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Tell me what level to buy...

Discussion in 'METROLOGY - MEASURE, SETUP & FIT' started by expressline99, Jun 22, 2017.

  1. expressline99

    expressline99 H-M Supporter - Premium Content H-M Supporter-Premium

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    I am having a horrible time finding the "right" machine level to buy. I need a 6"...I think Bob you want me to get a .0005 per 10" or 12" I forget. But I don't want to spend $200 to $800 to level a couple of machines. (Prior to scraping) from what I am gathering on my reading .005 is way too sloppy to get a 43" long lathe bed level. Then the similar will need to be done to my mill. Some have said the Starrett 98's...others Starrett 199's. I would be absolutely fine with an import. But it seems you either get a 4" or an 8"..or bigger. What to do?

    Paul
     
  2. mikey

    mikey Active User H-M Supporter-Premium

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    Paul, you will see opinions on this subject that range from being okay with a carpenter's level to guys who say that you should get a master precision level. All of us are faced with the exact question you're asking so I'll offer an opinion.

    A lathe is leveled not just once or twice or three times. Over it's lifetime, a lathe will need to be re-leveled many times so I feel having a good level that will get you very close is a worthwhile investment. The level does not need to be super-expensive but it should be sensitive. By that, I mean it should read to 0.0002-0.0005" over a 10-12" span. The reason for this degree of sensitivity is that it saves you time. Once the lathe is level with one of these contraptions it usually only takes a slight tweak after doing a 2-collar test and you're done. Less sensitive levels will require more work to get you to that point.

    A level of this type need not be expensive if an import is okay. You will find them in a 10-12" length for under $100.00 on ebay, like this one: http://www.ebay.com/itm/8-Precision...hash=item258b5edad4:m:m9eGS-so0O0PoDsPDcLo7Bg

    Mine is a Kinex, an 11.5" long level sensitive to 0.02mm/M, or 0.0002"/10"; this is the same sensitivity as the one I linked to above but that one can be had for far less than mine cost.

    You may stay with your 10" Logan but you may switch someday and the level will be there for you. I suggest a 10-12" long level so you can use it on any lathe you buy/have. Once you have one, learn to calibrate it and use it correctly.

    Hope that helps.
     
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  3. richl

    richl United States Active User Active Member

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    For what little bit it is worth, I purchased a level similar to the one Mike has linked to in the eBay add. For the same reason Mike listed, I have several lathes, a mill and other machinery, so I figured a decent level would be of help. It seems to be doing the trick, how accurate it is I can not say, I have carpenter levels and a few decent lasers here, they seem to point to it being accurate. I have an 8" model, I got mine thru grizzly when they were running a sale several months back.

    Hth
    Rich
     
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  4. Bob Korves

    Bob Korves H-M Supporter - Premium Content H-M Supporter-Premium

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    Accuracy is almost never important in a level. Resolution and repeatability are the only things we are normally looking for. For doing precision leveling for machine reconditioning and scraping, a resolution somewhere in the neighborhood of .0005" per 10-12" will be required. To set up an ordinary lathe for ordinary use, a high resolution level is not only not needed, it probably makes things more difficult, without noticeable gains.

    Mine is like this one:
    http://www.ebay.com/itm/SHARS-8-MASTER-PRECISION-LEVEL-FOR-MACHINIST-TOOL-NEW-0005-NEW/331612008154?_trksid=p2141725.c100338.m3726&_trkparms=aid=222007&algo=SIC.MBE&ao=1&asc=20150313114020&meid=c4ef1b2bb29b495684443faa9fbad4c6&pid=100338&rk=2&rkt=29&mehot=pp&sd=272270058779
    and Shars (the real seller) has a very good price on it.

    There are a few others a little cheaper:
    http://www.ebay.com/sch/i.html?_from=R40&_sacat=0&_nkw=8"+MASTER+PRECISION+LEVEL&_sop=15
     
    Last edited: Jun 22, 2017
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  5. Buffalo20

    Buffalo20 United States Active Member Active Member

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    Grizzly has an 8" for about $82 and a 12" for about $112, I have them both, they are very nice I was also given a Starrett.
     
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  6. Bob Korves

    Bob Korves H-M Supporter - Premium Content H-M Supporter-Premium

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    If you squint your eyes just a little, all the inexpensive Chinese import levels (and other tools) look like they came out of the same mold. I do not think that is necessarily true, but they are commonly built to the same designs and dimensions. Some sellers, like Grizzly, Shars, and others, promote their Chinese tools as superior, and charge more for them. Many of us seem to be brand conscious, and the manufacturers can increase their prices by having good brand name appeal. Whether their tools are actually made to a higher standard seems to be a mixed bag, from my experiences. I have bought very nice products from the lowest price sellers and very poor products from the "premium" importers. I have no real idea why this might be so, it is only my observations. My guess is that quality control and quality assurance are lacking across the board in an effort to keep prices down and profits up. So, for generic Chinese stuff, visually the same design as the competition, I simply buy the lowest cost ones I can find, including taxes, shipping, etc. Since I have changed to this method, my success to failure ratio with Chinese tooling seems to have stayed about the same. YMMV.
     
