Old Starrett incline level
Close
Login to Your Account
Results 1 to 17 of 17
  1. #1
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Country
    UNITED STATES
    State/Province
    New Hampshire
    Posts
    458
    Post Thanks / Like
    Likes (Given)
    701
    Likes (Received)
    308

    Default Old Starrett incline level

    Hello everyone,
    I have come across an old Starrett incline level. I have never seen one before. The oldest catalog I have is No26 from 1938 and it is not listed there. The only markings are the L.S. Starrett logo on the barrel shroud and the 10 second information shown in the photos. Hopefully someone can shed some light on this one for me.
    img_4946.jpg img_4945.jpg img_4943.jpg img_4942.jpg img_4941.jpg

    Edit: Sorry about them being sideways.


    Warren

  2. Likes Mud, rivett608, texasgunsmith liked this post
  3. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2016
    Country
    UNITED STATES
    State/Province
    Texas
    Posts
    1,599
    Post Thanks / Like
    Likes (Given)
    1074
    Likes (Received)
    577

    Default

    It looks like a 6" or 8" Starrett No 98 precision level, or a precursor to it. The No 98 adjuster to set level looks different, and pivot are a little different.

    The sleeve that rolls to protect vial for storage or handling would typically have the model number stamped on it, but it depends on time period of manufacture. Looking at vial, I would think if you ever need to replace, that a 98 vial will work, they sell replacements.

    A No 98:

    485.jpg 486.jpg

  4. Likes Warren liked this post
  5. #3
    Join Date
    Apr 2004
    Location
    Shandaken, NY, USA
    Posts
    4,592
    Post Thanks / Like
    Likes (Given)
    1445
    Likes (Received)
    7707

    Default

    Warren:

    The incline level was often used in ship building. When a ship was being built on the ways, it was on an incline to facilitate launching. At the same time, there had to be a 'plane of reference' to set the machinery and shafting to drive the propellor to. This is where the incline level was used. On land, machinery and things like turbines, engines and generators are often erected by millwrights. In the shipyards, their counterparts were sometimes called "outside machinists". On land, using a precision level is a straightforward thing. A ship on the building ways is a whole other matter, and the incline level was adjusted to compensate for the inclination of the building ways. In the early 1970's I was fortunate in being able to attend some launchings of nuclear submarines at the Electric Boat Shipyard in Groton, CT. Back in those days, the submarines were built on the ways. When the time came to launch a new submarine, it slid stern first down the ways and into the Thames River. The inclination of the ways was sufficient enough that once the submarine got to sliding down the ways, it seemed to build considerable speed before it hit the water.

    Obviously, if a person were trying to set machinery and shafting in a ship or submarine that was 'running downhill', a regular level would be of no use. I remember men who had worked at "EB" - as local people referred to Electric Boat- telling me about the 'inclined levels' they used for setting machinery.


    The method of building ships of any real size on inclined ways is becoming obsolete. Ship building has changed radically in the past 40 years or so. Ships are built in floating drydocks, and with things sitting level, rather than on an incline. Ships are built in modules, moved into place by either transporters or shipyard cranes, and a launching is not the dramatic event it once was. Ships no longer 'slide down the ways', but float up off the blocks. Your inclined level is likely not the most common tool Starrett made. It is a precision level, and would have been used for setting machinery with the same degree of accuracy as would be done on land.

    It is an interesting little 'brain teaser', to imagine working aboard a ship on the ways and having to 'level' machinery on its foundations. Foundations aboard ship are fabricated steel rather than the concrete foundations we might find under a turbine or generator ashore. The inclined level would be used for 'fore-and-aft' levelling relative to the incline of the ways. The 'athwartships', or 'port-to-starboard' levelling would be done using a regular precision level.

    The level you have is too fine an instrument to be used on work such as piping requiring pitch, or pitch of conveyors. You are in New Hampshire, so it is possible your level came out of the Portsmouth, NH Naval Shipyard, which did build submarines at some point. It is also possible it came out of a civilian shipyard along the New England coast (Bath Iron Works in Maine, or Quincy, Mass, to name a couple more). It's a nice find, for sure. I don't know how rare your level is, but it is certainly not too common.

  6. Likes Paolo_MD, 3512B, Hudson, Eric M liked this post
  7. #4
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Country
    UNITED STATES
    State/Province
    New Hampshire
    Posts
    458
    Post Thanks / Like
    Likes (Given)
    701
    Likes (Received)
    308

    Default

    Hi Joe,
    As always thanks for the bit of history, I so enjoy it especially the maritime and steamship engineering bits.

