I have an old pair of calipers I've been trying to look new. The measurement scales have all their grooves but it's difficult to see them. Other than taking a pin and painting each line individually is there another way?

Possibly a thin layer of paint and sand off revealing whatever is left in grooves.

3 Answers 3


You are right on track with painting the surface, but you should act before the paint dries.

Either cover the entire scale with paint or add a dollop or line of paint at one end, use a bench scraper to spread the paint over the scale, ideally back and forth. Scrape or wipe the excess paint off again with a rag, so that only the grooves remain coloured. Aim to work mainly perpendicular to the direction of the grooves so as not to remove the paint in them.

This technique is well-known in all intaglio types of printing, e.g. etching.


Sugru - not cheap, but simple & resilient.
(No affiliation, I just use it a lot for all sorts of things)

From Sugru's own web site - 8 ways sugru can refresh and improve well worn products

Rub a contrasting colour into the 'grain' of the markings & rub off the excess. Leave overnight to cure. Starts off like 'plasticine/silly putty' modelling clay - dries like rubberised plastic.
Amongst other uses, I've had some on chipped cups that I use every day & that go in the dishwasher all the time. Still sound after several years.

One example...

enter image description here

I just realised in the example they appear to be using some kind of wooden palette knife or spatula. I've found a thumb is quite sufficient; it's nowhere near as messy as the pic makes it out to be, thumb, finger, one piece of kitchen roll, done.

  • It may well be - let's qualify my statement by saying 'it's not messy enough that you really need an 'implement' to apply it' ;-)
    – Tetsujin
    May 14, 2016 at 20:42

(first answer on stack exchange ever, so please be gentle with me)

Rub a wax crayon along the grooves, the wax will collect in them, any excess wax on the surface can then be easily wiped off. I can't say it's the most durable or permanent solution, but it's quick and wax crayons are both very cheap and come in a wide variety of bright colours.

In the tabletop gaming world, this is how we restore the pips on our various die when they lose their pigment/ink/paint etc.

  • They made a special product for this in the days that all knobs had paint filled dial markings. The modern replacement is a oil stick as the purpose made products are not common. - en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oil_stick
    – KalleMP
    Jun 28, 2016 at 17:08

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