I've tried them all. Well most of them anyway. I own about five or six at
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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. <g>
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?
I don't know what I was thinking. I shouldn't post when dead dired. I
ment to post a 'nevermind' doh message.
Mine goes clockwise for deflection in either direction from the at
rest position of probe. Nice and logical. I've seen a few that don't
and that would drive me nutz. Righty tighty.
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
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.
"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
Would it be fair to interpret this as one needs a variety of holders
and indicators to deal with the many different situations that a
machinist doing a wide variety of work encounters? If so I agree. I
have never seen anyone use this Zero It deal in my 12 years in the
field. I love the Zero It as it solves a lot of situations that were
taking me too long and frustrating me. Still... the Zero It is not
right for every situation. Also, I prefer to use my Brown and Sharps
with the Zero It rather than my Interapids which IMO don't work very
well with the Zero It.
Where is Cliffy in this tread? This is just another example of Cliffy
having no experience with holders / indicators and the variety of
situations a machinist (something Cliffy clearly is not) encounters.
Jon "The Jew" Banquer
Zero-it type holders have limitations (just like everything). If you
have to get down inside a small dia. area the Zero-it might not fit and
you'll have to use something else (I have a number of other indicator
holders store-bought, modified, and made from scratch for this
purpose). If you have to indicate something with a large dia. like say
30" then the normal Zero-it won't extend that far so you have to use
something else (I have a 5/8" dia. rod that mounts to a tool holder that
I can use for that).
I've got him busy responding to physics posts, it keeps him out of
I've found that I've needed a variety of holders over the years.
I've been thinking about making a miniature version of a Zero-It type
holder myself. I've also been thinking about a small chain type holder too.
The problem is that I usually think about it when I need them. Not when I
have the time to make them.
Have you ever seen a chain wrench or a strap wrench? It's kind of the same
idea, you have a length of bicycle chain that wraps around the spindle
nose, collet chuck, etc.. Attached to the chain is an adjustable, dovetail
indicator holder. Basically you have a universal means to attach an
indicator to any diameter by strapping the chain around it.
As it turns out, today I was at a place checking out a machine and forgot
to bring a collet with me. They didn't have one that fit any of the
indicator attachments that I brought, so I used a hose clamp. It wasn't
pretty, but it worked.
One feature I'm going to add is an interchangeable shaft for chucking. Then
I can just turn up a bunch of different diameters for situations where
there is a limited number of collets around.
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