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Help for a newbie looking for measuring tools?

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Mauser lover

Iron
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Dec 30, 2017
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#1
Hello, total newbie here, just so you know.

I recently acquired an Asian lathe of basically unknown manufacture. The time has come to begin amassing measuring tools.

Everything I've done before has been done with a cheap (maybe better than Hazard Fraught, but unknown because it was given to me in an unmarked box) dial indicator. If it needed that. I have a couple of rulers graduated in 64ths too...

Anyway... I was looking at FleeBay and saw some "vintage" and "antique" machinist measuring tools (levels, micrometers, etc.) and was wondering if they were worth a shot. Is a machinist level from 85 years ago going to be so out of whack that I can't use it? What about squares, micrometers, dial calipers, and dial indicators?

Just trying to be a successful cheapskate, and not just a cheapskate! Thanks for the help!

And mods, if this is in the wrong spot, please move it. Thanks!
 

Moderatemixed

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#2
I started this hobby 4 years ago. I decided that I would only buy Starrett, arguably the best manufacturer of measuring tools. I canvassed eBay having found a Starrett Catalogue from the 30’s at a flea market looking for measuring and setup tools. I, by my own admission “went overboard” and spent 2 years equipping myself. That said I am exclusively Starrett and am “completely set”. Having leaned from my past experiences, if you buy cheap, you’ll buy twice. eBay (particularly in July and August) will present you with everything that you will need at the lowest prices; fewer people buying. If you wait until March/April, you will typically pay twice as much for the same items. Make a list of what you think you’ll need. Check KBC tools or Starrett, Brown and Sharpe, or Moore and Wright, for their “apprentice” sets to give you a “list” of the first tools you’ll need. Then go to eBay and begin..... and yes the Starrett tools from 85 years ago are still accurate; which should tell you something about buying good tools in my opinion. Good luck, Cheers.


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vocatexas

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#3
I've picked up a lot of very nice Starrett, Brown and Sharpe, Lufkin, Craftsman, etc. micrometers, dial indicators, and other measuring tools at estate sales, flea markets, and pawn shops. I've also been lucky enough to buy all the tools one machinist had when he retired. Keep your eyes open and watch for deals. I recently bought an un-used still in the box Starrett planer and shaper height gauge at an auction for $25. Nobody knew what it was and it's over $500 new. At the same auction I got a Wilson bullet 4 1/2 inch vise mounted on a small metal table for $50. Nobody wanted to pay more for 'an old vise'. New it goes for over $600 and there was absolutely nothing wrong with it.

Deals are out there, you just have to watch for them. I'm lucky in one way-where I live there is very little interest in machine tools and machining. Bad thing is there are very few machine tools to be had.
 

Moderatemixed

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#5
Mitutoyo, yup...... they made a nice tool once. Not sure where it is now though. LOL. Just kidding. If you buy digital, go Mitutoyo. I (as I said above) went all Starrett and the digital callipers and micrometers I purchased (5-10 years old) are lousy. Indicators by Starrett are awesome though.


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JPigg55

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#6
Some to consider would be iGaging measuring tools. Basically Mitutoyo clones, but much cheaper. http://www.igagingstore.com/?Click=7
Another option is to keep an eye out for local auctions. Most auction services have websites anymore. I keep an eye on many in my local area and have gotten great deals on many things like micrometers, machinist level, thread gages, and dial indicators. Not a quick option, but a good money saving one.
Keep an eye out for auction sale bills and get the web addresses. Save them to your favorites and check out their listing once in a while.
Here in Illinois, there's also sited like these: http://illinoisauctioneers.org/ and http://www.biddersandbuyers.com/. These sited list upcoming auctions for multiple auctioneers and are searchable.
 

mikey

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#7
Mauser lover, welcome to HM.

I highly encourage you to look at the information you can find here: http://www.longislandindicator.co/ Hands down, the most useful source of information on instruments for the shop. You will find accurate information on the different kinds of tools as well as which brands are the best.

No offense meant to the other guys but certain brands or makers excel in different areas. For example:
  • The finest dial caliper is made by Etalon, while the best digital calipers are arguably made by Mitutoyo.
  • The finest dial and dial test indicators are made by the Swiss (Compac, Interapid, Tesa, Browne & Sharpe) and Germans; Mitutoyo, Starrett and others are okay.
  • The best micrometers are again made by the Swiss (Etalon, Tesa, Browne & Sharpe) and the Germans (I like Helios); Mitutoyo makes really good digital ones, while all the other makers come after them, including Starrett of new and old.
  • Solid squares, the right angle machinist's squares, are made by many makers but the most accurate are made by Tesa.
  • The best usable graduated rules are made by Starrett; their satin chrome scales seem to last forever and are laser etched for accuracy and longevity.
These are the tools you will use the most. There are thousands of others to buy but spend money on good basic tools. I would also suggest you buy what you need. Forget the planer gauges and buy a good dial caliper. Forget the vernier protractors and get a really good dial test indicator. If you happen to need a protractor, then buy a good one.

Small hand tools, like small bore gauges and telescoping gauges or the calipers that rely on "feel" are made by the older tool making companies, Starrett being one of the finest.

Be aware that many companies are outsourcing their tool lines to Asia. Starrett, Browne & Sharpe, Fowler, and even Tesa have lower line tools made in China. Mitutoyo outsources to Brazil. It pays to research the country of origin before paying premium prices.

The cheapest tools tend to be the top tier tools. They last longer, retain their accuracy over time and can be repaired when needed. Cheaper tools may be okay for a time but eventually their accuracy wanes and they cannot be fixed.

