Please understand that I own a Last Word indicator, and have since 1957. My toolbox is predominately Starrett, a choice I've never regretted aside from the LW indicator. I own several of their long travel indicators and feel they are a wonderful product.
The LW isn't worth owning, and as far as Starrett is concerned, I feel they owe the consumer an apology and should have long ago withdrawn that particular piece of equipment from the market, or redesigned it to overcome its shortcomings. They are a miserable indicator when in good condition, and can't be trusted. Once they begin giving problems, they get worse. It's not uncommon for them to fail when making readings less than a thou----lacking in the necessary sensitivity due to apparent high friction, or poor design. You'll find that the lever arm often leaves the spiral rack, which costs you the proper spring tension. It's not uncommon for a LW to indicate a true surface, when, in fact, it isn't. Mine, long ego, got relegated to use strictly for removing taper from a precision grinder, nothing more. They appear to function in that capacity adequately. Faint praise for what should be a precision instrument.
I've screwed around with mine enough to know that there's precious little you can do to it to restore it to new operating condition without sending it in for a good and proper rebuild. That's nothing more than tossing away more money. YMMV. By sharp contrast, I've used two B&S BesTest indicators for about 40 years, neither of which have given the least bit of trouble (as ide from bezel replacement), and I've even dropped one of them on a concrete floor. No problem. They can be relied upon to make readings as close as a couple tenths, very unlike the LW.
I am not affiliated with any of the companies that market, nor manufacture any of these products, just a consumer that has used them under trying conditions, so I am not prejudiced by anything aside from performance.
Unka' George (George McDuffee) .............................. Only in Britain could it be thought a defect to be "too clever by half." The probability is that too many people are too stupid by three-quarters.
John Major (b. 1943), British Conservative politician, prime minister. Quoted in: Observer (London, 7 July 1991).
I did not realize they were so poor! I used Last Word indicators years ago at a machine shop I worked at, we had three or four of them that got used constantly with no problems. I still have one in my tool box that I have had for thirty years and it works when I need it, although I don't have use for an dial indicator much any more. Greg
That's an interesting comment. Could it be they changed? My experience with Federal goes back to the late 50's and early 60's. We not only used their long travel indicators, but also air gauges as well (for precision measuring bores). They could easily resolve .000010". At that time they were outstanding quality----adequate for use under government contract in a missile facility (Sperry Utah Engineering Laboratories). They had a certified secondary standards lab, so were qualified to calibrate and certify measuring instruments, including gauge blocks.
You and I have had this discussion before. I own two of them, in perfect condition and with the felt-lined cases, and they are my primary gages for setting up work in the lathe. Always have been.
I'm used to their quirks and they don't let me down. If I have to be really precise, I'll use my 50-micron-reading digital test indicator. But the Last Words do the job just fine, 95% of the time.
I don't use them because I think they're the best way to do the job. I use them because they're the tools I have, and digital gages are not my favorite things. I am not buying a tenths-reading dial test indicator just for this job, because the LWs get it done.
How you discover how poorly they work is to use them until you find no movement of the needle, that check with a good quality indicator. If you really want to know where you are, use an electronic one. You'll often find that a 0 reading with a LW will actually have considerable runout, often a full thou, as I indicated. Bottom line is you have no clue they're letting you down. The human eye can not discern anything less than about .003".
In all honesty, when they are new, they appear to work fairly well, but once you've knocked the jeweled lever out of the spiral rack (very easily done), they tend to lose what they once were. There are indicators on the market that don't yield problems like that, so I see no reason to own or use one. Ned has it right-----trading several for one good indicator, including Interapid would be a wise choice.
The BesTest tend to be better suited for use on machines, whereas the Interapid tends to be superior for work at the surface plate. The inspection department at Sperry used them exclusively in that capacity.
I think that page is talking only about DTIs. I have a few each of Federal drop indicators and DTIs and while the drop indicators seem OK, the DTIs aren't very impressive. But, contrary to the opinions on the Long Island Indicator page, I find them more trustworthy than the Last Words.
Well I suppose that could be true. We rarely did any high tolerance work where a dial indicator would have been required for measurement. The shop was a production shop, with CNC equipment. I can not think of many times where accuracy of less than .001" with a dial indicator was required. Also there was very little electronic measuring tools available, (or at least within a reasonable price!), back then. I remember using LW's for locating holes in parts where +/-.001" would have been well within tolerance. Often the machined part did not require checking run out as the part was machined start to finish on one set up. When I quit there in the early '80's they had bought their first digital caliper shortly before! Greg
I have a small but decent collection of metrology equipment ..and Federal..older Federal features predominantly. I also have a brand new Fowler DTI that was bad out of the box..and got an $80 quote to fix it. It remains in the box.
Ive got Tesla, Mity, Helios, Mauser and Starett.
Rule #35 "That which does not kill you, has made a huge tactical error"
They're simply not suited to the type of work I used to do.
Yeah, I still have mine, Ed, and will use it, once again, when I get the house finished that I'm building, and get my universal cylindrical grinder in operation. I'll use it as I suggested, for removing taper. The BesTest (only half thou graduations) will be used for all other purposes.
You experienced the same thing I did. I used my LW religiously for a long time, not knowing that it wasn't being faithful to me----(reminds me of my ex-wife).
There were several guys that constantly questioned my steady use of the LW, but it took working in a job shop to fully come to terms with the fact that it just wasn't working as it should. My first BesTest was very revealing------everything I was told to expect.
Unless you've used other indicators, it's hard to understand, but the LW is clearly a poor instrument.
I understand your feelings about your LW being your father's. I have my father's Lectro-Saw, an 8" heavy duty saw built by Black & Decker in the late 40's. It still runs strong, and is a constant reminder of my father, who died in '69 from cancer.