Author Topic: vial for a machinist's level  (Read 7599 times)

Offline jcs0001

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vial for a machinist's level
« on: September 03, 2015, 05:38:27 PM »
I recently purchased two machinist levels at prices I could not ignore.  Don't really need them but they are really a classy tool!

One, of course the 8 in. is in excellent shape and in it's original box with clasp - it's a Moore & Wright.  The 12 in. model is a lufkin and the vial has a crack so the bubble is very long.  The other two small vials are good.  I have looked through ebay and online searches and the best that I can find is that the main vial for a 12 in. starrett is likely the same as the one for the lufkin.  However even finding a starrett vial seems to be difficult.

Considering my cost I'm quite sure I can get my money back selling the Lufkin as is without the main vial working.  However if I can find a vial for a reasonable price I'd give it a try to repair it.

Two questions:
- anyone know of a source for a vial.
- there was a posting on Madmodder a long time back about repairing a machinist's level (vial replacement) however it appears that the photos are missing.  It can be seen here:

http://madmodder.net/index.php?topic=2197.0

I'd appreciate a link to any other "tutorials" regarding vial replacement.

Thanks,

John.

Offline jcs0001

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Re: vial for a machinist's level
« Reply #1 on: September 03, 2015, 06:36:31 PM »

Offline Pete W.

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Re: vial for a machinist's level
« Reply #2 on: September 04, 2015, 03:16:47 AM »
Hi there, John,

I suggest you have a look at http://www.leveldevelopments.com/.

There was some discussion of engineers' levels on the Model Engineering site a few months ago, try here:  http://www.model-engineer.co.uk/forums/postings.asp?th=102987&p=5

I hope this helps. 
Best regards,

Pete W.

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Offline jcs0001

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Re: vial for a machinist's level
« Reply #3 on: September 04, 2015, 10:16:36 AM »
Pete:

Thanks for the information.  Just what I was looking for.  I think my first step is to remove the old vial (intact if possible) to get an idea of size.  I'll take some photos when I do this.  It may be a while as I've got a list a mile long of things to do.

John.


Offline jcs0001

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Re: vial for a machinist's level
« Reply #4 on: September 04, 2015, 07:40:00 PM »
I decided to take the lufkin apart.  It's a Lufkin no. 58 machinist's level - 12 in. long.  The main vial is cracked and leaking and the collar rotates a little too easily.



Once the vial holder was off the body I held the flat on one end in a vice and turned the other end with a wrench - in case the end caps were threaded in.  Apparently the 12 in. starrett equivalents are press fit but I didn't want to wreck it in case it was threaded.  It turned however broke the vial glass (no loss) and the end cap didn't thread outwards.  I made the assumption from this that it also was press fit.  Being fully committed now I needed to come up with a simple puller.

A bit of thought and lunch and I came up with a jig to pull the end caps (one anyway) off.  Not very high tech but it did work without breaking anything and was very controlable.   I first turned down some 5/16 in. drill rod so that the holes in the caps just fit the rod.  Two pieces were made.  In the photo below the drill rod holders are not inside the screw clamps:



The drill rod fit like so:


It isn't fancy but did hold quite well inside the clamps once they were tightened up.

I used 3/8 in. threaded rod and gradually used the two nuts to push the blocks of wood away from each other.   The nuts are the ones on the left side of the second photo. It took a considerable amount of force before the plug started to move but was easy after that.  The drill rod bent a bit before the plug came out.

Once the one end plug was removed the outside barrel slipped off revealing two very fine wires in a groove at each end of the vial holder.  They are supposed to prevent the outside barrel from spinning easily - giving a little bit of friction to hold it in position.  Not sure if a little judicial bending will improve the friction or not.

John.


Offline PeterE

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Re: vial for a machinist's level
« Reply #5 on: September 05, 2015, 07:15:31 AM »
jcs, here is the build thread on how I made my engineers level. Hope it is useful.

http://madmodder.net/index.php/topic,10360.msg117207.html#msg117207

/Peter
Always at the edge of my abilities, too often beyond ;-)

Offline jcs0001

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Re: vial for a machinist's level
« Reply #6 on: September 05, 2015, 10:58:07 AM »
PeterE:

Don't know how I missed that - nice job.  Did you ever modify it so that you could set and reset it easily? 

