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Best Dial Test Indictor for the Money

Discussion in 'METROLOGY - MEASURE, SETUP & FIT' started by Leagle, Mar 6, 2014.

  1. Leagle

    Leagle United States Active User Active Member

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    I am posting this thread here because the folks here seem to more represent my philosophy and what I am interested in than other segments. If I am posting here improperly, please accept my apologies. I am an attorney and therefore impaired.

    I am in the process of building a shop and equipping it with a lathe and milling machine. Obviously, I am going to need several dial indicators in both 0.0005 and 0.0001 configurations. I already have several 0.001 indicators. The prices for dial test indicators are all over the map. I am of the opinion that you never go wrong by buying quality, but price and name brand do not always indicate quality. My question is this:

    What is the best dial test indicator for the money?

    Thanks for your response(s) and I realize that this is a "newbie" question.
     
  2. darkzero

    darkzero Global Moderator Staff Member H-M Supporter-Premium

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    The "best" is arguable and others will have their own opinions/preferences. The "best" DTIs in my book are made by Interapid. Any name brand DTI should serve you well, even an inexpensive import if you take care of it & especially for hobby work. Mitutoyos & Starretts are amongst the most popular but there are other name brands like Browne & Sharpe, Fowler, SPI, etc. Keep in mind that some of these companies have less expensive import versions too. I prefer Mitutoyo which most of my measuring tools are & I'd rather buy a used Mitu than buy a new cheap import when it comes to measuting tools. An Interapid DTI is on my list to get though.

    (Moving this to the Metrology section.)
     
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  3. Senna

    Senna Deceased Rest In Peace

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    Here is a fantastic rundown of various dial test indicators (DTI) from Long Island Indicator Service.

    http://www.longislandindicator.com/p37.html

    I'd be looking at a used Compac, Alina (made by Compac), Interapid, or the B&S BestTest line.

    Do yourself a favor though and read the link I posted. Ton of great information there.
     
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  4. therbig

    therbig United States Active User Active Member

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    Agree with Senna on the link - do take a look because the folks at Long Island Indicator work on these day in, day out.

    I have found two very practical differences between DTIs: force required and bezel friction.

    1. Force required. One important difference between DTIs is the force required to deflect the point for measurement. The reason this matters is that you are exerting a force on the indicator holder as you measure. If your measurement takes a lot of force and your holder has a many bends and elbows to reach where you're measuring, you will deflect not just the point, but the whole indicator as the holding structure flexes. That will make your measurements inaccurate and not repeatable.

    According to one test I've read, Interapids require about half the force of a Starrett Last Word; imported ones required about 2-3x more than the Starrett or 4-6x more than the Interapid. That would make Interapid a better choice.

    2. Bezel friction. I have found that the bezels on good indicators turn smoothly and with little effort; friction is just enough to hold the bezel in place securely should you accidentally touch it.

    If friction is too much, then you will once again distort the holder as you turn the bezel. That makes it very frustrating to zero the dial as the needle will always move when you make the adjustment.

    I have found my imported indicators to be very difficult to use in this regard. The bezels turn with a dry and scratchy jerk and afterward the needle is nowhere near where it started. My Starrett is wonderful: the bezel turns smoothly and with little force. As I don't have an Interapid, I can't compare - but I would expect their bezels to turn like butter, too :)

    Tom



    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
     
  5. mikey

    mikey Active User H-M Supporter-Premium

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    The other thing to consider is the size of the markings on the face of the DTI. Some quality indicators like Compac have models with larger markings that are easier to see by the unaided and admittedly older eye. I like the Compac 215GA for this reason. It is very smooth, takes very little pressure to move the tip and the dial turns smoothly and easily so it passes Therbig's test!

    Most of the top quality DTI's are Swiss-made - Compac, Tesa, B&S, Interapid, Alina. Take a good look at the Mitutoyo line, too - they are quite good. I know some guys feel imports are just as good for the hobby shop and they're probably right but my Compacs and Mitutoyo indicators are just as smooth and accurate as they were 20 years ago so I'm happy with my choices.
     
  6. therbig

    therbig United States Active User Active Member

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    Great point, mikey. I was sloppy in my choice of words: when I wrote "imports" I actually meant "low-cost Chinese."

    As you point out, Interapid is Swiss and Mitutoyo is Japanese, so they are imports too (unless you live in Switzerland or Japan, respectively :) ). But they are obviously in a completely different class and I consider them of outstanding quality.

