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stiff dial indicators

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  • stiff dial indicators

    I have my grandfather's Gerstner chest chock full of good stuff. He was a tool and die maker for (his last job) Faultless Caster. In there are a Starrett No.711-G "Last Word", a MicroMaster, Chicago, Ill, and a Gem Model 250 twin-dial, Cleveland, Ohio. I have no idea on the age these items, but the majority of his tools were purchased 1940-1950. The Starrett is "usable", but the others are stiff enough just to be unusable yet. I want to keep them in the same cosmetic condition (which is very good, he was very particular with his tools). Is there good way to clean and lubricate the mechanism without doing harm? Or is this a definite no-no for a non-professional(not a repair specialist)? I have overhauled several Ilex shutters for view cameras under expert tutelage that turned out great.

  • #2
    I never new either of my grandfathers but
    I got very close in life to my father in law who was a wonderful man taught me things without speaking sometimes.When he died he had very little in the way of tools mostly junk woolworths tools apart from the decent stuff I bought him over the years . Nobody else in the family ever realised how much fun he got from his few things ,even when he was registered blind he made a beautiful working model of a welsh coal mine which I have on display in my wifes office complete with working pit shaft and all (must download a photo of it someday).He died recently aged eighty three (never had a cigarette out of his mouth for long ) his son who was a keep fit fanatic died aged thirty three a few weeks before him just shows you.I'm glad to hear you enjoyed the old mans company as we have so much to learn from that generation Kind regards and cherish his memories Alistair
    Please excuse my typing as I have a form of parkinsons disease


    • #3

      I have never torn apart a "last word" but I have repaired other dial indicators. It is best to clean them with an ultrasonic cleaner in the same fashion as a fine watch with a special detergent just for watches. You must use distilled water - no tap water! I then rinse with distilled water in the ultrasonic cleaner and then dry with a low temp hot air gun. You then lubricate the movement pivots - I use Anchor Hair Spring Solution (clear, very light). If the plunger is sticky I use silicone oil on this as it does not attract dust - normally they should be "dry".

      If you have done a shutter, you should not have any trouble with dial indicators. Just do not force any part of the movement!

      If you are unsure of yourself, start with a "disposable" indicator or send them to an instrument repair place. Starrett will restore any of their products no matter how old it is - if you agree to their price!


      • #4
        Red Gauge oil on the pivot point and in the jewel works right by me.
        CCBW, MAH


        • #5
          Thrud and spope14

          Thanks for your information! I plan to go on a search for the mentioned lubricants and fix up these instruments on a rainy day, hopefully soon. I might be able to substitute the very light lube that I have for the shutters. It doesn't creep. I'd be happy to hear your favorite sources for these special lubricants(I have silicone oil).


          Thank you for your kind words about your father-in-law. I've been missing my grandfather more recently, even though he has been gone 12 years. My grandmother has not til recently been aware how he touched peoples' lives in his trade. I told her about running into two men in the past six months who trained under him 30 years ago, and how they owed him for their successful careers. They told me he taught alot of others, too. They were very sincere, almost "reverent". He must have not brought his work home, because she had no idea.


          • #6
            You can get the Anchor lubes from watch or jeweller supply stores, silicone spray just about anywhere - carefull on plastics with the silicone sprays - they often have VOHC's that can attack plastic. Test on an out of the way spot first.

            And NEVER use silicone spray anywhere in the woodshop or around autobody areas - it can cause "fisheye" on lacquers and most auto finishes.


            • #7
              The problem is probably old lubrication that's congealed. Clean/degrease well and apply a VERY LITTLE light oil on the pivots.

              Or if you have a decent watchmaker nearby, he could certainly do it for you.

              As Thrud says, if you've done camera shutters I can't imagine you'd have any trouble with an indicator. They're pretty simple.
              Try to make a living, not a killing. -- Utah Phillips
              Don't believe everything you know. -- Bumper sticker
              Everybody is ignorant, only on different subjects. -- Will Rogers
              There are lots of people who mistake their imagination for their memory. - Josh Billings
              Law of Logical Argument - Anything is possible if you don't know what you are talking about.
              Don't own anything you have to feed or paint. - Hood River Blackie


              • #8
                I was always taught to NEVER lubricate directly onto pivots or slides in DI's. The way I was told was the best way was to mix some light oil (gun oil) with a quantity of petrol (gasoline) put it onto a clean cloth and then place the indicator on top of this cloth. The fumes from the evaporating gasoline (petrol!) will carry the disolved oil to the mechanism.

                Then again I know that lubrication technology (like just about all else over the years) has progressed to such a point that you could probably dunk the indicator in a 45 gallon drum of the stuff and it would all work perfect!!



                • #9
                  I've read in postings elsewhere (newsgroups)that Starrett recommends cleaning in mineral spirits and then doing nothing else.

                  I've used one of Nye lubricants synthetic, light weight oils. I place a very small amount at the TIP of a pin on each jewel, work it a few times and then wick away excess with a lint free lens paper. Seems to work fine but I'm going to try the Starrett suggestion on my next indicator.



                  • #10
                    Thanks for the suggestions. More to think about!