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newbie question about best practice / proper care of angle plates, parralles etc.

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  • newbie question about best practice / proper care of angle plates, parralles etc.


    This is my first time on this forum, I found this forum looking for an alternative to and all the notoriety of that wealth of information. I hope this is a welcome place for such a basic question! haha

    I have just purchased my very fist 'proper' machinist inspection/ measuring equipment. surface plate, surface gauge, angle plate, parallels etc and I was wondering about what is considered best practice regarding the angle plate and other blocks like this. When they arrive they come covered in grease and wrapped in some protective material. I am wondering simple things like, Is it best practice to re-apply the grease between uses, Is this just how they are stored after manufacture. what are peoples routines regarding the use and storage of these items?

    So I washed my new blocks with IPA and a kitchen towel (should this be lint-free-special so as non-abrasive?) I gave them a quick spray of WD40 (this is all I had to hand with no silicone etc) when I finished using them for the first time.

    I guess I am wondering both what is considered best practice and then what people actually do.

    This may sound obvious to some but there is literally nobody I know in person who has ever seen a surface plate or touched a 123 block. Everything I know is from youtube a la Mr Gotteswinter, Renzetti, Lipton and dipping into the Machinery's Handbook. But this basic thing I can't seem to find clear information on


  • #2
    Welcome to the forum. If you don't get much response here you may try posting in the general forum. This forum doesn't get many eyes on it these days.

    As to your questions: The grease is just for shipping, so you did the right thing in removing it. Unless you keep things in a very damp location, a quick wipe with a lightly oiled rag will be enough for storage. It's going to take a lot of wiping with a paper towel to wear out your blocks and surface plate, so I wouldn't worry about that.

    When using your blocks on the surface plate or a machine table, you will want to wipe them clean of any oils that may hold onto debris. Also, be sure to wipe the surface that will be in contact with the plate or table with your bare hand as a final check. You will be able to feel and wipe off any grit or assorted debris. When using a surface plate, anything that goes on it should be very clean.

    If I were to place a angle plate on my surface plate I would first wipe it with a rag, using a little alcohol if things are oily and then check it with my hands. When returning it to the toolbox I might wipe it with an oily rag if it's summer and humid, otherwise I don't bother to do anything special.
    Traverse City, MI


    • #3
      It is all just common sense really isn't it? I guess I'm just really keen to make sure I'm getting into good habits from day 1, It's good to read this and get reassurance. Thank you


      • #4
        Get the WD-40 off of them and wipe them down with a slightly oily cloth. The WD-40 will dry to a varnish and attract moisture and hold it on the steel. Oil repels moisture. Assuming the surface plate is granite, keep all oil off of it. Clean it with glass cleaner (Windex or similar) and keep it clean and dry. If oil is left on the surface plate, it will cause it to swell up over time. Wipe down the surface plate with a clean, dry cloth before each use, to clear it of any particles that may be there. Wipe down the steel parts with a different dry cloth to remove any oil. You can have a slightly oily cloth in a sandwich bag to re oil the steel parts when you're done. It's a good idea to make a wooden cover for the surface plate (3/8 or 1/2" ply with sides that hang down) to protect the surface plate from dings and dirt when it's not in use.
        Kansas City area


        • #5
          Originally posted by Toolguy View Post
          Get the WD-40 off of them
          Wow, I'm glad you told me this. As the 'WD' stands for water displacement without thinking about it I had always assumed the direction of the displacement would be the opposite! That is interesting actually. As for the Windex, that's a good tip. I just watched a video of a slightly deranged Don Bailey from suburban tools eat a sandwich of a granite plate he had cleaned with Ammonia. But I know glass cleaner is more readily available, to me here in the UK anyway.
          I did make a lid for the plate today also.
          Last edited by ashreid; 03-03-2021, 02:23 PM.


          • #6
            Originally posted by ashreid View Post
            ... I just watched a video of a slightly deranged Don Bailey from suburban tools eat a sandwich of a granite plate he had cleaned ...
            I too have watched a few of Bailey's videos. As a hobbyist, I can't justify anything branded Suburban Tool (even used at auction). I have used one of Suburban Tool's divisions for rapid prototypes when I was still working. I met and had a pleasant conversation with Don Bailey at NAMES (North American Model Engineering Show) a couple of years back. He seemed genuinely impressed with the skill shown in the models on display.

            Metro Detroit


            • #7
              Incidentally, alcohol is not the best cleaner for oily stuff. In fact, alcohol is generally a "polar" solvent, and oil is not "polar", so they do not even mix well. Isopropyl alcohol (sold as rubbing alcohol) is slightly oily, and does better than methyl (wood alcohol) or ethyl (the drinkable stuff), but still is not very good.

              For oil you need either a detergent, a soap, something like "Zep purple cleaner" (there is similar stuff from Sam's club that still has lye in it), or oily solvents (for instance, paint thinner, etc).