    Tom
     
  7. samthedog

    samthedog Norway Active User Active Member

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    Best is a personal thing. I have Mitutoyo indicators and dial test indicators. I have had no complaints and for the money they are excellent. I have a friend on my street who works in a prototyping lab and has a colleague who is an authorized repairer of most of the big name brands in callipers and indicators. He has said on many occasions that the Mitutoyo indicators are extremely well constructed and that they have very robust mechanisms making them the best bang for buck.

    For hobby use I believe that if you buy decent equipment it will likely not wear out. I have had my callipers and indicators for probably 10 years now and they have never missed a beat. I bought mine second hand too so who knows how many years they were in use in the manufacturing shop I purchased them from.

    Paul.
     
  8. Senna

    Senna Deceased Rest In Peace

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    Best is a subjective thing and to me the best LOOKING DTI ever made is this sweet Alina.
    Alina K-21.jpg

    It's also a good one with the vertical orientation and the long point but the style is fantastic and if I could find more I'd buy them.

    Compac DTI.JPG Alina K-21.jpg
     
    Last edited: Mar 7, 2014
  9. mikey

    mikey Active User H-M Supporter-Premium

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    Nah, I knew what you meant, Tom, and agree with you. Its unfortunate that the US doesn't produce the quality that the Swiss and Japanese do. Starrett was good once upon a time and I have an old Last Word that I still like but it is nowhere near the quality of a Compac and that's the truth. Luckily, a top quality Swiss or Japanese DTI can be purchased on eBay for the price of a Chinese import ... may it always be so.
     
  10. Leagle

    Leagle United States Active User Active Member

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    Thank you for all the good advice.
     
  11. schor

    schor Canada Active Member Active Member

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    I lucked out when I bought a bunch of tools for $175 and got a Compac .0005 test indicator in the deal. Deals do come up sometimes, you just need to keep looking and jump on them quick.

    Ajax-20130715-00590.jpg

    Ajax-20130715-00590.jpg
     
  12. Senna

    Senna Deceased Rest In Peace

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    Yep and I'll take a old and used Compac over any of the Chinese imports every single time.

    When I was calibrating a ton of instruments as part of an ISO9001 compliance regimen what I noticed about DTI's is that the people with the Swiss DTI's treated them with the utmost care and respect while those with the cheap China ones beat the snot out those.
     
  13. mikey

    mikey Active User H-M Supporter-Premium

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  14. ericc

    ericc United States Active User Active Member

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    The best dial test indicator for the money is the one you buy at a garage sale for a great price. Unfortunately, this is probably not when you need it. I have 3 indicators:

    1. Harbor Freight bought new for $10
    2. Federal 0.0001 bought at garage sale for $5
    3. Starrett last word dial test indicator w/Starrett magnetic base at estate sale for $15

    The last was the best deal. The first was bought because of need. I would have never bought it if I had the other two, but it works a lot better than no indicator.
     
  15. toag

    toag United States Active User Active Member

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    I bought a cheap import DTI once... joke was on me :jester:.
    even for hobby use they are too cheap and flimsy. Look on ebay for a interapid, or brown and sharpe. both are solid and top notch. I have 2 interapids now, and a giodtast, B&S, and a compac, and the are all very good, I would recommend any of those, with the interapid best n show, and the B&S second.
    Also I mentioned before, if it is just for tramming, look for a metric one, they are 1/2as much or less usually.
     
  16. eightball

    eightball Active User Active Member

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    Ive got a b&s bestest that was used when i got it 28 years ago. Still works perfect. About 5 years when one of the older machinist was retiring, He told me to pick out a tool to remember him by. When i was looking through his box i came across a bestest that was sill wrapped up in the celophane inside the original box. This thing must be 40 years old and he never used it, lol. I keep it back for my spare just incase something happens to the one ive been using all the years. I thought about getting an interapid. I've never used one but everyone seems to swear by them. I honestly can't see the point when my bestest has seved me so well. Both my bestest are .0005 and are the white faced ones. Tony seems to prefer the black face ones if im not mistaken. Hey both of mine were free. Couldn't be any happier!
     
  17. therbig

    therbig United States Active User Active Member

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    Oh wow - that IS a sweet-looking indicator!

    Although most of you will probably admit that a vintage Starrett Last Word has its own beauty as well - especially its color case hardening and its compactness:

    Vintage Last Word.jpg

    Tom

    Vintage Last Word.jpg
     
  18. astjp2

    astjp2 United States Active User Active Member

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    I would also add the older Lufkin, they are also made in the same place as Compac and Alina.....Tim
     
  19. Senna

    Senna Deceased Rest In Peace

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    That's pretty funny. I just bought a Lufkin branded Compac just like my other one but in horizontal format. Will be a perfect companion to my Alina K-21.
     
