Dial Test Indicators


To All:
What's your favorite brand/style of dial test indicator, and why?
Reply to
BottleBob
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Interapid. Quality.
Reply to
John R. Carroll
Bestest I kinda prefer for the "finger type"....
The others, like 0-1in, matters not so much, as long as they repeat don't take a whole lotta force in order to get all wound up.
Reply to
PrecisionMachinisT
BottleBob wrote in news: snipped-for-privacy@earthlink.net:
Bob,
I've tried them all. Well most of them anyway. I own about five or six at the moment.
I reach for the Brown & Sharpe BesTest 50 millionths one the most often. But my needs are likely different than yours.
I like the size of it, the accuracy, and the reliability. They can also be repaired fairly easily and parts are readily available. I have two, one has been repaired twice. The other one I don't lend out. The downside is that it's a little light construction wise, so if it takes a good whack or gets dropped it will likely break.
Now if I wasn't using the DTI in small machines all of the time, I would use a Compac. Hands down it's the best quality, plus they make extended range .0001" indicators. They also make a large dial .0001" which is easy to read. They are very solid and well built. But they are a little too big and blocky for use in a small Swiss CNC. And they are the most expensive.
Interapid - I have one of these and they are better than the BesTest as far as construction quality. The downside is that they are made to be used at a 12 degree angle. If you are off of the 12 degree angle it doesn't read accurately. Again, I don't always have room to tilt off at 12 degrees, so I pretty much use this for surface plate and bench center inspecton of parts.
Starret Last Word - Should be the last thing you waste your money on. If you buy a .001", the Starrett isn't too bad for what it is. It's heavy and will last, plus it can be fixed and parts are readily available.
Gem - Cheaper copy of the Starrett. If you need a beat aorund .001" DTI either the Starrett or Gem will do. But so will a Peacock, Wilson Wolpert or China brand. The Starrett will hold up the best, but it ought to for the money.
Mitutoyo - They have several different models. The one that I have is the narrow round body one. This indicator is very compact, it's accurate, but the dial is hard to read and the construction is not robust. But there are time where it's the only thing that will fit into where I need it, so it's a keeper. I don't think it would hold up well to heavy use. No proof of that, but it seems very light.
I've also used Peacock, Pic test, Wilson Wolpert, ans TesaTast. The Tesa is the same indicator as the BestTest. The others are all low end junk.
I don't know if all this helps at all. I figure you are probably going to be using it in a VMC and on a surface plate mostly. So a Compac, Interapid, or BesTest in that order would be my choice.
Reply to
D Murphy
I like the Chines no name brand, for $19.95! (o: JS
Reply to
Protagonist
BottleBob wrote in news: snipped-for-privacy@earthlink.net:
Mahr Great quality, excellent repeatability and accuracy.
Reply to
Anthony
Dan:
Thanks for your informative and extensive response. I've altered the order of your comments to better respond for my needs. First, let me say that I'm not really in the market to buy an indicator. My question was motivated mainly by curiosity & a desire to initiate an on-topic discussion and information exchange that most everyone could become involved with, since we all use test indicators of one sort or another.
IMO, Interapid is definitely of high quality workmanship, and has great durability. We have a few Interapids used as "shop" indicators, and they stand up extremely well under the most adverse conditions of handling and use. We've used other cheaper indicators, but they only last about a year or so before they need to be repaired or thrown away as unrepairable. But personally, I don't like Interapid indicators. I don't like the non removable mounting stem (my indicator sweeper is set up for a dovetail), I don't like the angled dial, the 12° point angle requirement for accuracy, and the dial needle rotates counter-clockwise (the opposite of most all my other indicators), that last one is kinda trivial but still, I don't like to have to stop and think about which way is + and which is -.