Thanks for the link to college engineering however I think the vial you used has too small a diameter.  The id of the tube of the lufkin is about 16.8 mm so I suspect I need one around 15 mm in diameter.  I've sent a message to this outfit to see if they have something suitable:

http://www.leveldevelopments.com/products/vials/ground-vials/   (Pointed out by PeterW).

Thanks,

John.

Offline PeterE

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Re: vial for a machinist's level
« Reply #7 on: September 05, 2015, 04:11:37 PM »
John, if you mean that I can set it for angled measuring and then reset it to true horizontal, yes I can. The spacers below the fatening screws can be exchanged for washers of different thicknesses f ex nad then just put back the basic spacers to get back to horizontal level.

You are right that my vial is kind of thin, but I found one with good precision tolerances at a local store and as the vial is set in plaster of Paris it works well anyway. My tubes inner dia is smaller than yours. Found drawings in an old copy of MEW (Model Engineers Workshop) for the one provided by College Enginnering, and had a suitable piece of scrap to hack into so ....

Works a treat.

Hope you will get yours in good shape as well.

BR

/Peter
Always at the edge of my abilities, too often beyond ;-)

Offline jcs0001

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Re: vial for a machinist's level
« Reply #8 on: September 07, 2015, 10:31:40 AM »
I just received a reply back from leveldevelopments regarding a vial for the level.  It must be a very nice vial as the cost to me including shipping would be more than it would cost to buy a good used 12 in. starrett level.   They replied quickly and efficiently so I give them full credit for that.  So that avenue is out.

Will look around for other sources - perhaps I can find one for a 12 in. starrett as it may be a bit more reasonable.  At least I'm in no rush!

John.

Offline Will_D

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Re: vial for a machinist's level
« Reply #9 on: September 07, 2015, 06:05:08 PM »
The whole point of this thread is about the vial!

Following the above thread link lead me to:

"see: http://www.collegeengineering.co.uk/SpiritLevel.htm"

Now a spirit level vial iirc is "just" a bent piece of glass/plastic with flourosceine dyed wate, a bubble and some etched lines"

The more expensive the vial: Then its a much larger radiius with longer space between the grad.lines!
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Offline PekkaNF

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Re: vial for a machinist's level
« Reply #10 on: September 08, 2015, 03:35:11 AM »
....
Now a spirit level vial iirc is "just" a bent piece of glass/plastic with flourosceine dyed wate, a bubble and some etched lines"

The more expensive the vial: Then its a much larger radiius with longer space between the grad.lines!

I believe engineering levels have a straight tube that has a internal curvature ground/lapped---more controlled that way. I think I have seen somewhere short very old instruction how to barrel proper curvature on glass tube. Sort of lapping if I remember correctly.

Pekka

Offline jcs0001

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Re: vial for a machinist's level
« Reply #11 on: September 17, 2015, 06:18:23 PM »
A quick update.  I soaked the tube with broken glass and plaster of paris for a day or two then took a brass rod and gently, holding the tube in one hand, punched out the remaining end cap and all the remaining glass and plaster.  The tube is now clean and ready to put back together if I locate a vial.  Will keep looking as I'm in no hurry and have lots of other things to do right now.

John

Offline jcs0001

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Re: vial for a machinist's level
« Reply #12 on: October 21, 2016, 10:48:21 PM »
I am resurrecting this post as I now have further information about obtaining a vial.

It appears that the vial from the starrett 12 in. machinist level (98-12) will fit my lufkin level.  I searched ebay on and off and could not locate said vial.  However last night I found a part number for the vial.  It is starrett part number pt15024.  With that number in hand I was able to find a US supplier (I am in Canada) however they don't ship small volumes  when paying by credit card. 

