How To Read A Micrometer Screw Gauge


A quick guide on how to read a micrometer screw gauge. Similar to the way a vernier caliper is read, a micrometer reading contains two parts:

  • the first part is contributed by the main scale on the sleeve
  • the second part is contributed by the rotating vernier scale on the thimble

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Measurement Reading Technique For Micrometer

A typical micrometer screw gauge
A typical micrometer screw gauge

The above image shows a typical micrometer screw gauge and how to read it. Steps:

  • To obtain the first part of the measurement: Look at the image above, you will see a number 5 to the immediate left of the thimble. This means 5.0 mm. Notice that there is an extra line below the datum line, this represents an additional 0.5 mm. So the first part of the measurement is $5.0 + 0.5 = 5.5$ mm.
  • To obtain the second part of the measurement: Look at the image above, the number 28 on the rotating vernier scale coincides with the datum line on the sleeve. Hence, 0.28 mm is the second part of the measurement.

You just have to add the first part and second part of the measurement to obtain the micrometer reading: $5.5 + 0.28 = 5.78$ mm.

To ensure that you understand the steps above, here’s one more example:


First part of the measurement: 2.5 mm

Second part of the measurement: 0.38 mm

Final measurement: 2.88 mm

Compensating For Zero Error

In a nutshell

Use the following formula:

$$\text{Correct reading} = \text{Obtained reading} \, – \, \text{Zero error}$$

where $\text{zero error}$ can be either negative (the “0” marking on the thimble is above the datum line) or positive ( the “0” marking on the thimble is below the datum line )


Now, we shall try with zero error. If you are not familiar on how to handle zero error for micrometer screw gauge, I suggest that you read up on Measurement of Length.

micrometer with zero error

The reading on the bottom is the measurement obtained and the reading at the top is the zero error. Find the actual measurement. (Meaning: get rid of the zero error in the measurement or take into account the zero error)

Measurement with zero error: 1.76 mm

Zero error: + 0.01 mm (positive because the zero marking on the thimble is below the datum line)

Measurement without zero error: $1.76 \, – (+ 0.01) = 1.75$ mm

The subtraction logic is similar to the method explained in How to read a vernier caliper. You can take a look and comment below, if you encounter any difficulties.

Self-Test Questions

What is the smallest possible reading (in mm) on the thimble scale? What is the biggest possible reading?

Show/Hide Answer

The smallest possible reading on the thimble scale is 0.01 mm, while the biggest possible reading is 0.49 mm.

If you still do not understand the concept, there is a very useful simulation of the micrometer screw gauge here.

Bonus: You can get this micrometer app on your mobile phone (Android):

Back To Measurement Of Physical Quantities (O Level)

Back To O Level Topic List

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112 thoughts on “How To Read A Micrometer Screw Gauge”

  1. I have seen this particular question (same picture) about a micrometer in the exam but the answer 2.88 mm was not in the choices. How is that?

  2. My homework really confused me since we had never been taught how to do this ‘zero error thing’. Your assistance was a great relief.
    Thanks alot😄

  3. am confidently sure that,am gonna pass my exam tomorrow, thanks for this,you made it so simple for a one day baby to understand🙏

  4. The examples shown are really helpfull some how it helps me with my studies back at university of south pacific. THANK YOU..Hope to see more of examples from this pages …thanks that much.

  5. Really simply explained! I quickly searched for how to read the micrometer screwgauge before my practical physics exams, and this post ABSOLUTELY nailed it! Thank you!

  6. The concept for screw measurement reading explains very well. All of us know that the micrometer screw gauge is a small but very essential measuring device.

  7. A lot of thanks for making such a good website.I could easily understand the working of screw’s the best for PHYSICS

  8. I still don’t get it please put in more emphasis especially on the reading aspect and also the calculation. i want to know how read the guage well so pictures and teaching programmes

  9. isn`t the second part is measured by multiplying the least count with thimble scale reading?
    and so it should be 0.001×38=0.038……….. confused please explain

  10. Since the least count of screw gauge is 0.001cm, the reading must come in same way for example 1.762
    but your reading is upto 2 decimal only

    • You can “remove” the zero error by using the calculation method above.

      Alternatively, you can remove the zero error (permanently) by re-calibrating (re-zero’ing) the micrometer screw gauge by using a micrometer spanner wrench.

      In the school setting, zero error in micrometer screw gauge is due to the students’ mis-handling of the micrometer screw gauge. (E.g. Over-tightening of the micrometer screw gauge)


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