    Last edited: Jun 22, 2017
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  7. expressline99

    expressline99 H-M Supporter - Premium Content H-M Supporter-Premium

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    So on the calibration. I assume Tom Lipton's video's should apply to an import level as well. Using a "fence" of some sort on my surface plate to get a level into accuracy. Using canceling adjustments and so forth?

    Paul
     
  8. RJSakowski

    RJSakowski H-M Supporter - Premium Content H-M Supporter-Premium

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    My only concern with shopping on price is that while all the tools may be made by the same manufacturer; in the process of QC, there may be some fallout of inferior product which may find its way to other vendors. I have found that Asian vendors will quote a spec associated with a product that has no bearing on the performance of the product they are selling. The runout on a collet may be specified by the manufacturer at .0002" and some will fall out at final inspection at .002". The vendor buying up the fallout will still list the runout at .0002" because that is what the manufacturer makes. I find it very doubtful that the vendor even has a clue as to how to measure runout, let alone the ability or inclination to measure it.
     
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  9. RJSakowski

    RJSakowski H-M Supporter - Premium Content H-M Supporter-Premium

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    In theory, this will work.

    Depending on how the level vial was made though, there may be an issue. In the past, level vial were made by slightly curving a glass tube. If the vial was canted slightly, it would affect the curvature in the vertical plane. If the level vial is made and installed correctly, only the sensitivity will be affected but it is conceivable that the bubble could be shifted slightly as well. Better levels have a cross level to insure that the main vial isn't canted. Modern hardware store variety vials have a barrel shaped bore so they read the same even if canted.

    When rotating on a surface plate to find a line that is dead level the line perpendicular to that line is the worst case off level. Unless the surface plate was brought into a close-to-level condition first, there could be a calibration error. If using a smaller surface plate, the bottom side of the plate could be shimmed to make the top surface level. A three point suspension would be recommended to avoid any rocking of the plate. If using one of the larger plates on a stand, the stand should really be leveled anyway as there are additional benefits.
     
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  10. mikey

    mikey Active User H-M Supporter-Premium

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    I agree with RJ, you should use a three point leveling table. Mine is just Melamine-coated plywood with three adjustable screws/legs. It allows for fairly quick and accurate calibration. You should use two fences to ensure your level is in the exact same place after you flip it. Be sure the fences are in place before you begin the leveling process so they are taken into account when you level the table. I use a bubble level in the center of the adjustable table to get it roughly level before calibrating.

    I am attaching a file to guide you through this process. It isn't difficult to do but can take some time. The bubble can take up to a minute to settle so take your time when calibrating (and using it). Once the level is calibrated it will usually hold its calibration for some time and all you need to do is verify it.
     

    Attached Files:

  11. benmychree

    benmychree United States Active User H-M Supporter-Premium

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    A possibility would to find a cheap Starrett #98 possibly with a cracked vial for cheap and buying a new .0005 vial for it; it would be advisable to scrape the base flat, as they are only machined and not necessarily flat. I installed tw0 new .0035 vials in tubes in machining up parts for a Kingway Alignment Tool; they are simply inserted in the tub with plaster of Paris and possibly some paper shimming.
    We got the vials from W.A. Moyer Co. of Emporia Kansas.
     
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  12. expressline99

    expressline99 H-M Supporter - Premium Content H-M Supporter-Premium

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    This is great thank you. I've ordered a Shars 8" which should be fine for now. I will be building the stand this week with 2" square tubing. So it will also have leveling feet as well as the 3 point leveling setup for the plate. I've made my cut list for the stand and will go by the 3 points on the bottom of the plate for mounting. Probably will take me longer than my expected spare time this week. For the fences what should I be using. I don't really want to buy a granite block for a fence. What should I be using? I assume I can use the same fence for leveling as the one I will use for calibrating my level.

    I understand using a fence to calibrate the level. But I'm losing you where you say to use two? Would you place the two fences at different areas on the plate? Or just at a 90 degree to each other?

    Paul
     
  13. expressline99

    expressline99 H-M Supporter - Premium Content H-M Supporter-Premium

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    I might do this with a longer or shorter level. I'd like to have a 4" and a larger one 10" or 12" for later projects....and I'm already a hand tool hoarder so this hobby is giving me 100s of new tools to look for. :)

    Paul
     
  14. mikey

    mikey Active User H-M Supporter-Premium

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    A fence is only meant to get the level in the exact same position when you flip it. It doesn't need to be fancy or heavy; it just has to locate. The next time I calibrate my level, I'll just clamp my aluminum framing square to the table and that will suffice to register the side and end.

