I bought, mostly due to sentimental feelings, an old LW. Paid very
and knew it might need a bit of work. It does :) . Sticks a bit.
Is there a procedure to disassemble and clean it up ? I recon the
that controls the feeler arm is a bit weak. Can it be replaced ?
Probably not a weak spring so muach as one not strong enough to
overcome the built up crub and sticky dried oil.
These units are very basic, just a linkage with a rack gear driving
the pinion on the hand.
If you feel the need to poke through it, you'll figure out your way in.
Clean the parts with a bit of solvent, use sharpened toothpicks to
clean out the pivot holes, and ensure everything is clean and dry when
it goes back together.
I would not oil any of the pivots or gears.
In the event that it does not work out for you, Starrett will overhaul
to new specs for about half the cost of new IIRC.
My honest opinion?
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owe the consumer an apology and should have long ago withdrawn that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.
Much better than the Last Words, but not even close to an Interapid,
BesTest or some of the other Swiss DTIs. Which should give an idea of
just how bad the Last Words are.
If anybody doubts me, I'll put my money where my mouth is. I'll trade 3
assorted Federals and Last Words for one Interapid or BesTest .
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).
Oh well, so much for sentimental value. Into the dumpster it went.
Although I use, to my full satisfaction, no-name Chinese indicators,
- own an IP56 Mitutoyo for when it really matters
- drool over B&S stuff in catalogs :)
just a hobbyist.
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.
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.
So there. d8-)
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 have an LW in my toolbox also. I inherited it from my father.
I had always thought that it was my own lack of skill, that made it so
annoying to use.
It always seems to face the wrong way, the stylus always clicks to the next
position just as you get loaded. It made me crazy.
Then I got a B&S in a box of tools and the difference was like night and
The LW was my fathers and I'll never get rid of it, but I don't think it has
been out of my tool box in twelve or fifteen years.
Paul K. Dickman
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
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!
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.
"That which does not kill you,
has made a huge tactical error"
Guess you set me straight, eh?
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
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.