Almost every tool we normally use has a sort of standard. Aloris/Dorian quick change tool posts, Albrecht keyless chucks, Jacobs USA-made Super Chucks, Criterion boring heads, etc. Your job is going to be identifying these tools and then finding them for a killer price on ebay. They are out there.
 

Moderatemixed

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#8
Mickey, you nailed it..... I have some Etalon, (Calliper and Dial Indicator respectively). Swiss made and AMAZING. I purchased them in a “box at an auction” for a song, but they are hands down, best in field.


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Nogoingback

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#9
Mauser lover, there's lots of good advice here. An alternative to ebay is Ideal Precision ( shop.idealprec.com). They sell
second hand reconditioned tools at good prices, and they have lots to choose from. They only occasionally carry the Swiss tools, but have lots of Mitutoyo and Starrett to choose from.

I agree with mikey that the Swiss brands are great. But if your budget is tight or you want to just get started, Mitutoyo
makes good tools and second hand prices are quite reasonable. You can put together a nice collection of tools for very little $$$ if you shop carefully. I also recommend Craigslist. I've seen very good deals on CL for tools, and of course you can actually look at them before you buy.
 

Mauser lover

Iron
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#10
Ha! Craigslist! While I've gotten some good deals on Craigslist in the past... Too many "traders" for good deals in my area now on specialized stuff. However, it seems that whenever I visit other states, I end up finding something and coming home with it... Although I do keep my eyeballs peeled (metaphorically).

Thanks for the responses all, I'll be shopping on fleEbay for stuff... as well as looking at the other sites listed. And of course Hazard Fraught, because sometimes you need a tool RIGHT NOW that will probably work.... at least once... and get close enough.

It's good to know that even the really old stuff still works, because it seems like the really old stuff is often the cheapest on FleaBay right now.
 

David S

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#11
I may have missed it here, but if you are buying used instruments, it is also helpful to have a few "standards" so that you can verify accuracy at various places throughout its range.

David
 

C-Bag

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#12
Mauser lover, welcome to HM.

I highly encourage you to look at the information you can find here: http://www.longislandindicator.co/ Hands down, the most useful source of information on instruments for the shop. You will find accurate information on the different kinds of tools as well as which brands are the best.

No offense meant to the other guys but certain brands or makers excel in different areas. For example:
  • The finest dial caliper is made by Etalon, while the best digital calipers are arguably made by Mitutoyo.
  • The finest dial and dial test indicators are made by the Swiss (Compac, Interapid, Tesa, Browne & Sharpe) and Germans; Mitutoyo, Starrett and others are okay.
  • The best micrometers are again made by the Swiss (Etalon, Tesa, Browne & Sharpe) and the Germans (I like Helios); Mitutoyo makes really good digital ones, while all the other makers come after them, including Starrett of new and old.
  • Solid squares, the right angle machinist's squares, are made by many makers but the most accurate are made by Tesa.
  • The best usable graduated rules are made by Starrett; their satin chrome scales seem to last forever and are laser etched for accuracy and longevity.
These are the tools you will use the most. There are thousands of others to buy but spend money on good basic tools. I would also suggest you buy what you need. Forget the planer gauges and buy a good dial caliper. Forget the vernier protractors and get a really good dial test indicator. If you happen to need a protractor, then buy a good one.

Small hand tools, like small bore gauges and telescoping gauges or the calipers that rely on "feel" are made by the older tool making companies, Starrett being one of the finest.

Be aware that many companies are outsourcing their tool lines to Asia. Starrett, Browne & Sharpe, Fowler, and even Tesa have lower line tools made in China. Mitutoyo outsources to Brazil. It pays to research the country of origin before paying premium prices.

The cheapest tools tend to be the top tier tools. They last longer, retain their accuracy over time and can be repaired when needed. Cheaper tools may be okay for a time but eventually their accuracy wanes and they cannot be fixed.

Almost every tool we normally use has a sort of standard. Aloris/Dorian quick change tool posts, Albrecht keyless chucks, Jacobs USA-made Super Chucks, Criterion boring heads, etc. Your job is going to be identifying these tools and then finding them for a killer price on ebay. They are out there.
Thanks so much for this kind of condensed info Mikey. It does make me cringe that I didn't know the name Etalon when I ran across a dial caliper by that name. I took my standards with me and it was off so I passed. But I now understand they can maybe be fixed? I also got a .0001 Alina test indicator in a box of Starrett dial indicators and a semi broken Brown & Sharpe 1-2" mechanical digital mic for $25. It was through another thread like this I found out what I had. The B&S needs some part to function properly.
 

mikey

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#14
Thanks so much for this kind of condensed info Mikey. It does make me cringe that I didn't know the name Etalon when I ran across a dial caliper by that name. I took my standards with me and it was off so I passed. But I now understand they can maybe be fixed? I also got a .0001 Alina test indicator in a box of Starrett dial indicators and a semi broken Brown & Sharpe 1-2" mechanical digital mic for $25. It was through another thread like this I found out what I had. The B&S needs some part to function properly.
You're welcome, C-bag. It pays to do your homework, brother.
 

C-Bag

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#15
You're welcome, C-bag. It pays to do your homework, brother.
Most definitely, but I've gotten more from theses kinds of threads than the site you mentioned. And every area CL is different. Here I can't touch Mitutyo where I can find all kinds of deals on Brown & Sharpe, even Starrett and like mentioned Tesa, Alina and other Swiss made stuff. For whatever reason I see Mitutyo for basically new prices. So having info on all the "high end" Swiss stuff earlier would have been amazing. And for the record, I read the dial and saw "Swiss made" but it just didn't register.
 
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