  20. nopriors

    nopriors United States Iron Registered Member

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    I hope I am not getting off topic. I am really enjoying this conversation. Can anyone recommend a definitive guide for using an indicator?
    Thanks
    Greg
     
  21. astjp2

    astjp2 United States Active User Active Member

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    Here is an idea or 2...

    Way measure.jpg Front way.jpg Back way.jpg
     
  22. toag

    toag United States Active User Active Member

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    http://longislandindicator.com/p21.html has a good discussion of indicators, cosine error, tips etc. for the most part I use mine for tramming and with a surface plate and surface gauge to measure how off I am on something. I'll see if I can get a picture for you sometime soonish.
     
  23. Harvey Melvin Richards

    Harvey Melvin Richards United States Active User Active Member

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    I have one that is both Lufkin and Compac.
     
  24. Senna

    Senna Deceased Rest In Peace

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    Cool.

    I have one Alina K-21 vertical long point DTI made by Compac and have a Lufkin with the same very cool face as my K-21 and the long point but in horizontal format. Also made by Compac. Been wanting a horizontal to complement my vertical Alina.
    Wouldn't have even known to look for a Lufkin except for great writeup on the LIIS website.
     
  25. Uglydog

    Uglydog United States Active User H-M Supporter-Premium

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    astjp2,
    Did you make this?
    Looks like a KingWay knock off.
    If this is your design, or if you have non-patented prints would you be willing to post them?

    Please.
    Daryl
    MN


     
  26. astjp2

    astjp2 United States Active User Active Member

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    That is just a piece of cast iron bar that I cut a groove in, turned down to a nominal size and drilled 3 holes in, 1 straight up, 1 at a 45* angle and the other at a 90* the rest is just some ground rods that I bought from Mcmaster and a few uprights from some old mag bases I bought on ebay. I could probably come up with the dimensions. Tim

     
  27. EmilioG

    EmilioG United States Active User H-M Supporter-Premium

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    I own two Interapids , a mitutoyo and a Starrett 196 back plunger. All nice, but I would love a new Compac 215GA with that big clear dial.
    I hear that the Compac is built like a tank. Large bearings that will not wear out prematurely. Con; the dovetails cannot be replaced, they're part of the body,
    so don't ding it. :)
     
  28. Holescreek

    Holescreek Active User Active Member

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    I have lots of indicators of all vintages and repair indicators as part of my job. The "best indicator for the money" is defined by how repeatable it needs to be and for how long, the environment it's going to be used in, and the skill level of the user. Frankly, lots of old timers never really put their indicators through the paces as they sat in the tool box most of the time.
    In my personal shop I use Interapids for all vertical work (under a mill spindle) 100% of the time and I have a few of them. I worked for a company in the early 80's that had 60 Moore Jig Grinders which are probably still considered the most accurate machine made. In 1982 I was told that I was going to be trained to run one I was required to purchase an Interapid 312V-1B indicator and an Indicol holder. IIRC the cost was around $300 back then and I was making about $4.75 an hour. The thing is, that indicator has been in continuous use for 35 years now. I've picked up a couple more at flea markets in the last few years for $60 or less. Most of my horizontal indicators are older Mitutoyos with a sprinkling of B&S .0005" and .0001" left over from the end of my professional machining career.

    In the factory I work in we use Peacock brand horizontals with long tips. I'd never heard of them before I started here, and they're not very expensive. ($80?) They can take a beating like I've never seen before and continue to maintain repeatability. Many of them are 15 to 18 years old and pass calibration every three to six months.
     
  29. mikey

    mikey Active User H-M Supporter-Premium

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    I have three 214 GA's and one 215GA, along with an Interapid. I just gave away a really nice jeweled Mit to a friend. I have a slew of dial indicators, too. Of all of them, the Compacs are the smoothest and are a real pleasure to use. I also have two Compac 523 LA dial indicators and those are very accurate, smooth and repeatable. My Mit dial indicators are good but they don't even come close to the smooth action of a Compac indicator. The only one that comes close is my B&S 0.0001" indicator and that one cost some bucks.
     
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  30. EmilioG

    EmilioG United States Active User H-M Supporter-Premium

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    The Compac 215GA is on sale at LISS with a 10 or 20% discount. The 215GA rarely comes up for sale on Ebay.
    I would probably only buy new, unless it looked amazingly new. Repair costs on precision instruments must be kept in mind
    when buying used. A repair bill will quickly make the cost of ownership beyond the price of new.
     

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