View Full Version : Got me a new tool - level

11-28-2005, 07:41 PM
Here she is.

http://i4.photobucket.com/albums/y128/katiecat222/th_IMG_1230.jpg (http://i4.photobucket.com/albums/y128/katiecat222/IMG_1230.jpg)
Click for a bigger pic.

I feel like a proud papa.

And has anyone noticed the little link in Photobucket that allows you to see what type of camera took the photo and some of the exposure data? Kinda neat. It is labled exifdata, toward the bottom of this link.


11-29-2005, 10:40 AM
Good-O man. Now take care of it and it will give good service for many years. Do you know the in's and out's of using this level and how to check and calibrate it? I used to travel the world with a couple of 98's and got perty good at maintaining one.
no neat sig line

11-29-2005, 10:43 AM
Looks like a nice, new #98 Starrett - I bought one off e-bay last winter to level a new lathe, then started seeing them listed in the catalogs for only about $5 more than what I paid for a used one. Ah well, mine's got 'character', even if it did take me over 30 min. of fiddling with the adjustment nuts to get it reading the same in both directions. At least we both have a good machinist's level that should last forever.

11-29-2005, 11:35 AM
Looks brand new. Nice level. Congrats http://bbs.homeshopmachinist.net//biggrin.gif


11-29-2005, 01:57 PM

I might have a line on a lightly used one. Could you highlight the "in's and out's" for the precision level challenged like myself?

11-29-2005, 03:13 PM
Below is a cut and past from another post on checking calibration and a couple of other points. In addition to the below the bottom of the level must be flat and straight. If it rocks when set on a flat surface then it needs attention to get it flat. If it has a burr on it from bumping it then it can have the burr stoned off. If it is warped than it will need scrapping or grinding.

RE: calibrating a level
A precision level is marked so that it will read the slope in rise distance per run distance. A starrett 98 reads .005" per 10" run for each mark on the level. A master will read .0005" per 10" run. So a master is 10 times more sensative. Now some are in metric and some are a different run length, but the idea is the same. To calibrate you need a flat surface that is level enough to float the bubble. Read the level and decide what the reading is, for example the bubble is two marks off to the right indicating that the surface is running high to the right. NOW rotate the level 180 degrees and read. If the bubble is two marks off to the right the level is good. If it is not two marks to the right then adjust adjustment is needed. When doing the rotation it is best to have a good edge to locate the level against so that the level is rotated exactly 180 degrees and placed in the same spot. Your degree of precision will vary with the surface roughness of the surface and how clean and careful you are.
no neat sig line

11-29-2005, 05:05 PM
Precision levels are rather unique in the realm of measurement instruments in that they're designed to be calibrated by the user. The procedure is as outlined above. These levels are somewhat temperature sensitive, and should be checked and set before they're used.


11-29-2005, 05:34 PM
I got a used '98 in a toolbox at a yard sale. The vial was broken so I sent it off to Starrett for repair. In about two weeks and for $70 they returned it all nice and shiny and repaired. Probably could have done better than the $70 on Ebay but at least I know it was done right when I got it back.
Jim Waggoner

11-29-2005, 08:11 PM
Hey good for you,now you can hang that spice rack the little lady has been bugging you about http://bbs.homeshopmachinist.net//biggrin.gif http://bbs.homeshopmachinist.net//biggrin.gif

11-30-2005, 07:15 PM
Work got the better of me again. A little late getting back to this post.

I had a fellow tell me that he was using one of these trying to get a lathe setup. During the setup, every adjustment that he made to the lathe seemed to go haywire. No matter what he did it was always a little off.

So, fed up, he went to lunch. After lunch, he returned to find the lathe dead on. Later he found that he was breathing on the level and causing error with his warm breath. Yipe!

As for taking care of it, I have alrady brushed on a bit of metal preservative (sp?) with a cotton ball to keep the rust away. It will stay in its purdy little box till it is needed.


John Garner
11-30-2005, 08:55 PM
rockrat --

To get an idea of just how sensitive a level is to a temperature differential, do this:

1. Setup your level on a stable, nearly horizontal surface that isn't near a heating/airconditioning vent or other heat source and out of the sunlight. Rotate the level on the surface to bring the bubble roughly to the center of the vial.

2. Go away for a long coffee break. When you get back, verify that the bubble is still roughly centered in the vial. Now reach out and touch the glass vial near one outer edge of the cutout in the metal vial carrier with your fingertip. Don't press hard, just touch the vial lightly while watching the bubble.

3. Once the bubble "runs" (that IS the precise technical term), remove your finger and keep watching to see how long it takes the bubble to return to center.


12-01-2005, 12:56 AM
GFY Rockrat, when you need one they are a godsend, congrats!
I have a Starrett that I purchased some time ago at auction from a machine shop toolroom.I recall that I paid NZ$120; another joker wanted it almost as much as I did. Mostly it sits in its own comfortable wooden box just waiting...

