Starrett 98-4 Level - Vial Replacement
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  1. #1
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    Does anyone have experience in removing and replacing these vials. I need to know how to remove the brocken one and how to set the new one in position, ie. what material to use to hold it in place.

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    I did one a few years back. First the vile is plastic not glass, at lest the replacement one was. The vile is encased in something like plaster, you will need to chip it out. Don't rember what I used to reset the vile but would think plaster should work. Set it as true as you can, and adjust the level with the screw.

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    I replaced the vial in mine last year. I started a thread on the HSM site that you can take a look at if you'd like: Starrett Spirit Level

    In the discussion, a link was placed to a tutorial on exactly how to do it, but that link is dead now. The basic idea was to use patching plaster from the hardware store. It was really simple and easy. Anyone have a current link for it? If not, I saved the URL to my hard drive and can email it, or I can post the text here if you'd prefer.

    Chad

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    I use window puddy from the hardware store. I think that is what Starrett uses. Just scrape out what you can of the old stuff and punch out the old vial. Cut a piece of white printer paper and place behind the new vial for a background.

  5. #5
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    All fixed now. I used Plaster of Paris to hold the Vial in and it seems OK.

  6. #6
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    Chad.
    I too need to replace the vial in my 98-4.
    Could you post the how too or email me the
    instructions ?
    I have the vial assy off of the base and want to be sure how to get to the tube the vial sits in.
    Thanx.

  7. #7
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    Just saw a thread on Home Machinist that said the
    ends of the Vial cover are just pressed in.
    I'll give it a shot tonight.
    This level was in the flood we had earlier this year, probably just seized up tight.

  8. #8
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    Seized up tight was an understatement !!! [img]smile.gif[/img]
    Those end caps were rusted up tight.
    Overnight soak in Liquid wrench got er' done.

    If it has plaster holding the Vial and some VERY old paper behind it a clue of my 98-6's Age ?

  9. #9
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    Paul W --

    Here's a slightly-edited version of what I wrote for the Chaski board about five years ago:

    A Starrett 98 is a fairly straight forward level instrument to repair and adjust.

    From your questions, I'll assume that you have disassembled the vial housing and have cleaned the vial carrier thoroughly, removing ALL residue from the old vial and old plaster. If not, that's the first thing you need to do.

    Once the vial carrier is thoroughly clean you can begin to install the new vial. I suggest checking the fit of the vial inside the carrier by simply sliding the vial through the carrier . . . it should slide freely and not hang up anyplace, but at the same time it should only be a bit smaller than the carrier's ID.

    As I recall, the Mod 98 carrier is chromed, not painted. The metallic carrier ID does not provide a good background for reading the position of the bubble in the vial, and you can choose how you want to create a better background -- which is traditionally flat white although a very pale green or yellow background is sometimes seen and any very pale color would work. I prefer to use a slip of bond paper to create the background, but others simply paint the inside of the carrier. I suggest an archival-quality cotton-rag bond paper, which will keep its sparking white color for decades if kept dry.

    I fit the paper liner to the carrier by simply slipping a rolled-up piece of paper into the carrier and marking the size of the carrier's opening onto the paper. Then I cut-and-try the liner IN WIDTH ONLY until the paper is just narrow enough to not extend into the carrier's cutouts.

    Next, I fit the vial into the liner paper and slide the vial and paper into the carrier; adjust until the vial is centered both lengthwise and rotationally in the carrier's cutouts and the liner paper extends past the cutout but not quite to the radius between the vial's cylindrical body and its end. The vial and paper liner should be only a bit loose in the carrier; if necessary another layer or two of paper can be added to shim the vial. Once I'm satisfied with the fit, I slide the vial and liner out of the carrier, trim the liner to length, and then reinstall the vial and liner, centering them carefully.

    If the vial is really loose but there is no better-fitting vial available, toothpicks or whittled-to-a-long-taper bamboo barbeque skewers can be used to GENTLY wedge the vial into the tube on one end only. The vial can be pulled against the carrier's opening with cellophane tape.

    Once you're satisfied with the vial's position in the carrier tube, you can think about bedding the vial. RTV can be used, but personally I don't trust the stability of non-catalytic RTV in thick sections. Yes, I have used RTV to bed vials, but I've used a hypodermic syringe with an industrial applicator needle (square-cut end) to inject 3 or 4 half-pea sized beads bridging the vial-to-carrier gap. Then, figure on a 24-hour cure for the RTV.

    Plaster bedding is traditional and I like the results. Depending on who you talk to, the suggested material is Plaster of Paris, Patching Plaster, a tooling plaster (such as US Gypsum's Hydrocal series), mixtures of a gypsum plaster and portland cement, and mixtures of a gypsum plaster and flour. Mostly I use Patching Plaster, which is available in small boxes and has a working life of 45 minutes to an hour . . . Plaster of Paris sets too rapidly, and I don't want to chase down a 50-pound sack of Hydrocal . . . but I recently tried the Patching Plaster mixed with flour at about a 1:1 ratio and I like the way the mixture works. It's stickier than the plain plaster and sets up to be very firm but not rock hard.

    Even with the plaster or plaster mix, though, I prefer to use just a bit. I mix it to a soft paste consistency and inject the plaster using a needle-less syringe to form a plug of plaster that is just deep enough to cover the end of the vial. Now, check the vial to be sure that it is still centered in the carrier opening and the liner is properly in place. You can tweak the vial's position before the plaster starts to harden.

    Remember that you need to put the vial carrier end plugs back in place . . . don't let the bedding block the end plugs.

    Cure time, then bed the other end of the vial (after removing the wooden wedges if you needed to use them.

    Cure time again. Inspect your work, and if you want you can hand-smear more plaster into the carrier opening to fill any gap between the carrier and vial.