              Yeah, a lot of it is common sense.

              Windex works to clean granite flats, but since I most often use them with Canode blue (used to check flatness of a part by marking it with blue wherever it touches the flat that has had the blue spread thinly on it), I usually use plain drugstore rubbing alcohol.

              I have running water in the basement shop, so I do not use a lot of solvents. Purple cleaner or detergent, soap, etc, followed by drying with an old hair dryer. Paint thinner/mineral spirits and rubbing alcohol is about the most I use there, and not much of that. But paint thinner is good at dissolving oil.

              Keep eye on ball.
              Hashim Khan

              It's just a box of rain, I don't know who put it there.


              • #8
                Hi, welcome to HSM! Believe it or not, many of us also participate on PM. But I think things are just easier here.

                To answer your question, I did the same thing with mine -- wiped the grease off, and then use an oily rag. All of my tools are in drawers in the toolbox -- often I oil up a rag and line the drawers with that.

                As for the surface plate, I like to wipe mine down with 90% rubbing alcohol. Your plate will live longer if you keep the dust and chips off it -- get a drop cloth or even an old shirt to keep it covered when not in use.

                Hope this helps
                25 miles north of Buffalo NY, USA


                • #9
                  Something else to think about; Are your tools in a heated/cooled space or in a garage with no heat/air? If in an unconditioned space then the changing temps will cause condensation on the cold surfaces causing rust. So additional care must be taken if unconditioned space.

                  no neat sig line
                  near Salem OR


                  • #10
                    Hello, I spray CRC 3-36 on all bare metal surfaces in my shop. Every couple of weeks I open all the drawers and spray a generous layer on everything in the drawers. It worked fine until now.


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by ashreid View Post

                      So I washed my new blocks with IPA and a kitchen towel (should this be lint-free-special so as non-abrasive?)
                      you're fretting too much In a 10,000 years the lint in a kitchen towel won't make a difference. Clean after use and put in a draw such that they are not banging about. The draw keeps them clean keeps a lot of moisture off them (when the air cools at night). I keep my shop at a more or less constant temp and don't have a problem with rust. Rust and dings are the main considerations, and you don't need much more than common sense there
                      in Toronto Ontario - where are you?


                      • #12
                        I like Break-Free for short term storage and Fluid Film for long term. Break-Free is available at any good hunting/fishing/gun shop and is pretty amazing stuff. Fluid Film is a little harder to find, not cheap, and worth it.


                        • #13
                          One more word about WD-40. Yes, the "WD" is supposed to stand for Water Displacement, but that is only when it is freshly applied. Most of WD-40 will dry off rapidly and while it does have some oil, the actual oil content in it is VERY SMALL. When someone reports that WD-40 was applied to an old hinge or other moving assembly and it stopped the squeak, that is only because it TEMPORARILY rejuvenated some dried up oil or grease on that item. Sooner or later, usually sooner, the WD evaporates and the item is back to it's original, unlubricated state.

                          So, yes WD-40 can be used to clean something. I buy it by the gallon and keep it handy at all of my work benches and machines. BUT I never count on it for lubrication or protection against rust. Yes, you can clean with WD-40. But then IMMEDIATELY apply a real rust preventive or lubricant, depending on what happens next with that item (use or storage). Even if I am going to use the item immediately after cleaning it, I will usually apply a light coat of oil and then wipe it down. That will still leave a very light coat of that oil which will protect it while in use. And that light coat of oil will not have any negative effect on 99.9% of any work that I or you will do. But it will protect against rust for a period of days, even in my South Texas, near the Gulf Coast (salt spray) environment.
                          Paul A.
                          SE Texas

                          And if you look REAL close at an analog signal,
                          You will find that it has discrete steps.


                          • #14
                            On the "oily rag" front (because if you're just starting out, maybe you don't own any): I keep on the bench a condiment (ketchup/mustard) squeeze bottle from the dollar store filled with mineral oil, and a roll of those blue shop paper towels. There's always a previously-used paper towel with some oil on it lying around for cleaning/preservation. Mineral oil is fairly safe: you can rub it on your skin, you can ingest it (but be sure you're near a bathroom), and it doesn't spontaneously combust. Plus it's great for metal (in particular, I hear, stainless steel - but I never verified that particular piece of blacksmith advice).

                            Slight digression on WD-40: I was renting a cabin and wanted to de-squeak the hinges, so while getting groceries for the week I popped into the adjacent auto parts store. All they had for non-automotive lubricant was WD-40, and when I asked the kid at the register if they stocked 3-in-1 oil the manager came over and said "do they even still MAKE that stuff?" Some people just never set foot in a hardware store, I guess.
                            Last edited by thin-woodsman; 04-28-2021, 09:55 AM.