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Water leveling?

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markba633csi

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#1
Would a level made with a piece of clear tubing be accurate enough to level a lathe? Anyone done it?
Mark
 

RJSakowski

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#2
I would say no.

A water level is effective when leveling surfaces separated by a large distance as usually, accuracy to +/- 1/8th inch is sufficient. There are too many factors that influence the level, surface tension, possible minute differences in tube diameters, entrained air bubbles which affect the water density.

The less sensitive machinist levels have a sensitivity of around .005"/ft and the more sensitive levels .0005"/ft.
 

markba633csi

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#3
I would think at the least it would need an accurately made thin cylindrical float at each end with legible marks and iffy even still- optical issues-
Hey that gives me an idea...I shall return
 

Tozguy

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#4
A carpenters level works on exactly the same principle only over a much shorter distance. I suspect that you will have impossible surface tension issues with floats in a vertical tube. The tube or hose approach is as RJ wrote, for long distances that can not be handled with a beam style level.
 

Nogoingback

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#5
I've leveled fence posts with a water level like that, and that's about what they're good for. They aren't capable of any sort of precision.
 

KMoffett

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#6
A lathe doesn't need to be incredibly "level". You can do that with a carpenter's level....but the ways must be "twist free". That's were a machinist level is needed. You can get them on eBay. Buy one, use it, sell it ;)

Ken
 

P. Waller

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#7
How long is the lathe bed?

If very short, say less then 48" and the bed is robust leveling will be a waste of time and money as you will have to forcibly twist it, it will remain straight at that length. If it is 120" long a level may be a good thing depending on the machine of course.
 

Chipper5783

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#8
You don't have to use a level at all. One procedure I saw involved a long metal bracket bolted to the cross slide, with a plumb bob supported about 6' up - the actual plumb does not matter, just how much it would change from end to end of the bed. When aligning the bed, a precision level is simply a fast method to get pretty close. Leveling the bed is an easy method to get to a good starting point.

I'd think a water level would be a waste of time. If you don't have a decent level, there are other ways to get to a good starting point.
 

markba633csi

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#9
My bed is 55", total length of feet 60-61" (Craftsman 12 x 36) Kind of an "in betweener"
 

P. Waller

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#10
I have no idea what a Craftsman lathe is, if it is built like this and the bed casting is heavy you would find it difficult to twist it.

 

Bi11Hudson

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#11
I have a Cr'man 12X36. 101-27440 to be exact. A water level is not really suitable for machine leveling. It does OK for framing and masonry work, with a few limitations. A good start would be a 48" mason's level for the base and bench work. Beyond that, a much more severe accuracy is required.

The bed will flex along its' length. While it needn't be true level, it does need to be off by the same amount at each end. I used a piece of 4X6X3/16 box tubing as a riser between the chip pan and the machine. But I am very tall, 6'3", and that's what it took to raise the machine to fit me. The machine was trued to the (sub)frame while it was laying on saw horses. The level used was a Stanley level used for commercial office machines. Overall, an accuracy of 0.005" per foot. I checked it several times while bolting in the shims to get the frame true. The whole assembly was then lifted onto a homemade steel frame, mounted at three (3) points, with a 1/2" thick rubber gasket spacer at each point.

If I had had a more precision level, I would have used it. But while I knew what needed to be done, I didn't have the most accurate tools to work with. Doing with what I had, but that's the story of my life.

There are some tricks to using a water level. First and foremost, use a single piece of tubing, 1/2" OD or so. Use alcohol straight or mixed no more than half with water. DO NOT use isopropyl, drug store rubbing compound. Use a good brand of vodka or Everclear booze with food colouring so you can see it. That will give you an accuracy of 1/16" at 100 ft. While 1/64" accuracy is acceptable for a cabinet maker, in machine work it is so sloppy as to get work thrown in the scrap pile. FYI, 1/64" = 0.015+

There are some levels from China fairly cheap. For a little more you can find on eBay a Starrett or B&S. They may need to be calibrated trued before use, but then so should Chineseium. Look within your means, but definately use something better than a mason's level to set a machine, even if the work desired is somewhat forgiving.

Bill Hudson​
 

Glenn Goodlett

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#12
I would recommend watching a few videos or do some reading on leveling a lathe. Like most things, there is a lot more to it than most people think. I'd just get a decent machine level. The plumb bob process looks tedious. Hell, even with a decent Starrett level, it's still tedious.
 

P. Waller

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#14
The bed will flex along its' length.


How will such a short machine bed flex? If it were 136" long I could see that happening, however a stout casting 60" long would be difficult to flex even if that was your goal, if a new machine was purchased with a twist you would be hard pressed to twist it straight.
 

Nogoingback

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#15
stand4.jpg

This is a Craftsman lathe, so not exactly built like your Victor. All of these small lathes are "flexible" along their length, though larger
machines need to be "leveled" as well. This vid shows it being done on a much larger machine than the Craftsman:

 

Bi11Hudson

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#16
How will such a short machine bed flex?
With all due respect Sir, the Craftsman 12X36 is by and large a light machine. While it is still capable of accurate work, it is not a good, heavy production machine. It isat best a "Bench Lathe" and subject to abuse far beyond that of the average machine shop. I use mine for "casual" work, not in a production environment.

The concern of the original question was about the use of a "water level" to set the machine up. That would not be acceptable by at least two orders of magnitude. Even a small Chinese machine requires a moderate amount of leveling.

The bed of a Craftsman can become twisted considering the age. Mine is older than I am. Even the best quality of cast iron will likely rack when not mounted properly fifty years ago. As a maintenance machine in the cotton mills in those days, It likely was set up properly. Since it has been moved several times since, I found it to be slightly twisted. For my use, it wouldn't have mattered. But to have such old machinery mistreated was a little much. I adjusted it true as possible with what was available.

Should I ever face using the entire length of the machine (not likely) I can rest assured that it would be usable. I am an Electrical Engineer (Ret) so such a discussion is far beyond my experience. But even my little knowledge is such that I recognise the need for basic trueing. And the relatively light weight of my machine.

Bill Hudson​
 

P. Waller

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#17
This is a Craftsman lathe, so not exactly built like your Victor. All of these small lathes are "flexible" along their length, though larger
machines need to be "leveled" as well. This vid shows it being done on a much larger machine than the Craftsman:

/QUOTE]

I see, have never used such a light machine and can understand the possibility of it being a bit tweaked, the smallest lathe that I have ever used is a Hardinge turret lathe which could be hung upside down and work fine if the lube oil did not run out
I used one today that looks exactly like this, it would take considerable skill to twist such a small machine.
http://goldmachinery.com/machinery/7452.htm
 
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