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A tale of 2 shop made indicators and the name stamped on them.

rivett608

Diamond
Joined
Oct 25, 2002
Location
Kansas City, Mo.
Here are 2 posts this week from my IG and FB feeds I think you will like…

A tale of two 100 year old machinists indicators, well sort of, except there is so much that remains unknown. What is known is these are “shop made” test indicators for centering work on a lathe. The term “shop made” is used because they were made by the machinist who used them as opposed to a factory produced product from some big company. These were sometimes made as trade school projects by apprentices learning their trade or machinists working from drawings published in a trade magazine such as American Machinist. What is interesting about these two is they were made by 2 different craftsman working from the same drawings or design, each adding their own flair. One has a milled body with a turned and knurled knob, the other a cast body with a forged and filed thumbscrew. They both appear to have a cast and filed arms with similar but differently shaped scales on the far end. The spring on one is beautifully formed and dovetailed in place where the other uses two pieces of spring wire swaged into position. If these were school projects it would be easy to see who I would give the higher grade too.

Some may need an explanation of how they are used since this type indicator I don’t think has been commercially produced in at least 50 years. They work by mounting the body in a rocker style tool post on a lathe and holding the tip against the work to trued up in a chuck or between centers. The roughly 10 to 1 ratio between the contact tip and pointer greatly amplifies any movement on the scale at the far end.

One of the indicators has the owner, who was most likely the maker, name stamped on it, J. C. HESELTINE. He was so proud of this he stamped in 8 places with his custom made stamp. That is where this story gets fun. Back up about 25 years I got a Darling Brown & Sharpe (1866-1892) 6” rule to add to my collection. But this no ordinary rule, it was likely owned by a “Stamp Maker” who used it to test over a 100 of his finished name stamps. Stamp making was a highly specialized trade and most of the work was done with a file. There is very little written in the period as to how this was done and most machinists did not make their own. It was very common for machinists and other tradesman to mark their names on their tools and since these tools are often made of hardened steel testing a new stamp on a tool would make perfect sense. It is not known who’s rule this was but it is probably from New England. In 25+ years I have only seen one other tool, it was a whole chest I sold to the NPS for the restoration of Thomas Edison’s Lab in West Orange, NJ. It was owned by E.L. Starr.

A couple weeks ago I was scrolling eBay as I often do and came across this indicator. In the back of my mind I thought the named seemed familiar. After a quick check of the rule it was, in the middle of of one side is J.C. HESELTINE, see red arrow. But that is not all, on the other side at the bottom is J.R. HESELTINE, could have that been a father, a brother? One more mystery we will probably never know.

Wil Heitritter from FB wrote this!
"Wow, I love it! I couldn't stand the mystery, though: Found some good candidates: John Chester Heseltine (1875-1923), a toolmaker in Hampden, MA, in 1920. His grandfather, John Ruel Heseltine (1828-1890), engineer, Boston." I think that is our guy! Thank you Wil!
 

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Limy Sami

Diamond
Joined
Jan 7, 2007
Location
Norfolk, UK
Nice one rivett :) ........I still have my old lathe centre finder (sorta poor mans Starrett #65 based around a 5/16 (I think) phos bronze ball) from 45 + years ago, .......and it still gets used.
 

Walter A

Titanium
Joined
Jul 7, 2007
Location
Hampton, Virginia
While I seldom marked my tools I have some from my Great Grandfather and Grandfather who both did. G. Grandfather JH Schultz was a later 1800s outside Machinist in Brooklyn Navy Yard and crudely stamped his initials on his tools. My Grandfather, CW Schultz was an early 1900s inside Machinist at I believe Hyatt Roller Bearing in NJ. His name was in cursive on many of his tools. He told me he poured wax on the tools and etched his name in with some sort of acid.
Interesting fact was that he quit to join the teamsters and drive a truck for twice the pay. Drove a delivery truck in Manhattan during the day and worked on trucks at night. A tough life.
 

neanderthal mach

Hot Rolled
Joined
Dec 18, 2008
Location
princeton b.c.
Very cool, but those pictures are a bit different than what I expected they were going to show Rivett. Those aren't a design I've seen before. I'd be surprised if you didn't know of or might even have a copy. My 1923 edition of Tool and Gauge Work is one from what was called the American Machinist library and written by Goodrich and Stanley. It has roughly a page of written details and one of a working drawing to build a shop made dti quite a bit different than your examples, but pretty interesting none the less. And it works pretty much like yours. It was also meant I think mostly for use in a lathe, but it doesn't have the attached rocker tool post body like yours does. Instead there's a shaft mounted 90 degrees to the indicator body. Copies of this book at fairly reasonable prices still show up on Ebay.