My favorite indicator is a Brown & Sharpe 1 1/2" Dial Blackface 1 7/16" point length "Bestest". Most indicators have dial travels of 0-15-0, the model of Bestest I have has 0-10-0, which makes the individual increments wider and easier to see. Also, the dial moves clockwise no matter which way the ball point moves beyond center.
I have a Compac tenth indicator, 1.575 dia dial, 0-2-0 reading (where most other tenth indicators are 0-4-0). It's a little "twitchy" or "touchy" however you want to put it.
I completely agree with your sentiments here, IMO, Last Word's are dinosaur indicators.
I have a number of Mitutoyo indicators, both horizontal and vertical for sweeping purposes. Their dovetails are cast into the body and are not as durable as screwed on steel ones and tend to wear and distort over time, but they have lasted for 6-7 years with daily use.
I had a Tesa tenth indicator, it was a quality piece that gave years of daily service when I was a Die-Maker apprentice and beyond.
I remember having an indicator that had a "pear" or "tear-drop" shaped ball point to compensate for cosine error, I believe it was a Fowler but I'm not sure.
Reply to
BottleBob
For those using Interapids do you hold on the dovetail when indicating the center of bar stock rather than the stem?
What do you use for a holder?
Jon "The Jew" Banquer
Reply to
jon_banquer
I built one of these :
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( Many, many years ago )...
Reply to
PrecisionMachinisT
I like your "Zero holder". I have never seen one up close and personal until now. I'm at a friends shop and he has one. Seems like a great idea so I'm borrowing it to try out.
Jon "The Jew" Banquer Phoenix, Arizona
Reply to
jon_banquer
Jon:
I think the real commercial holder is called a "Zero-it". But like I said in my homepage caption I bought a "real" one years after I made my own, and it was total junk. It seems PM has posted the plans to made one in another post to this thread.
I use mine virtually every day. And I have about 5 other types of indicator sweepers.
Reply to
BottleBob
Thanks for the link, Sam.
When you get a chance could you please mail me one of those cutters we have discussed in the past:
Vulcan Industries, Inc Atn: Jon Banquer 2610 East Washington St Phoenix, Arizona 85034
Jon "The Jew" Banquer
Reply to
jon_banquer
No prob.
Reply to
PrecisionMachinisT
I bought a Brown & Sharpe/Tesa 7031-3, 0-15-0 DTI, from R.L Stephens in 1978, and loved it ever since. It's survived 2 tool box thefts, because it's my favorite measuring instrument & fortunately always brought it home, if I needed it, to use in my little home hobby shop. Didn't have enough money left over for an Indicol holder, and the Chinese knock-offs weren't around yet, so I just made my own. Keep it in the box & never, NEVER lend a DTI out...they're just too fragile. It's kinda like "how many ways can Burger King screw up a cup of coffee" as far as the possibilities for destruction...ok, there's turning the spindle on while indicating in a vise, or rapiding into a fixture, or dropping it, etc.
Reply to
jmulh
To All:
Here is a breakdown on indicator quality for a number of different brands from Long Island Indicator Service.
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Dial Test Indicators
In Brief:
The best dial test indicators are Swiss made. You have 4 commonly available brand names to choose from: Bestest, Compac, Interapid, Tesatast. All of these are made by the same manufacturer in Switzerland. There's nothing better on the market, in our opinion.
The worst dial test indicators are Chinese, Japanese and - sorry to say - American. We'll let you figure out the manufacturers in question.
Notes on Manufacturers
Accupro this vanity dial appears on indicators made in China and Germany. The Chinese indicators are worthless. The German indicators are the Puppitast series made by Mahr-Federal.
* Repairs: Long Island Indicator Service (German made only) * Sales: catalogs * Parts: from Mahr-Federal for the German made models only * Information: see Mahr listing, below