    Keep in mind that you do NOT need a surface plate to calibrate a level; you need a level surface under the level and the level itself has to be in the exact same position when you flip it. Of course, if you wish, you can use a surface plate but I think that is going a bit far, myself.
     
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  15. Glenn Brooks

    Glenn Brooks H-M Supporter - Premium Content H-M Supporter-Premium

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    There is one other consideration. If your lathe bed is well worn, as may hobby lathes are- including my 12" x48" big iron Utilathe- you are wasting your time trying to precision level to tenths. Can't be done if the wear on the bed is to much. Each side and end of the lathe will have a different extent of wear - nothing will be the same heght along the bed. So the best you may be able to do with an old lathe can be accomplished with less than a high precision leveling device. If your lathe is new or in nice shape, go for a top end level. If it's seen better days, indeed better decades, what Bob said. Shoot for decent resolution and repeatability - find the best comprise position for the type of machining you do, and re level to that from time to time. I found a sweet spot on my old big lathe, and it still holds a thou consistently at the chuck- so I am happy with that, even though the far end of the bed is high and twisted out .005".-actually more like .025" now that I think about it.
     
    Last edited: Jun 25, 2017
  16. 4gsr

    4gsr Global Moderator Staff Member H-M Supporter-Premium

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    Most all lathe beds, except for one's with flat ways like the Atlas or the early L & S Model X lathes, have sweet spots you can level from regardless the wear on the vee's or flats. As Glen said, It's not going to help for accuracy in the long run other than knowing you have a leveled bed. It could make things worse!
     
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  17. expressline99

    expressline99 H-M Supporter - Premium Content H-M Supporter-Premium

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    The main reason I have for leveling is to be able to measure for wear of the bed. Intent of course is to scrape it back into alignment. I hope I'm understanding it correctly that I need to get it level first. Before any measurements are taken. If I make it worse I'm not sure where to go from there! :) Please don't let it be worse!

    Paul
     
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  18. expressline99

    expressline99 H-M Supporter - Premium Content H-M Supporter-Premium

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    Glenn, If the idea is to scrape it in (after my practice on the straight edges) It's a short lathe with a 43" bed including under the head stock. Ideally wouldn't the area under the head stock and the very end of the bed be mostly intact? I realize I'm reaching here with a 70+ year old lathe. It's way more effort than it's worth in it's current state. I'm OK with that. I've got a great understanding that our hobby is a Negative pay per hour situation. What I'm really after is a good lesson in scraping with at least good result in the end. The art of scraping and metrology itself is so far away from what I do everyday it would be quite an accomplishment for me If I can get reasonably far with it. With all the support I can get from here! :)

    Paul
     
  19. kd4gij

    kd4gij United States Active User Active Member

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    Where I worked we had several machines setup by the manufacture.. None of the used a machinist level. They had 2ft and 4ft levels.
     
  20. Glenn Brooks

    Glenn Brooks H-M Supporter - Premium Content H-M Supporter-Premium

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    Paul,
    FYI, yes, from what I know, the lathe bed under the headstock is most likely to be an original reference surface. Maybe you will even see the original scrape marks and flaking if you take it off. I did a lot of research in scraping and truing my 12" Utilathe. Two things machine rebuilders often mention is to measure the extent of wear on top of the bed, and also check flatness of the reference surfaces on the underside of the ways. If the top wear is excessive, say .030" or thereabouts, scraping won't help much as it takes a lifetime to scrape that much material to a flat plane. These guys suggest grinding the ways and scraping the last 3-5 thou or so... also, apparently you can measure differential wear along both sides of the ways by measuring vertically from the underside of the way- which is the reference surface a local grinding shop told me they use to set up a lathe bed grinding job.
     
  21. USMCDOC

    USMCDOC United States Active Member Active Member

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    I have had my lathe a month now.. i have leveled it twice already.. could be something with the feet on the table slowly moving.. but still
     
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  22. mikey

    mikey Active User H-M Supporter-Premium

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    All lathes move, Doc. You level it and wait a week or two and then go back and check it. Quite often, you have to tweak it a little to make it behave. After awhile, it settles down and remains stable for a time. I have a bi-annual maintenance thing I do - oil changes, lube-fest, way wiper check, etc, and I include a leveling check. Usually, not always but usually, I have to tweak my level adjustment a tiny bit. This is most common if I've done some big piece of work. So yeah, a good level comes in handy.
     
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  23. USMCDOC

    USMCDOC United States Active Member Active Member

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    Only level i have is an old Starrett style level. But what i did was take it to one of the local shops here in the area and they checked against theirs on the block and leveled it for me.
     
  24. Wreck™Wreck

    Wreck™Wreck United States Active User H-M Supporter-Premium

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    Last edited: Jul 8, 2017
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