    As for my level, with a 10 second vial it's a bit fiddly to use for my intended application, but I saw that and said I have to have that regardless, I am such a sucker for old tools Like any high precision level it requires some patience and settling time. It came to me from Northern Maine, but that does not mean anything. The original owner may very well been an employed at BIW or one of the various shipyards that dotted the coast of New England in the 20th century. Or perhaps a Millwrights tool but I have my doubts for the reasons you suggest. I wonder if it was a special order item? Starrett is know for such things.

    BTW my intended application is a set up tool to get my portable boring bar level and parallel with an adjacent set of holes on a workpiece, I.E. excavator bucket bores. Shop floors are seldom level and neither is a worksite outdoors. In larger buckets and, or long bars I can use a 11" Starrett No133 almost anywhere along the bar or in-between the bucket ears etc... and it works the treat, and well within acceptable tolerance. I would like a shorter, say 6" version of the No133 to fit in smaller spaces where the 11" tool will not go. I guess I will go with my original route and end up building one with an appropriate level vial. However this tool will not go to waste. I will find a use for it at times. I would still love to know what it's proper nomenclature is at some point. That's the fun part of old tools apart from using them is finding out their history and original intent. In the meantime it will adorn my desk along with some other nice tools I keep in my office.

  8. Likes Eric M liked this post
  9. #5
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Country
    UNITED STATES
    State/Province
    New Hampshire
    Posts
    458
    Post Thanks / Like
    Likes (Given)
    701
    Likes (Received)
    308

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by texasgunsmith View Post
    It looks like a 6" or 8" Starrett No 98 precision level, or a precursor to it. The No 98 adjuster to set level looks different, and pivot are a little different.

    The sleeve that rolls to protect vial for storage or handling would typically have the model number stamped on it, but it depends on time period of manufacture. Looking at vial, I would think if you ever need to replace, that a 98 vial will work, they sell replacements.

    A No 98:

    485.jpg 486.jpg
    There is definatly a few differences than the 98's I have. The pivot points as you point out being the main one for sure. Nevertheless the No 98 has a less accurate vial than this one .005" per foot division rather than the .00058" per foot division of this tool. In any event it's a fun tool and nice to have. Thanks for chiming in. Hopefully someone can positively identify it.

  10. Likes DrHook liked this post
  11. #6
    Join Date
    Aug 2012
    Location
    California, Central Coast
    Posts
    5,009
    Post Thanks / Like
    Likes (Given)
    2368
    Likes (Received)
    2056

    Default

    That is very close to the same accuracy as the 199 master precision level of .0005 IN / 1 FOOT
    Can you adjust it to be level or does the spring bind up first? Change to a shorter spring if so?

  12. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 2002
    Country
    UNITED STATES
    State/Province
    Alaska
    Posts
    82
    Post Thanks / Like
    Likes (Given)
    1242
    Likes (Received)
    42

    Default Or...

    Some one could invest in a nice used horizontal boring mill...
    And skip that out side work.......
    It ain’t doing you any good under-a tarp....

  13. Likes Warren liked this post
  14. #8
    Join Date
    Feb 2016
    Country
    UNITED STATES
    State/Province
    Texas
    Posts
    1,599
    Post Thanks / Like
    Likes (Given)
    1074
    Likes (Received)
    577

    Default

    Just a curiousity, but the No 98's graduations on vials are in red, at .005". While the No 199 graduates are in black at .0005". Wondering if they were color coded for easy identification.

  15. #9
    Join Date
    Apr 2004
    Location
    Shandaken, NY, USA
    Posts
    4,592
    Post Thanks / Like
    Likes (Given)
    1445
    Likes (Received)
    7707

    Default

    Hello Warren:

    Thank you for the kind words and I am glad you enjoy my posts. While no medical textbooks discuss Old Iron Disease, it is a benign condition (rather than 'disease', 'ailment', or 'afflication'). Old Iron Disease can be said to be a form of addiction that usually has constructive and positive outcomes for the person developing it, as well as for family, friends, and surrounding community. A manifestation of Old Iron Disease is often the need for finding out the past history of tools and machinery acquired or at least investigated by the person having Old Iron Disease.

    In short, you have all the classic symptoms of what most of us have been enjoying ( a fair word, I think), for years, if not most of our lives.

    A buddy of mine put it succinctly: He likes to pick up old tools, even when he has multiples of them. When he holds the old tools, even if he does not know the history of the tool, he says he feels something of the previous owners/users of those tools. My way of putting it is: "I wish those old tools could talk".