Alina (Switzerland) indicators were made by Compac until the mid-1960's. They are no longer available and spare parts are exhausted. We can still repair Alina Model 88 but nothing else.
* Repairs: not possible (except Model 88) * Sales: discontinued * Parts: not available * Information: Long Island Indicator Service

Baker (China) indicators are cheap throw-aways for which parts are not available. We have been told that they are somewhat longer lived than other Chinese brands. Replacement contact points are not available but Compac points will fit, in a pinch.
* Repairs: not possible * Sales: discount catalogs * Parts: not available * Information: not available

Bestest (Switzerland) is fast becoming America's favorite. They're among the very best available; a great value for the money. Excellent repeatability and quick response make them desirable. If there's a drawback, it's that they're prone to damage because of the light construction. Available in black or white, horizontal, vertical or parallel. Except for the name on the dial, they are identical to Tesatast. Distributed in the US by Brown & Sharpe.
* Repairs: Long Island Indicator Service * Sales: Bestest * Parts: Long Island Indicator Service * Information: Bestest

China made indicators are at the bottom of the barrel. You can't get any worse. Some years ago we were hired to evaluate these indicators for MSC (Manhattan Tool Supply) who wanted to know if they were worth importing. Apparently they didn't listen to our advise. Dovetails didn't fit and brand new .0001" indicators wouldn't calibrate. It turns out that dovetails don't accept anyone else's attachments because they're oversized. Pass on these and order some Take-Out instead (but skip the chicken feet).
* Repairs: not possible * Sales: discount catalogs everywhere * Parts: not available * Information: not available

CDI (Chicago) test indicators are identical to Compac (Switzerland). These were made for CDI in the 1980's. CDI no longer sells them but you can buy the Compac replacements.
* Repairs: Long Island Indicator Service * Sales: Long Island Indicator Service * Parts: Long Island Indicator Service * Information: Compac

Compac (Switzerland) has been our indicator of choice for over 4 decades. These are sturdier than Bestest and less finicky (and less costly) than Interapid, even though they're made by the same manufacturer. They are now included in the 2005 Brown & Sharpe catalog. Of particular note are the extra long range of some of the models. Model 215GA (.0001") and 225GA (.0001" vertical) have dials with extra wide spacing between graduation marks. This is a feature that many owners appreciated in Compac's predecessor: Alina test indicators. Dials are continuous reading on long range models, balanced on standard range. Contact points will swivel, like other indicators, but you may encounter more friction than you're used to. It's okay to apply the extra force. The indicator's over-sized pivot can take it.
* New features: oversized, virtually indestructible ball bearings * Repairs: Long Island Indicator Service * Sales: Compac * Parts: Long Island Indicator Service * Information: Compac

Craftsman indicators are sold by Sears but are often times made in the UK in which case they are identical to Verdict indicators. They're not very good (in fact, they're downright awful) but do offer the "pear shaped" contact point which makes them look quite medieval and eliminates the cosine error, in theory.
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Repairs: why would you want to fix it? * Sales: avoid this one like the plague * Parts: your guess is as good as ours * Information: if you know something, let us know!

Federal Gage made the worst test indicator you could get stuck with. Bits of solder were used to hold it together. Mercifully these have been discontinued. The last models named Testmaster were made by Tesa in Switzerland and they're identical to Bestest indicators (see above). These are no longer available from Federal, but you can still buy the Bestest equivalent. The newest indicators are called MarTest (see Mahr-Federal).
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Repairs: Long Island Indicator Service * Sales: Long Island Indicator Service (Bestest equivalents) * Parts: Long Island Indicator Service (Bestest equivalents) * Information: Long Island Indicator Service

Fowler used to rely heavily on English imports such as Verdict indicators. These are about as good as English weather in winter. Nowadays they rely more heavily on Swiss made gages but also offer look-alikes in their effort to remain competitive. Beware of wolves in sheep's clothing: a new Interapid look-alike is made in China and sold under the name Xtest. Similarly, series 52-562, 52-563 and 52-560 are also Chinese. The best mechanical test indicator which Fowler offers is the Swiss made Girodtast. When shopping Fowler, if it doesn't say "Swiss Made" don't buy it.
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Repairs: Long Island Indicator Service * Sales: Long Island Indicator Service * Parts: Long Island Indicator Service * Information: Long Island Indicator Service

Gem (USA) makes an inferior version of the popular Starrett Last Word Indicator. This would be fine if they were cheaper. There is an odd variation, however: one model has two dial faces, one on each side. This comes in handy in some applications.
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Repairs: Long Island Indicator Service * Sales: discount catalogs * Parts: from the manufacturer or through a dealer * Information: see their catalog at
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Girodtast (Switzerland) is similar to the old style (1970's) Bestest indicator. In the USA these are sold by Fowler. In Switzerland they are also sold with the name SISO-Tast. If you've ever wanted a Bestest indicator with multiple revolutions, Girod offers several models with extended ranges. If they have a drawback, it's that the contact point is adjustable. You'd think this were an advantage, but for most people it's a nuisance. On the Bestest you simply unscrew the old, screw in the new. On the Girod-Tast you have to adjust the new point so that the indicator is in calibration.
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Repairs: Long Island Indicator Service * Sales: Fowler distributors nationwide * Parts: not available from Long Island Indicator * Information: Girodtast