I then found that Fastenal Industrial Supplies (we have an outlet in my city) carries Starrett tools in
Canada.  They informed me that they can order the vial and the cost will be in the area of $26 Can. plus "a small amount for shipping".  It is now ordered and I was told to expect it within about 2 weeks.

Note that Fastenal does not sell to individuals however they did not require a lot of details about my business and were happy to order under that name.

I will update this post with more detail once I get the vial and have a chance to install it. 

Thank you,

John.

Offline Pete.

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Re: vial for a machinist's level
« Reply #13 on: October 22, 2016, 06:36:16 AM »
What was the sensitivity of the vial you bought John?

Offline jcs0001

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Re: vial for a machinist's level
« Reply #14 on: October 23, 2016, 07:34:11 PM »
Pete

It is the standard vial for the starrett 12 in. level and starrett indicates 0.005 per foot for each graduation.  (.42 mm per meter).

I believe that I had the resolution for the lufkin at one point but cannot recall what it was right now.  I seem to recall it was a bit less that .005 per foot but am not sure.  This should be satisfactory as there aren't any other options that are cost effective for the vial.

John.

Offline Will_D

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Re: vial for a machinist's level
« Reply #15 on: October 24, 2016, 04:25:58 PM »
Lets get to basics on this:

A bubble level consists of a tube with yellow liquid* in it, a bubble, and some lines for reference.

A straight , in-line tube will not work!

However, bend the tube to a slight radius the you have a bubble level!

The radius defines the accuracy.

So the most accurate and hardest to use would be a straight tube with a bubble! !

*Yellow is usually Fluorescein in water!
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Offline Pete.

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Re: vial for a machinist's level
« Reply #16 on: October 24, 2016, 05:05:23 PM »
Carpenter's levels might use bent vials but machinist's precision levels use ground vials.

This place does reasonable priced ground vials.

https://www.leveldevelopments.com/products/vials/ground-vials/

Offline Will_D

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Re: vial for a machinist's level
« Reply #17 on: October 24, 2016, 05:23:57 PM »
"Ground" in what way?
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Offline Pete.

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Re: vial for a machinist's level
« Reply #18 on: October 24, 2016, 05:35:26 PM »
Ground internally to a slight barrel shape, to produce a level that is a measurement device rather than just a levelling tool.

Offline jcs0001

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Re: vial for a machinist's level
« Reply #19 on: October 26, 2016, 09:15:25 PM »
Pete

I did get in touch with LevelDevelopments back when I was first trying to find a vial.  They were able to suggest one of theirs however with shipping the cost was not viable.  They appear to have a very good selection of vials and were very prompt to deal with.  If I had really needed the vial and had no other choice I would have been happy to deal with them.

I did pick up a large (about 24 in. square) piece of acid free white paper today at an artist supply shop.  It was the thinnest of the acid free paper they had and I hope it isn't too thick.  They had cotton based acid free paper but it was even thicker.  Will soon see when I get the vial.

John.

Offline Manxmodder

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Re: vial for a machinist's level
« Reply #20 on: October 27, 2016, 06:11:14 AM »
Ground internally to a slight barrel shape, to produce a level that is a measurement device rather than just a levelling tool.

Pete, I have witnessed high quality acrylic vials going through the barrelling operation on a CNC machine followed by the fluid and bubble process before being sealed....OZ
Helixes aren't always downward spirals,sometimes they're screwed up

Offline Pete.

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Re: vial for a machinist's level
« Reply #21 on: October 27, 2016, 01:49:45 PM »
Pete, I have witnessed high quality acrylic vials going through the barrelling operation on a CNC machine followed by the fluid and bubble process before being sealed....OZ

Modern materials and modern techniques applied to an old process :thumbup:

actually I thought I would post this here just because I was impressed with it:

http://bbs.homeshopmachinist.net/threads/39202-Shop-Made-Tools?p=1076328#post1076328

Offline jcs0001

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Re: vial for a machinist's level
« Reply #22 on: October 28, 2016, 07:42:06 PM »
Pete

That is an interesting way to make a level.  You really directed me to a "rathole" as I spent a lot of time last night going through that thread about home made tools.   :D

I went through it a long time ago but there is lots of new info on it now.