    You came up with an excellent application for the incline level in the setup and use of the portable boring bar. As you note, working out on a jobsite to line-bore excavator buckets and booms, linkages, etc is a place where there is no solid reference surface to setup off of. I would think your incline level is actually a bit too fine and too nice of an instrument to schlepp out onto a jobsite for work that does not require its degree of accuracy. You may well find yourself "chasing your tail", a saying I use when working with an instrument having too fine a resolution for rough conditions.

    An example of an 'inclined level' situation occurred a few years back at Hanford Mills Museum. We had erected their horizontal steam engine, an 10" x 12" center crank engine. To get one flywheel to line up with an existing line shaft for belting up the engine to the mill's line shafting, I had designed an extension to the crankshaft. This required an outboard pedestal bearing. There was an existing mortared stone bearing pedestal from the original side-crank engine (removed many years prior), and we mounted the outboard pedestal bearing on it. Things lined up nicely, or so it seemed, and the engine turned over freely. I had levelled the mainframe of the engine off the crosshead guides using Starrett 98 levels, 1-2-3 blocks, and long matched parallels. I levelled off the split joint of the pillow block bearing we used for the outboard pedestal bearing. We soon started up the engine on steam. That is when we got a mild surprise: the outboard pedestal bearing and the inboard engine main bearing began to warm up more than I liked, whilst the further engine main bearing still ran cool. I had set the clearances on all three bearings fairly loose, since this was a startup, figuring I could tighten the clearances once the journals 'bedded in' to the bearings. Despite this and a good levelling of the engine and outboard bearing, I was feeling bearings heating up. That led me to breaking out my Starrett 696, known as a 'crankshaft strain gauge'. I had last used that instrument perhaps 30 years earlier on Fairbanks-Morse diesel engine ( OP 38 D 8 1/8 series) crankshafts in Venezuela to check generator tail bearing alignments. The 696 strain gauge told the tale: the crankshaft bearings and pedestal bearing were in alignment at 9:00 & 3:00, and out a good bit at 6:00 to 12:00. That being established, I used my 98 level's base groove and cross vial by putting the level right on the extension of the crankshaft. This showed the crankshaft had a slight incline to it, somewhere between 1/32" and 1/16" in maybe 6 feet. This was time for some head scratching and then the realization hit me: whomever had last rebabbitted the engine's main bearings (some time prior to about 1930), had line bored them but had not setup the boring bar so that its centerline was in plane with am imaginary line across the crosshead guides (cast into the mainframe like the ways of a lathe). The bottom of the engine mainframe was never planed off, and was a rough casting. The engine had last been used in a marble quarry, somewhere in Vermont, and last ran about 1930. There is no telling what kind of foundation it was on, no telling how level the frame of the engine was, nor how the bearings were rebabbitted. Someone could simply have 'smoked' the crankshaft main journals with soot, blocked the crankshaft to what seemed like correct centerline, and poured the babbitt. No line boring done afterwards, maybe a cleanup with a scraper.

    The Old Iron Disease in me was imagining all sorts of things, none of which would solve the immediate situation Speculation as to how the bearings were rebabbitted was getting us nowhere. Rather than beat the issue to death, I figured the only thing to do was to live with the main bearings running on an incline, and 'cheat in' the outboard pedestal bearing. Some shims under one side of the pedestal bearing and some scraping of the babbitt to match the incline a bit better, and we solved the matter.

    I used the graduations on the vial of my 98 level to determine the 'pitch' or inclination of the crankshaft to level, and matched that pitch with my level on the split joint surface of the pedestal bearing.

    What it came down to was this: I was erecting a steam engine with a degree of accuracy used for machine tools and powerplant turbines. An old boss of mine used to sum this sort of thing up rather eloquently, though off-color, referring to this sort of thing as "picking fly shit out of the pepper with boxing gloves on". My old boss was a man who'd come up the hard way. He started out working as a 'pile buck' on a crew driving pilings. About as rough a work as you can find. He went to college part time and eventually got his engineering degree. He and I worked on hydroelectric plant construction projects, and his time as a pile buck served him well. He knew what field conditions were vs what theoretical engineers were asking for.

    Your inclined level is a fine instrument, for sure. As I wrote in my previous post, I think its purpose was to level machinery and machinery foundations using a given incline as a plane of reference. It would be a bit of a challenge to use it to measure the pre-existing incline of surfaces relative to level. I'd oil the machined surfaces of the level and put it in a good safe spot such as the drawer of a machinist chest or a wood case. Like my 696 crankshaft strain gauge, your inclined level may be one of those instruments that you would think you will never use.... and then out of the blue some job comes along where it is the very thing needed.