Interapid (Switzerland) is the gem of all test indicators. These have the distinctive slanted dial which the other manufacturers have only just begun to copy. If the Interapid has one flaw, it's the fact that correct readings are obtained when the contact angle is 12°. Undoubtedly this has its advantages as long as the user remembers to take it into account. The revolution counter hand does not have any numbers associated with it. There are just a couple of tick marks showing you that you've gone around once or twice. Dials are balanced and the right side of the dial has a thin black line which will help you determine plus or minus in a mirror set-up. A 4 mm diameter holding stem is permanently attached to the far end of the indicator. It swivels up and down but this means that you can't attach any other holders or stems to this end of the indicator. Models with 2.8" long contact points tend to have a slower response and should probably only be used to measure .001" (Note: beware of cheap Interapid look-alike ripoffs now being offered in catalogs. Fowler is the culprit behind this swindle. They're made in China and they're junk. Insist on the real thing.)
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New features: improved paint job on the body * Repairs: Long Island Indicator Service * Sales: Long Island Indicator Service * Parts: Long Island Indicator Service * Information: Interapid

Kafer (Germany) (also spelled Käfer and Kaefer) manufactures a complete line of test indicators with one revolution. These are beautifully crafted and come in a box with a clear lid, so you can easily see what you're taking off the shelf. Alas, they do not have identifying serial numbers. An excellent alternative to Swiss-made indicators.
* Repairs: Long Island Indicator Service * Sales: Long Island Indicator Service * Parts: Long Island Indicator Service * Information: Kafer

Kurt (USA) although located in Minneapolis, these are generic made-in-China imports. They're cheap throwaways although Kurt claims they're of better quality than other Chinese indicators.
* Repairs: never economically feasible * Sales: Kurt distributors nationwide and some catalog houses * Parts: Kurt claims to carry parts * Information: downloadable catalog available at the Kurt.com web site

Last Word (USA) Starrett makes this stalwart and ubiquitous test indicator without resorting to toothed gears. Although usually accurate we've seen enough of them that compare poorly with the better built, gear driven indicators to warrant skepticism. The body, being made of iron, rusts easily and will become magnetic (and sticky as a result). On the upside, these can take a beating.
* New features: one-piece molded crystal is easier to replace * Repairs: Long Island Indicator Service * Sales: Long Island Indicator Service * Parts: Long Island Indicator Service * Information: Starrett

Lufkin never manufactured any of their own indicators. In the 1960's they had a vanity dial on the Alina indicator. These tended to have model numbers such as V60X. It was never clear how they managed to usurp Alina's exclusive rights to these gages and that may have been the reason the line was finally dropped.
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Repairs: no longer possible * Sales: extinct * Parts: no longer available * Information: see Alina

Mahr-Federal manufactured in Germany with the brand name MarTest. These are very recent introductions made with classic German craftsmanship. These are the only test indicators which have the contact point length inscribed on the side of the case. Mahr-Federal has a $100 minimum parts order so getting spare parts may be uneconomical in some cases.
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Repairs: Long Island Indicator Service * Sales: directly from Mahr-Federal or various catalog sources * Parts: check the web site for a Federal distributor * Information: check the Mahr-Federal web site

Mahr (Puppitast) manufactured in Germany, part of the pre-Mahr-Federal conglomeration. These are structurally similar to Bestest, Tesatast and Girodtast indicators. The handsome bodies are somewhat sturdier and have textured sides which might, under some circumstances, keep them from slipping out of your hands. The crystal can rather easily be replaced without tools and this is an advantage over Bestest and Tesatast. Discontinued.
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Repairs: Long Island Indicator Service * Sales: no longer available * Parts: probably no longer available * Information: discontinued

Mercer manufactured in Switzerland but for some reason the dial usually reads "England." These are manufactured by Tesa for the English market and are identical to Compac indicators (see above) with the obviously different dial. Mercer offers several configurations not found in the Compac line. If you absolutely must have this name on the dial, then we can probably obtain them for you; otherwise, look for the Compac equivalent.
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Repairs: Long Island Indicator Service * Sales: Long Island Indicator Service * Parts: Long Island Indicator Service * Information: Long Island Indicator Service

Mitutoyo new models, completely redesigned, are manufactured in Japan. Some models are available with optically scanable serial numbers on the dial face. The weaknesses of older models have been corrected but in an effort at cost saving, these new models have weaknesses of their own. The new "pocket" models 513-512 and 513-518 are a major improvement in design and construction and can be recommended. The other models don't compare with their European counterparts.
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New features: one piece bezel and crystal can be replaced without tools * Repairs: Long Island Indicator Service * Sales: Long Island Indicator Service * Parts: Long Island Indicator Service * Information: Mitutoyo

Mueller old models were made in England.
* Repairs: not possible * Sales: not available * Parts: not available * Information: none available