John.

Offline jcs0001

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Re: vial for a machinist's level
« Reply #23 on: November 08, 2016, 08:45:18 PM »
I received the vial today - went down to Fastenal and picked it up.  True to their word it was about $26 plus about $2.50 for shipping plus the usual taxes - good service.

It was in a substantial box full of foam peanuts and was intact - nice.



The vial along with the small parts box:



I have quite a few projects and obligations on the go so it may be a little while before I get this done.  Will report as time permits.

John.

Offline Pete W.

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Re: vial for a machinist's level
« Reply #24 on: November 09, 2016, 05:42:56 AM »
Hi there, John,

I'm pleased to see that you have moved your project forward at an affordable price.

When you come to mount your vial in the level tube you need to take precautions to protect the 'pip'.  It's best to keep it completely free of the plaster of Paris used to secure the vial in the level tube.  One way is to shield it with a piece of plastic tubing while you feed the PoP down the annular gap between the plastic tube and the level tube.  (With the tubes held in a vertical position and the vial temporarily held in position in the level tube with Sellotape or 3Ms 'Magic Tape'.)

Have a look at this web-page (you might need to scroll around a bit!)  :  http://www.model-engineer.co.uk/forums/postings.asp?th=102987&p=5 

Best regards,

Pete W.

If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs, you haven't seen the latest change-note!

Offline jcs0001

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Re: vial for a machinist's level
« Reply #25 on: November 09, 2016, 08:57:25 PM »
Pete

Thanks for the information and link.  I guess I'll have to go to the "golden arches" for a coffee and get a drink "straw".  That should work ask I believe they are fat enough.

John.

Offline Pete.

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Re: vial for a machinist's level
« Reply #26 on: November 12, 2016, 09:25:56 AM »
This guy is now selling them by the handful. I have got my own order in already..

http://www.homeworkshop.org.uk/index.php?option=com_adsmanager&view=show_ad&adid=28147&catid=2

Offline RussellT

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Re: vial for a machinist's level
« Reply #27 on: November 13, 2016, 05:45:12 AM »
I don't need a handful and already have more than enough clutter.  Would anyone like to split an order?

Russell

Offline jcs0001

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Re: vial for a machinist's level
« Reply #28 on: February 12, 2017, 04:18:26 PM »
The level is finally back together with an intact main vial (the other two were good and still are) and is calibrated.

I bought a 2 kg box of plaster of paris (POP) and have about 1.99999999 kg left :D  Any ideas for using the remainder are welcome.


I found some fairly thick (like poster paper) acid free white paper for backing and the vial still had a very small amount of room (diameter wise) with one layer of paper so that worked out well. 


Transparent tape was used to temporarily hold the vial.  The groves for the two circlip springs can be seen here:


I had several plastic drinking straws ready to cover the small "tit" on one end of the vial but found that I did not need to use them.  Instead I applied POP in small amounts with a bamboo skewer and kept it away from the "tit".  The other end was easier although I used the same method.  I did 3 applications of POP to get both ends nicely anchored and was quite happy with the final result.  The pointy end of the skewers was used to wedge the vial up towards the opening at the top.  A very small amount of cleaning up was done at each end.


I put the two spring wires in place and with great difficulty finally managed to get the protective cover over them.  This was likely the most difficult part of the process as they did not wish to sit in their respective groves.

Putting the plugs in each end was causing me a lot of headaches, trying to figure out how to keep them properly aligned.  I have a surface plate along with a decently flat piece of glass and a pair of 123 blocks so checking them was easy.  I was thinking of making a jig with the 123 blocks - basically bolting the plugs, one to each block and then pressing the blocks together on the surface plate.  This idea was abandoned as too complex plus my larger clamps did not want to cooperate.