    There is an other timeless saying: "Dead Men tell no tales". We who have somewhat advanced cases of Old Iron Disease tend to differ with that opinion, as Dead Men, though otherwise anonymous, often speak to us through their tools and machinery, making us something of their continuum.

  16. Likes Warren, Eric M, 3512B, Brian Smith liked this post
  17. #10
    Join Date
    Sep 2004
    Location
    south SF Bay area, California
    Posts
    2,114
    Post Thanks / Like
    Likes (Given)
    176
    Likes (Received)
    715

    Default

    Warner and Swasey published a turret lathe operations manual (really more of a textbook) that discussed and illustrated "leveling" a turret lathe using that model Starrett level, not the more usual Master Precision Levels that were then supplied by Exact, Lufkin, Pratt & Whitney, and several other makers.

    The W&S manual was old 30 years ago, and its owner told me that he thought Starrett made these levels as specials for W&S. He also commented that the levels were commonplace in turret lathe shops, and rare in other machine shops.

  18. Likes texasgunsmith, Warren liked this post
  19. #11
    Join Date
    Apr 2004
    Location
    Shandaken, NY, USA
    Posts
    4,592
    Post Thanks / Like
    Likes (Given)
    1445
    Likes (Received)
    7707

    Default

    John Garner:

    Interesting note about W & S referencing the 'incline level' for 'levelling' turret lathes. My guess is turret lathes might have been levelled across the bed, and 'levelled' to a slight incline along the run of the bed. This incline would be done to insure coolant flowed back to the coolant pump 'sump' in the chip pan.

    In their heydays, turret lathes were high production machine tools. If a turret lathe were being run hard, the chip pan was going to live up to its name and become a brush-pile, rat's nest, and anything else you might describe it as, choked with heaps of turnings or chips. This would make dams to slow the return of coolant to the coolant pump's sump. Putting the bed on a slight incline, so long as there was no twist to the bed, would help keep the coolant returning the sump- even if it had to perk thru s rat's nest of chips.

    The late David Sobel once was discussing levelling lathes with me. I mentioned I levelled engine lathe beds across as well as along the run of the beds. Dave Sobel told me that in some shops, the practice was to setup lathes with a slight 'pitch' or incline to the beds so the coolant had an easier time of getting back to the coolant sumps.

    W & S used to have advertisements as to how much metal and how quickly their turret lathes removed it in the production machining of various parts. It was not uncommon for a larger turret lathe job to lose better than 50% of its initial weight in the form of chips. Hence the rat's nest of chips in the chip pan.

    In our CNC era, many CNC machining centers have chip conveyors to carry the chips out of the machining center and dump them in a receptacle. Back in the days when W & S turrets lathe were a mainstay in high production machine shops, there were no chip conveyors that I am aware of. It was likely some guy with a 'chip hook', wheelbarrow, and work gloves who snuck in when he could to pull out the chips. With the time-motion study people figuring out how long a job was going to take, chances are the turret lathes ran flat-out for longer periods of time and the chips formed rats' nests in the chip pans, impeding coolant return. "Levelling" the bed of a turret lathe on an incline would make perfect sense to help the coolant return flow.

  20. Likes Warren, Eric M liked this post
  21. #12
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Country
    UNITED STATES
    State/Province
    New Hampshire
    Posts
    458
    Post Thanks / Like
    Likes (Given)
    701
    Likes (Received)
    308

    Default

    So the plot thickens. I sent an email to Starrett inquiring about this and here is the reply:

    On the level, the cross vial first appeared on the #97 in our Catalog 16S (1900), but as far back as I can tell Starrett has always had the same style horizontal adjustments on that base style going back to my oldest catalog titled “Starrett’s 1894 Catalog”. Our best guess is someone modified a #97 level to function similar to a #133 Engineer’s Plumbers level. I’ve attached a couple of catalog pages that have information on each.

    Thanks,

    James M. Clinton

    Manager Special Order and Technical Support - Precision Hand Tools

    The L.S. Starrett Company

    121 Crescent Street

    Athol, MA 01331

    Thanks to James for taking the time to look at this, and for the speedy reply, I really appreciate it.
    A couple observations I made. The finish of the hinge stand off and thumbscrew are factory nice. The roll marking or stamping is factory straight, the spacing perfect as well as the alignment of the text. Texasgunsmith your observation about the graduation colors is spot on, I missed that! thanks.

    We may never know who made it or why, but I have a feeling someone here will know at some point. Starrett cast some light on it, at least we know what it isn't and that would be a regular item. Could it be a factory special? the nice lettering and font certainly suggest that. This I do know. I will use it when I have a need, preserve it and see that the next generation of mechanic and machinists can use it and appreciate it for what it is.

