to check the diameter of stock materials or components. The large anvils would tend to be required for soft materials such as plastic, fabric or round wire, and sheet materials such as paper, card, etc. The yolk has the fractional inch to decimal inch conversions engraved on it.

M&W 965M 25mm Standard Micrometer

Micrometer 965M A general purpose micrometer used in conjunction with machine tools, for inspection purposes or for ad hoc measurements.

M&W 936 8" Deep Throat Micrometer with large anvils

Micrometer 936 Typically used to measure sheet material at up to 8" from the edge. With rolled metal sheet it's important to measure some distance in from the edge to avoid the oxide film or scale, variations in thickness and other distortion that may be present along the edge.

M&W 968 3-4" Standard Micrometer

Micrometer 968 Basic micrometer used for measuring distances between 3 and 4 inches. The micrometer needs to be zeroed using a 3" setting bar.

M&W Bench Micrometer

Bench Micrometer High precision micrometer head for repetitive work, for example, checking samples of machined components. There's an adjustable anvil on the left and the 60mm diameter thimble can read to 0.002mm.