Finally I decided do the following:
1) press one end in as close as my eye would allow.
2) align the two plugs resting each on a 123 block on the glass.
3) squeeze them together as much as possible by hand while aligned on the blocks
4) do the final compression in my rather decent sized wood working vice checking the alignment regularly as I pressed them together.

I found that the plugs required a lot of pressure to press into the tube.  Large C clamps and other types of clamp either could not provide enough pressure or were to wobbly to be effective.  My large wood vice is lined on each side with plywood and the plugs ended up pressing into it without any damage.  Here is a mock up with a piece of similar sized brass - I don't have photos of the tube in the vice.


And a final couple of photos with the level back in operation.




John.

Offline Pete W.

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Re: vial for a machinist's level
« Reply #29 on: February 13, 2017, 05:18:10 AM »
Hi there, John,

I'm pleased you eventually got the level repaired and back to a functional condition.   :D   :D   :D 

Getting the vial aligned with the tube window and then getting the two end plugs fitted and aligned with the window and each other are more tricky than it sounds - there isn't a lot to get hold of!!  I have a level repair project that's stalled at that stage.  I have it in mind to make a special clamping jig but it's a lot of work for a once-off operation!

How did you calibrate your level?  There's a relevant Youtube video by Stan Zinkovsky (aka Z ) in which he shows that even on a tilted surface plate there's a line that is level, i.e. at right angles to the line of maximum slope.  However, you do need another level to find it but that one can be borrowed from a friend!  You place a parallel along that line and then set the level under test against it.  That certainly gets you near enough for most of the calibration.  Then you do the final trim by comparing bubble positions when the level is turned end-for-end.

Maybe you should make your penultimate photo your Mad Modders avatar?   :ddb:   :nrocks:   :ddb:   :nrocks: 
Best regards,

Pete W.

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Offline jcs0001

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Re: vial for a machinist's level
« Reply #30 on: February 13, 2017, 12:37:17 PM »
Pete

I agree that making a fancy jig for a one off is a bit of work.  I had no trouble with my method and it was fairly easy to do.

As far as calibrating the level here is my method - more experienced members feel free to point out any errors omissions or screwups.  My method will get the level very close to level - for final tuning I will use a surface plate (see why I did not below).

I left the non adjusting side of the level a bit less than snug and each time I checked the level I tightened the adjustment nuts just moderately.  Once I was happy with the position of the vial holder I tightened the nuts and screw and checked it again.


1) you need a fairly level flat surface - use a carpenter's level to find one - it doesn't have to be perfectly level - just enough that the machinist level will register once calibrated.  If the machinist level (ML) rocks on the surface use a bit of tape to "flatten" the surface so the ML does not rock.

2) use masking tape or a marker to mark the end and side of the area in which your ML will sit.  You will be placing your level in the same spot each time you rotate it 180 deg.  You can also clamp two straight edges at right angles and place your ML against them.


Note adjustment nuts on the left side.  Note bubble is against the far right mark on the vial.


Rotated 180 degrees from the first photo.  Note bubble is also against the far right mark on the vial.  It is now calibrated - very close anyway.

3) adjust the ML so that the bubble shows.  Don't try to get it centred.  Rotate the ML 180 deg. and see where the bubble is now.  It will likely be different than the previous position.  Before rotating the level adjust it so that the bubble is moved towards the first position, about 1/2 way.  Turn 180 degrees and note where the bubble is and adjust again.  You will need to do this a few times.

4) the goal is to be able to rotate the level 180 degrees and have the bubble in the same position.  For eg. if the right side of the bubble is against the far line on the right side of the vial in one position then it needs to be against the right side of the far line when the level is rotated 180 degrees - you can see this in the two photos.

If your surface is closer to level than mine then the position of the bubble in the vial will be closer to the centre.  I suspect the carpenters who installed my window did not use a fine machinist grade level. :)

I hope this makes sense - it was a quick process and not very difficult.

In my case it is quite cold in my shop and not conducive to doing fine work.  I used a window ledge and got the level very close - I can fine tune it when my shop is a bit warmer and I can use my surface plate.

John.