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strokersix
10-17-2009, 09:37 AM
I see lots of new .0005/10 precision levels on that auction site under $100. Are these decent for home shop use? Always leery of cheap import stuff. Sometimes OK, sometimes total crap has been my experience.

I'll be using it to level machinery and have dreams of someday doing some minor machine tool rebuilding. I'd prefer a used Starrett 199 or similar quality of course but they go for a lot more and I'm not sure I really need it.

Mcgyver
10-17-2009, 09:44 AM
keep looking until you get the Starrett one, if you know how to scrape you can repair it if its not perfect. Watch ebay, iirc the Starrett levels go for under $100.

when you are using a level for something like machine rebuilding, life's much nicer when you can really rely on your tools. They become the foundation of accuracy, so i'd want the best...which doesn't cost that much given ebay etc

Forrest Addy
10-17-2009, 10:36 AM
I don't believe in snobbing against cheap tools if they can be made to serve a purpose. My nephew has a whole set of Snap-on's finest but he also has HF 3/4" drive sockets in larger sizes. You have to be practical and recognize the benefits and limits of any situation even the advisability of purchasing cheap tools known to be less efficatious than the name brands. One way or another we are all on budgets and the kids do go through shoes and school clothes like grass through a goose. SO: a home shop owner who keeps his wits and watches for opportunities can outfit his shop on a small budget to a surprizing degree merely by shrewd compromise.

Starrett #199 levels are expensive even on eBay were you can sometimes buy a boxless ugly one fo $150. $150 will break my monthly budget I'd have to go without something or hope for a windfall. Even a cheap precision level is better than no level provided it can be calibrated. Levels are easy to calbrate and to check the accuracy of the vial graduations. It just takes a little time and some basic equipment,

You check the base for flat using thin blue on a surface plate. If it's not flat scrape it in.

You check the vial for level by setting it on an approximately level flat surface that's clean and burr free. A mill table is ideal. Find a cross-slope level line and clamp a parallel to it for a stop. Adust the vial until the bubble centers consistantly, reversing the level end for end to ensure the bubble when adjusted is accurately set. You may discover that you need to refine the parallel setting. If the bubble centers on reversal it's correctly adjusted. Be careful when you handle the level so you don't warm it unequally from the heat of your hands.

You check the accuracy of the vial calibrations with shims or better, Jo blocks. A sine bar can be a PITA for very small angle work. You can't do anything about the graduations but if they are off you can make up a correction chart and post it in the level box. Use Jo blocks and simple trig to vary the angle. If the Jo blocks are 8" center to center on a level line and your first graduaion is 0.0005" in 10 inches, your first pair of Jo blocks need to differ by 0.0004". The next graduation, 0.0008" and so on. Use revesal technique to ensure consistancy. Few vials are accurately symmetrical.

To the question "Why do I need to calibrate the graduations" well you don't except ot's nice to know the slope of the first graduation is close to the level's nominal accuracy. If you know the slope it's easier to select ship pack or adjust the anuge of turn on a jack to make a correction.

So buy a cheap $49 (shop for it) 0.0005/10" level if you need to. It won't be perfect but it will beat a Home Depot plastic torpedo level in a heartbeat. You can buy the better Starrett #199 when you get the opportunity.

lazlo
10-17-2009, 11:39 AM
So buy a cheap $49 (shop for it) 0.0005/10" level if you need to. It won't be perfect but it will beat a Home Depot plastic torpedo level in a heartbeat. You can buy the better Starrett #199 when you get the opportunity.

I know I'm usually a tool snob, but I agree with Forrest -- I have a bunch of master precision levels, including the hallowed Starrett 199, but the Russian/Polish ("Viz") levels I have are almost as good. They're just as sensitive, the real difference is the flatness of the base.

J Tiers
10-17-2009, 11:46 AM
Are these decent for home shop use?

I'll be using it to level machinery and have dreams of someday doing some minor machine tool rebuilding. I'd prefer a used Starrett 199 or similar quality of course but they go for a lot more and I'm not sure I really need it.

You do NOT really need it.

The resolution is not needed for lathe leveling, as you should proceed to the 'two collars" or other direct test.

it is too coarse for scraping.

All it does is drive you crazy trying to get the bubble into view. Wait until you know EXACTLY WHY you need one.

Bill Pace
10-17-2009, 11:52 AM
I don't believe in snobbing against cheap tools is they can be made to serve a purpose. My nephew has a whole sey of Snap=on's finest but he also has HF 3/4 drive sockets in larger sizes. You have to be practical and recognize the benefits and limits of any situation even the advisability of urchasing cheap tools know to be less efficatious than the name brands. One way or another we are all on budgets and the kids do go through shoes and school clothes like grass through a goose. SO a home shop owner who keeps his wits and watches for opportunities can outfit his shop and a small budget to a surprizing degree merely by shrewd compromise.

Ahhh! -- more words of wisdom from Mr Addy!!

I have a friend that has the mind set so deeply in "buying American/old iron" that in some areas when performing a project, he cant even complete it for lack of a $20 Chinese 'whatever' - of course he doesnt mind borrowing my $20 gizmo to complete his project!

I love Starrett stuff, I love Brown & Sharpe stuff, I love Lufkin stuff, etc, and as I go along I am able to pick up an occasional piece to replace or complement my cheaper priced tools. But in the meantime if I dont have a (name tool here) because I dont have it in Starrett, then Im gonna grab the Shars or CDCO tool catalog and get one in my shop.

My shop is pretty complete, and it is probably at something like 50-60% import (read - Chinese) and I get along very well in completing a given task. Two/three years ago it was probably at 80-90%, but lately its leveling off, and will probably stabilize at around the 50% mix as my budget is tighter -- and the tools that I have perform well enough that I cant really see replacing them.

Although .... I have been eying one of those precision levels!!;)

Your Old Dog
10-17-2009, 11:55 AM
Just keep in mind you may find yourself using it more then you thought. I get a lot of use from mine on setup on the mill. I use it more as a comparator then a level but I enjoy my used ebay Starretts. Makes me feel like a machinist :D

strokersix
10-18-2009, 09:02 AM
Wait until you know EXACTLY WHY you need one.

Thanks all for the comments. Perhaps the most insightful above!

I have an 8" Starrett 98 I'll continue to use until I find it's not adequate.

darryl
10-18-2009, 04:07 PM
I was in a tool shop a few days ago and saw a precision level in a showcase. Just for laughs I pressed down on one side of the case- the bubble moved a fair bit. Pressed down on the other side and the bubble moved the other way (duh, I know). The showcase was standing on a concrete floor, so all I was doing was flexing the structure of the case. Sensitive enough, I'd say.