    Joe, you are so right about the resolution being way out of caliber for line boring earth moving machinery. Chasing my tail would be an understatement. A cheap line level bubble with a stack of paper shims under it to level it out is more than precise enough! A No 133 engineers level might be Overkill! well not for me
    As for old tools, I have many old tools that have some most likely long departed machinist or mechanics name scratched in it. As I look at his name I often wonder who this man worked for and what did be build or maintain with my tool. Did his creations fly to space? Fight a war or revolutionize industry? For me that's fun to day dream about for a minute or two. It makes me appreciate those who came before me even more I think.
    Cheers,
    Warren

  22. #13
    Join Date
    Feb 2016
    Country
    UNITED STATES
    State/Province
    Texas
    Posts
    1,599
    Post Thanks / Like
    Likes (Given)
    1074
    Likes (Received)
    577

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by John Garner View Post
    Warner and Swasey published a turret lathe operations manual (really more of a textbook) that discussed and illustrated "leveling" a turret lathe using that model Starrett level, not the more usual Master Precision Levels that were then supplied by Exact, Lufkin, Pratt & Whitney, and several other makers.

    The W&S manual was old 30 years ago, and its owner told me that he thought Starrett made these levels as specials for W&S. He also commented that the levels were commonplace in turret lathe shops, and rare in other machine shops.
    Wow, good call, that's really something. I didn't search all their pubs. But opened up "Know Your Turret Lathe" from 1941:
    Warner & Swasey Co. - Publication Reprints - Know your Turret Lathe | VintageMachinery.org

    The PDF page 10:
    http://vintagemachinery.org/pubs/2261/22886.pdf

    They call it W & S Sensitive Spirit Level:
    490.jpg

    Might want to talk to Docsmachine. . .

    Edit: also mentioned, but no pics, 1956 "how to take care of your turret lathe":
    Warner & Swasey Co. - Publication Reprints - How to Take Care of your Turret Lathe | VintageMachinery.org

    491.jpg

  23. Likes Warren, Jim Christie, JCLINTON liked this post
  24. #14
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Country
    UNITED STATES
    State/Province
    New Hampshire
    Posts
    458
    Post Thanks / Like
    Likes (Given)
    701
    Likes (Received)
    308

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by 3512B View Post
    Some one could invest in a nice used horizontal boring mill...
    And skip that out side work.......
    It ain’t doing you any good under-a tarp....
    OK smartass, 'Cmon down from the ice laden "Final Frontier" and help me build a shed for the boring mill

  25. Likes 3512B liked this post
  26. #15
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Country
    UNITED STATES
    State/Province
    New Hampshire
    Posts
    458
    Post Thanks / Like
    Likes (Given)
    701
    Likes (Received)
    308

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by John Garner View Post
    Warner and Swasey published a turret lathe operations manual (really more of a textbook) that discussed and illustrated "leveling" a turret lathe using that model Starrett level, not the more usual Master Precision Levels that were then supplied by Exact, Lufkin, Pratt & Whitney, and several other makers.

    The W&S manual was old 30 years ago, and its owner told me that he thought Starrett made these levels as specials for W&S. He also commented that the levels were commonplace in turret lathe shops, and rare in other machine shops.
    John, Way Cool! Thank you for this. So my guess was sorta right! I had a feeling sooner or later someone here would know.
    Cheers,

    Warren

  27. #16
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    L'Orignal, Ontario Canada
    Posts
    2,278
    Post Thanks / Like
    Likes (Given)
    2274
    Likes (Received)
    955

    Default

    I'm wondering if since Warner and Swasey were also making precision instruments like telescopes at one time perhaps they bought a standard level from Starrett and did the modifications in one of their own instrument shops before reselling them under their own label .
    There are some older threads on this forum about their telescopes and observatories if you use the forum search to look for them .
    Jim

  28. Likes John Garner, Warren liked this post
  29. #17
    Join Date
    Jan 2002
    Country
    UNITED STATES
    State/Province
    Alaska
    Posts
    82
    Post Thanks / Like
    Likes (Given)
    1242
    Likes (Received)
    42

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Warren View Post
    OK smartass, 'Cmon down from the ice laden "Final Frontier" and help me build a shed for the boring mill
    If it weren’t for global warming’s I be down an we could build a igloo with a 5 ton over head crane and 3 phase power!
    The ice floor mite be a tad slippery but be easy to move things around

  30. Likes Warren liked this post

Tags for this Thread

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •