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  • SPI and Fowler

    Has anyone had any luck with either SPI or Fowler tools (mics, verniers, test indicators)? Some of the stuff looks really nice, and the prices look so good in the Enco catalog! We all know how nice Mitutoyo, Starrett, and Brown & Sharpe stuff is, but I wondered how these two brands held up comparatively?

    I've always worked in small shops, and they had nice tools that we could all use, so I had some cheap chinese verniers and some older hand-me-down tools that I'd accumulated from retiring old-timers. My Chinese verniers need to be retired, and now that I am looking for work at some larger shops, it's time to upgrade my gear, but it's hard to swallow the prices for the Big 3! (being 25, and currently unemployed). What do you think?

    Thanks guys!

    -Chris in NH

  • #2
    The old stuff was good 20 years ago. Now you had better hold in your hand before you lay your money down . Some is great some is junk. Both brands. A lot of it is made in China now.
    Every Mans Work Is A Portrait of Him Self
    http://sites.google.com/site/machinistsite/TWO-BUDDIES
    http://s178.photobucket.com/user/lan...?sort=3&page=1

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    • #3
      Go to www.longislandindicator.com. They have a lot of info on their site that would help you out. I own neither brand so I can't offer my opinion.

      Hope thar helps
      I bury my work

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      • #4
        I've used Fowler mics and they are pretty well made, although I think they are made in China. I've only seen one SPI mic in person and it was pretty much a dead ringer for the Fowler aside from the logo. They are probably made in the same factory.
        Stuart de Haro

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        • #5
          Originally posted by recoilless
          Go to www.longislandindicator.com. They have a lot of info on their site that would help you out. I own neither brand so I can't offer my opinion.

          Hope thar helps
          very nice site thank you!

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          • #6
            Getting started with tools.

            Sometimes hard choices have to be made. I bought a Fowler co-ax indicator. It has served my needs. In hindsight I wish that I had bought a Blake. I probably will eventually. If you are going to buy a mixture of price and quality, concentrate on the things you use the most. A dial indicator you are going to use more than a co-ax indicator in the norm, and you can do the same job with the dial indicator. I use my dial calipers more than my digital calipers. I still have and use my vernier calipers just out of habit. That is if I have my magnifiers on. Its the pits to get old and blind.
            Byron Boucher
            Burnet, TX

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            • #7
              I prefer the Fowler Digital Max-Cal calipers myself, I have been using a 8" set for about 20 years now.

              Like it so much I got a 6" one to match.
              "the ocean is the ultimate solution"

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              • #8
                Chris,

                I own one Fowler item, a 6 inch dial cal. It's what you'd expect for $20.00. It sits in a drawer and never sees sunlight. I'd compare the quality to that of a Grizzley dial cal I once had, same cheap junk.

                I own one set of SPI gauge blocks. they're decently made, well boxed, well worth the $99.00 sale price. For what they get used for I have no worries. They sure aren't Croblox...

                I can say with complete honesty, there is no way in hell I'd buy mics made by any other than the big three, and Starrett is out of the running as their quality has dropped off. I lean heavily to B&S, but that's just my personal preference. Digital stuff is all Mitutoyo, hard to beat the quality.

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                • #9
                  As a HSM (home shop machinist) without a budget for high end metrology instruments I can appreciate some of the obsession with one brand of micrometer over another. The "feel" of a micrometer is real although difficult to describe in words (but not in $). However, I am not so sure about gage blocks. IF the gage block meets the specifications which are claimed there is no difference in one brand over another. Maybe the longevity could be an issue, and you can always debate the quality of the "well made" box, but if they specs are the same, then the blocks will measure the same. There is no "feel" in the way gage blocks work. Yes, the $99 SPI blocks are not Croblox, but then aren't Croblox made by "out of the running" Starrett?

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                  • #10
                    Fowler has not always been cheap and nasty....

                    I have a Fowler metric/imperial dial caliper. it was made in Germany, is at least 28 years old, and is still within 0.001 whenever I check it at any size.

                    I used it nearly every day at my old job, but retired it to the shop because too many people borrow and abuse my tools at the new place. They can use the shop-provided ones.
                    1601

                    Keep eye on ball.
                    Hashim Khan

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                    • #11
                      Fowler doesn't make a thing, they buy from manufacturers around the world and rebadge. I've confirmed that to point where I’m comfortable proffering it as fact.

                      many of the products, ie the 12" height gage are identical to what’s being sold as the no name offshore product - no design or value add, just existing product branded Fowler

                      Many of the manufactures they rebrand from are cheapo chinese junk, yet many are very good. Who's stuff they're rebranding changes over time however in the past has included swiss indicator makers and i believe Brown & Sharpe for some items. When they are rebadged a quality maker they will often share the name or at least make sure you know it came from Switzerland, Germany, UK etc.....if it doesn't say that, you're buying chinese stuff with a price increase because it says Fowler

                      oh yeah, I just bought a pile of German made tools, Helios mics & indicators, Schweizer squares etc. this stuff makes Starrett and Mit look a little sloppy....yet on ebay the Helios stuff goes for next to nothing. I suppose most of market has no clue of the brand. mics for $10. There is no cost/price excuse for the home shop person not equiping themselves with the best tools in the world.
                      Last edited by Mcgyver; 07-15-2009, 11:41 AM.
                      .

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                      • #12
                        Helios products are very good. They are not well known in the US, and don't command the price of the better known brands.

                        The problem with Fowler and SPI is that they change suppliers frequently and, say, the 6" dial caliper you buy today probably is not from the same manufacturer as the 6" dial caliper you might have purchased a year or so ago. Some of their products are excellent and some are standard chicom, you will not know until you have it in your hands.
                        Jim H.

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                        • #13
                          I own a set of Craftsman micrometers that I think are the exact same as SPI micrometers. I very rarely use them as I very rarely need .0001 resolution! They feel nice, however. They came with standards that I checked against an old set of (recently calibrated) Starett mics at the shop I work in. Seemed to read just fine.

                          I have also had the displeasure of using an SPI and Fowler caliper. They are junk - don't buy them! I own a Mitutoyo that gets used for almost everything. It has a much better feel and seems to be very accurate. I checked it against a 5" standard from that set of Starett mics and it I read 5.0005 - i.e. the needle was just off zero but not quite to the .001. It repeated that measurment several times - I was pretty pleased with it.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by J Tiers
                            Fowler has not always been cheap and nasty....
                            Ironically, Fowler still sells/re-brands high-end metrology gear like the Trimos (Swiss) air bearing Height Gauges:

                            http://www.fvfowler.com/v-series.html

                            SPI was bought by MSC last year, and MSC immediately used the name to rebrand all their house-brand Chinese stuff. I've returned several SPI items I bought from MSC in the last year.

                            One gem from SPI that I really like is their little 10x inspection microscope with the toolmaker's reticle set. It's Made in Japan, very high quality. It's got reticles to measure holes, angles, threads,...
                            "Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did."

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by J Tiers
                              ... too many people borrow and abuse my tools at the new place.

                              I once knew a guy who'd say you can borrow it twice but if you need it a third time you need to buy one for yourself.

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