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    [private user]
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    I just found a great alternative to the expensive push-pull force gauges on the market.  At Hammacher-Schlemmer, they have an isometric exerciser called the i-Grip. It has a LCD display that registers maximum or average force exerted in pushing or pulling actions. The range is somewhat limited, measuring between 5 and 200 lbs. It's amazingly accurate, ranging +/- about 2% across the range, as compared to my buddy's much-more-expensive gauge.  For pushing, just set it against the item to be pushed/moved until it activates or moves, then read the average or maximum force applied.  For pulling, a simple hook mechanism can be easily fashioned out of 1/4" (or so) round stock.  With a little creativity, you can come up with attachments that will allow you to use it on a wide variety of applicatiions.  It's not perfect but, if you're on a budget (and who isn't), it will give you a pretty good reading of push-pull forces.  The best part: it's only $59.95 + shipping (about $12, depending on where you live/work). It's also unconditionally guaranteed for life, although, by the time you manage to break one, they probably won't carry them anymore.

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