Skinfold Caliper Calibration

lange caliper with calibration block

Skinfold Test Accuracy

Skinfold calipers are precise measurement tools that measure skinfold thickness to estimate total body fat.  Accuracy of the final calculation depends on a few factors:
  • Tool – Start with a caliper with a good reputation among professionals
  • Technique – Taking accurate measurements requires training and practice
  • Calibration – Skinfold calipers generally use springs, which will lose tension over time

Skinfold Caliper Model Accuracy

The SlimGuide caliper and Lange caliper should have an accuracy of + or – 1.0 mm.  A Harpenden caliper has a factory calibration of +/_ 0.2mm.

How to test skinfold caliper calibration

To ensure accurate calibration, you need a calibration block to test your caliper.  A calibration block is cut to specific measurements (i.e 10mm, 20mm, 30mm, 40mm, etc)–measure the block and note any differences between what your caliper reads and the actual measurement of the block.

What to do if your skinfold caliper is not 100% accurate

You have 4 options:
1. Buy a new caliper Only do this if you have an inexpensive model.
2. Adjust your measurement results If you’re caliper reads 12mm when it should read 10mm, for example, adjust results in that range accordingly.
3. Do nothing. In most cases what is important is the accuracy of changes in body fat.  If your caliper is slightly inaccurate, but consistent, use the results and monitor changes of calibration over time.
4. Send in for calibration The professional / research models such as Lange or Harpenden can be calibrated in the USA for about $65 – $75.  These models can last for many years, even decades, if properly cared for.

Where to send skinfold calipers for calibration

You can send your skinfold calipers to the Lange and Harpenden Service Center in the USA for calibration.