Can someone tell me how to identify the various models. Mine has the main vial, like yours Rockrat, plus small vials for horizontal and the vertical, black base and chrome fixed and adjusting nuts, is 310mm long with the V base.

Dumb question. I did a Google today...
It was late- I was tired, thats my excuse and I`m sticking to it.


[This message has been edited by speedy (edited 12-01-2005).]

12-01-2005, 05:08 PM
speedy - I might be wrong, but I think that Starrett marks all of the tools that they make with the Starrett part number. Mine is 98-12 and it is marked 98 on the vial cover.

If you look closely to the photo, there is also a little vial under the main vial for vertical positioning. Sounds similar to yours.


[This message has been edited by rockrat (edited 12-01-2005).]

Your Old Dog
12-01-2005, 05:50 PM
2 Questions:

1. Aren't these used as comparators (one end of a bed to another)and not so much as a conventional level?

2. If used as a level, how can you tell that the reason you don't get a center bubble when switched end for end is due to the level being out of calibration and not the surface it's resting on not being truly level?

3. If these things reslove .0005, what's the chance of anything you ever put it on being level?

I have a 4" version of this device and found it's only use on my lathe was to compare one end of the bed with the other for twist. Someone on this forum once commented they were more for comparing and not so much for leveling. I'm confused a bit. Somebody straighten me out http://bbs.homeshopmachinist.net//biggrin.gif

12-01-2005, 07:51 PM
Rock, mine looks to be the same as yours in all respects except that the vial cover is marked:
The L.S.Starrett.Co.Ltd
Great Britain
There are no other identifying marks that I can see. Maybe it is older than I?


12-01-2005, 07:54 PM

They can be used as comparators if you wish, but they're basically levels, and are manufactured and trued as such.

When calibrating the level, the reference surface need only be pretty close to level... it doesn't have to be perfect. If the level reads four divisions high in one direction and two divisions high when reversed, you adjust it for three divisions high in the second position. It should then read the same either way.

And yes you should be able to level a large machine within the measurement range of the Starrett 199, which resolves .0005" per foot. If you're working on a lathe with an 8' bed, that corresponds to a .004" shim under one end for each division on the level vial.


John Garner
12-01-2005, 09:00 PM
Ken --

Starrett used to make two different series of levels that looked like the one in rockrat's photo, the Model 97 and the Model 98. Both models were available in a whole menu of different lengths, starting from 4 inches up to 18 inches, with the difference between them being the sensitivity of the vials. The Model 97 used a 0.015 inch per foot "bent" main vial, the Model 98 a 0.005 inch per foot "ground" main vial.

Levels 6 inch or longer were equipped with a small bent auxiliary vial plastered directly into the iron body (and thus not adjustable) as a "cross test" level, and IIRC the 12 inch size and up had a second auxiliary vial indicating plumb. The auxiliary vials are little, if any, more sensitive than a standard carpenter's level.

One word of caution: Today's 4 inch Model 98 has a 0.015 inch per division main vial, making it only 1/3 as sensitive as its bigger brothers.

Starrett's Saginaw-based competition, Lufkin Rule, also made similar-looking levels in two series -- 0.015 inch per foot and 0.005 inch per foot -- using their own model numbers, of course.

FWIW, I was taught that the 0.015 inch per foot model is properly called a "Mechanic's Level", the 0.005 inch per foot model a "Millwright's Level", the 0.0005 inch per foot levels (the Starrett 199Z and similar instruments made by Exact, Schulte, Scherr-Tumico, Pratt & Whitney, and several others) a "Machinist's Level", and even more sensitive levels (0.0025 inch per foot or finer such as were made by Taft-Pierce, Berger Instrument, and others) were "Gagemaker's Level".

Ok, back to the Starrett Model 97 and Model 98: How to tell one from the other? Don't trust the label on the box! Simply place the level on a stable surface with the bubble roughly centered, note the position of the bubble relative to the vial graduations, and then slip a leaf from a thickness gage under one end of the body and note how far the bubble travels.

Using an obvious-to-the-point-of-absurdity example, a 0.015 inch leaf under one end of a 12-inch Model 97 will move the bubble 1 graduation; the same leaf will move the bubble of a 12-inch Model 98 3 graduations.


Your Old Dog
12-01-2005, 09:12 PM
Leigh, thanks for the easy to understand help. I appreciate it.


12-01-2005, 10:06 PM
Thanks for that information John.
I set my level on a level plane away from the sun and draught, then I did the fingertip test. The bubble reacted quite rapidly then returned to its` original position at a steady pace.
I tested the sensitivety and it appears that my level reacts one division per 0.005" . Given the distance between divisions, accuracy to within 0.001" - 0.002" should be attainable no probs; and good enough for me.

Michael Moore
12-01-2005, 11:59 PM
I just got a Master Precision Level off of eBay, and chasing the bubble on that can sure boost the frustration level (I'd guess by an order of magnitude to match the increased sensitivity http://bbs.homeshopmachinist.net//smile.gif )compared to using my Model 98.

I wish the jacking screws on the lathe were about twice as fine a pitch.