I'll add that some of the book was first written in 1907. Additionally there's a full chapter covering what I'm pretty sure was from possibly the earliest edition and detailing what was probably the very first set of Johansson Gage Blocks in North America. That chapter alone is worth the books price. Their thoughts and predictions about how they might be used were unusually accurate.
 

BabsinKS

Plastic
Joined
Jul 5, 2022
Here are 2 posts this week from my IG and FB feeds I think you will like…

A tale of two 100 year old machinists indicators, well sort of, except there is so much that remains unknown. What is known is these are “shop made” test indicators for centering work on a lathe. The term “shop made” is used because they were made by the machinist who used them as opposed to a factory produced product from some big company. These were sometimes made as trade school projects by apprentices learning their trade or machinists working from drawings published in a trade magazine such as American Machinist. What is interesting about these two is they were made by 2 different craftsman working from the same drawings or design, each adding their own flair. One has a milled body with a turned and knurled knob, the other a cast body with a forged and filed thumbscrew. They both appear to have a cast and filed arms with similar but differently shaped scales on the far end. The spring on one is beautifully formed and dovetailed in place where the other uses two pieces of spring wire swaged into position. If these were school projects it would be easy to see who I would give the higher grade too.

Some may need an explanation of how they are used since this type indicator I don’t think has been commercially produced in at least 50 years. They work by mounting the body in a rocker style tool post on a lathe and holding the tip against the work to trued up in a chuck or between centers. The roughly 10 to 1 ratio between the contact tip and pointer greatly amplifies any movement on the scale at the far end.

One of the indicators has the owner, who was most likely the maker, name stamped on it, J. C. HESELTINE. He was so proud of this he stamped in 8 places with his custom made stamp. That is where this story gets fun. Back up about 25 years I got a Darling Brown & Sharpe (1866-1892) 6” rule to add to my collection. But this no ordinary rule, it was likely owned by a “Stamp Maker” who used it to test over a 100 of his finished name stamps. Stamp making was a highly specialized trade and most of the work was done with a file. There is very little written in the period as to how this was done and most machinists did not make their own. It was very common for machinists and other tradesman to mark their names on their tools and since these tools are often made of hardened steel testing a new stamp on a tool would make perfect sense. It is not known who’s rule this was but it is probably from New England. In 25+ years I have only seen one other tool, it was a whole chest I sold to the NPS for the restoration of Thomas Edison’s Lab in West Orange, NJ. It was owned by E.L. Starr.

A couple weeks ago I was scrolling eBay as I often do and came across this indicator. In the back of my mind I thought the named seemed familiar. After a quick check of the rule it was, in the middle of of one side is J.C. HESELTINE, see red arrow. But that is not all, on the other side at the bottom is J.R. HESELTINE, could have that been a father, a brother? One more mystery we will probably never know.

Wil Heitritter from FB wrote this!
"Wow, I love it! I couldn't stand the mystery, though: Found some good candidates: John Chester Heseltine (1875-1923), a toolmaker in Hampden, MA, in 1920. His grandfather, John Ruel Heseltine (1828-1890), engineer, Boston." I think that is our guy! Thank you Wil!
Rivett, this is very interesting. John Ruel Heseltine is my Great Great Grandfather. My wife did extensive research on the family, but has no record of John Chester. I’m going to reach out to Wil Heitritter to see if he can tell me where he found that name. If you can tell who posted the story on FB, or if you have any other information about this, please let me know.
Thanks!
Bruce Heseltine
 








 
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