    Install one of the vial carrier end plugs, being sure that the plane of the mounting tab is oriented correctly relative to the carrier's opening.

    Now install the cover spring on the end of the vial carrier away from the installed end plug, slide the cover over the sping and down to the other spring pocket, install the other spring, and slide the cover on all the way. Only now is it time to install the other end plug, and here you want to be sure that the mounting flat is oriented correctly and that both mounting flats are parallel to each other. Don't rely on "eyeballing" the parallelism of the mounting flats, set the assembled carrier on a set of parallels or 1-2-3 blocks on a surface plate.

    Install the vial assembly on the level's body, leaving the adjustment nuts finger tight. (I presume that you've already checked the iron base and know that it is not warped or burred.)

    You can adjust the vial assembly relative to the iron body by "reversion", essentially checking the vial against itself. To do this, you need a stable surface plate that is nearly level. How level? Ball-bearing-won't-roll-off level is close enough.

    Within reasonable limits, temperature is not important but temperature stability is very important. You can not successfully adjust (or use) a precision level if it is in a beam of sunlight, near a blower vent, or if you've had your fingers on the vial recently. Got that?

    Now, set your level instrument on the surface table and adjust the vial housing until the bubble is centered in the vial. Finger tight on the adjustment screws is good.

    Next, mark the location of the level body on the surface table using a pencil or build a set of fence rails that will provide a nest for the level body. Go get yourself a cup of coffee or a cold soda, giving the level and surface table a half hour or so to come to temperature equilibrium.

    Again examine the position of the bubble in the vial; adjust the vial assembly to nearly center the bubble if necessary. Give the bubble a few moments to settle, and then carefully note the position of the bubble in the vial. Some people note the bubble position in room coordinates ("a quarter division toward the west wall") while others use instrument coordinates ("a quarter division toward the adjusting screw"); pick a method, and call the bubble position in the vial the Initial position.

    Now pick up the whole level and turn it 180 degrees. Set it down on the surface table and either nest it against the fences or adjust it to be within the pencil outline. Give the bubble a few moments to settle in the tube. Now examine the bubble to see where it is in the tube, which we’ll call the Rotated position.

    If the bubble is in the same place relative to the room ("a quarter division toward the west wall" OR in the "opposite" place relative to the instrument body ("a quarter division away from the adjusting screw"), the vial-to-base adjustment is correct. In this fortunate circumstance, all you need to do is snug the vial adjustment screws.

    If, more probably, the bubble is not in the right place, you'll need to adjust the vial housing. Use the adjustment screws to move the bubble all the way to its "should be" position, which is midway between the Initial and Rotated positions, finger snug the adjustment screws, and go through the whole test-and-adjust cycle again. Keep at it, and you'll get it right.

    For what it's worth, more sensitive level instruments usually have a side-to-side vial adjustment in addition to the up-and-down adjustment. This adjustment allows you to rotate the vial so that its lengthwise axis is parallel to the long edge of the instrument's body. Why? Well, if the vial is not parallel to the long edge of the body the bubble will change its lengthwise position in the vial with small fore-and-aft tilts of the instrument.

    OK, I'll stop for now. Post back if I can answer any other questions.

    [I offer a special tip o' the hat to Chad Webb for saving my essay and E-mailing it to me when the Chaski archive copy went away.]

    John

  10. #10
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    Thanks ..
    Very clear instructions.
    I do have one question.
    You mentioned a spring.
    There was no spring in my Level ??

  11. #11
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    Paul W --

    My guess is that Starrett has cut the cost to manufacture the Model 98 levels by deleting the springs, which were only there to put a touch of drag on the rotating cover.

    The springs were simple bent leaves, maybe 1/8 inch wide x 1/4 inch long, that fit into milled recesses on the bottom of the vial carrier tube.

    John

  12. #12
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    I have the recesses but no springs.
    Suppose the vial has been replaced before.
    This seems to be a VERY old level. Well used
    and has JRK etched into the side. No clue who he was. Got it on Ebay about 3 years ago.
    Thanks again for the procedure!

  13. #13
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    I have a Rabone 1382 that needs a new vial, what are the chances of getting one or maybe a Starrett one would fit?
    Paul W. maybe those initials are JFK, was he a machinist?

  14. #14
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    lol
    Naah, Its JRK ..
    Getting a JFK item on FleaBay for 25 bux would be nice though [img]smile.gif[/img]

  15. #15
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    luthor --

    Assuming that you can't get a replacement vial for your Rabone level through a Rabone-Chesterman dealer, any shop that repairs surveyor's instruments should be able to supply a suitable vial.

    Level vials are specified by sensitivity (tilt per division of bubble movement, OR, rarely, by radius of curvature), diameter, and length. Match those three parameters and you have a suitable vial for your level.

    John

  16. #16
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    Bringing this back from the netherworld...

    I'm about to embark on a vial replacement in a 199 using a W. A. Moyer replacement.

    The mount in the 199 is a bit different from that described for the 98 in that the carrier is "floated" inside the frame, and the fit of the vial to the carrier is loose in the extreme. The carrier is probably 1/8" larger than the original broken Starrett vial, which is the same as the Moyer vial.

    I'm guessing (based on the original) that the proper procedure would have the vial located gently against the top portion of the carrier with plaster filled in below, constrained by a dam of sorts, perhaps formed of masking tape? I'm not sure how Starrett did it, but it almost looks like it was somehow trimmed to fit flush with carrier by using a saw of some sort? And the carrier vial locating holes are completely full of plaster, almost as if up ended and poured in full, one side at a time.

    Anyone have any experience with a 199? It would seem that, unless I get it very close, it may be rather hard, or even impossible, to get this adjusted properly...


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