Nork indicators were manufactured in Manhattan of all places, by General Howe Mfg Co., Inc. They're a dreadful imitation of the Starrett Last Word indicator although they did have a much more functional reversing lever.
* Repairs: not possible * Sales: not available * Parts: not available * Information: none available

Peacock (Pic-Test) manufactured in Japan. This is a meager entry in the test indicator market, designed along the lines of the old model Bestest. Comparison ends there, however. Calibration often has to be fudged by changing the contact point angle on the .0001" model. Newer models contain plastic gears.
* Repairs: Long Island Indicator Service * Sales: various catalogs * Parts: 1-408-871-7700 * Information: 1-408-871-7700

Shars generic indicator made in China (see China, above)

Sisotast manufactured in Switzerland. This is a vanity dial for the Girodtast indicator. The indicators are identical with the exception of the dial.
* Repairs: Long Island Indicator Service * Sales: available in Switzerland * Parts: not available * Information: not available

Starrett (USA) would like us to believe that they are products of the USA. The origins of some of their indicators is vague, however. Model 708 for instance is only marked as "American Made." The revolution counter hand has "0-1-2" markings with no indication of actual travel. On this same model you will have to fuss with the contact angle to find the right spot for accuracy. Half the dial is yellow and half is white. This comes in handy when reading the dial in a mirror. (Yellow does not indicate metric graduations in these models.) None of the Starrett test indicators is in the same league as their European made counterparts and we consider model 811 to be among the worst indicator designs available.
* Repairs: Long Island Indicator Service * Sales: Long Island Indicator Service * Parts: Long Island Indicator Service * Information: Starrett

Teclock (Japan) You can often buy European-made models for less, and you'll get better quality. Spare parts are not commonly available. These indicators are heftier but feature an inferior execution of the Bestest-style mechanism. The newest models seem to come with plastic bezels. When the crystals are scratched, or the bezel breaks (it will) you won't be able to replace them. None of the Teclock test indicators is in the same league as their European made counterparts.
* Repairs: Long Island Indicator Service * Sales: Long Island Indicator Service * Parts: not available * Information: Teclock

Tesatast (Switzerland) manufactured by Tesa are identical to Bestest with all the same good features. The accessories that come with the indicator are different. We have all parts in stock.
* Repairs: Long Island Indicator Service * Sales: Long Island Indicator Service * Parts: Long Island Indicator Service * Information: Tesatast

XTest (China) manufactured for Fowler as a rip-off on the high-quality Interapid indicator. They look so much alike in the advertisements that many people are fooled into thinking they're getting a terrific deal on the Swiss indicator. You get what you pay for. In this case, a pathetic imitation.
* Repairs: not possible * Sales: you're on your own * Parts: Fowler claims to have parts in stock ====================================================================
Reply to
BottleBob
BottleBob wrote in news: snipped-for-privacy@earthlink.net:
Didn't "Verdict" make that? IIRC Verdict was a made in England brand that was popular way back.
Reply to
D Murphy
"jon_banquer" wrote in news: snipped-for-privacy@p79g2000cwp.googlegroups.com:
Yes. You want the indicator to swing like a boring bar does in a boring head. Otherwise you get error in the reading caused by run out.
As far as how to hold it... Well, I've amassed a collection of odds and ends over the years. In one desperate situation, I held a DTI with a very small Starrett surface gage that I have. I clamped the surface gage to the sub spindle with a large hose clamp. It wasn't pretty, but it worked.
Reply to
D Murphy
Why is that action desirable? It seems that the action you describe would drive me nuts when centering a chuck.
Wes S
Reply to
clutch
Wes:
Why would it bother you when indicating a chuck?
Perhaps I didn't explain it very clearly. If you're indicating the top surface of something and the material rises, the indicator needle will move clockwise. If you're indicating underneath something and the material is thicker/lower, the needle will again move clockwise. I'm not sure THIS explanation is any clearer than my other one. Let me give a different example. Say you're using a Height Master and your indicator point is on the top side of one of the rings and you crank the Height Master UP, the indicator needle will move clockwise. Now say your indicator point is on the underside of one of the rings and you crank the Height Master DOWN, the indicator needle will still move clockwise. Is that better?
Reply to
BottleBob
If you work with me, and don't use an Interapid, then I'm gonna have to check your work with MY Interapid.
KG
Reply to
Kirk Gordon

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