Quality of Federal Dial & Test Indicators?
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  1. #1
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    Default Quality of Federal Dial & Test Indicators?

    Over the weekend I stopped at an equipment dealer in search of some 316 and 6061 flat stock. While I was there the owner approached me and said he had some measuring instruments I might be interested in. He had some Starrett inside mics, a Scherr Tumico bore gauge and a couple V blocks that interested me. I made him an offer and he accepted.

    When I started collecting the tools He also showed me a dozen or so Federal dial indicators and a test indicator. I have all the indicators I needed so I told him I didn't need any more. He remembered I had bought some Federal indicators from him years ago so he threw 5 of them in telling me if nothing else I could use them for parts.

    When I got home I looked them over and 4 of the 5 work well, are accurate, and repeatable. They need a little cleanup but other than that seem to be in good condition. Out of curiosity I wondered what they would sell for. I went to the usual places like eBay and Craigslist and found they don't sell for much compared to Mitutoyo, Starrett, B&S and other more popular brands. In fact most places are all but giving them away by comparison.

    This brings me to my question as to the quality of Federal indicators compared to the other brands mentioned. Are they really that much lower quality and that much less desirable that there is little or no market for them? Or are the other brands just that much more recognizable that they command higher prices?

    For the record I have no intention of trying to sell them. For the foreseeable future they will set in a drawer with a number of other indicators that rarely get used. Should I need a part for one currently in service I'll see if any of them have anything worth salvaging.

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    I have one ancient L.S.S. left over from the sixties apprenticeship. Every thing else is Federal - and not one of them came up short on me in close to fifty years of having them and using them

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    I have a bunch and always thought they were excellent. I think back in the day 40's thru 60's, they were equal to Starrett and Brown and Sharpe, just didn't have the same name recognition.

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    I picked up several last year on ebay, some new in the box, all super cheap compared to the more popular names, all work just fine.

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    Brand recognition, in a nutshell. I have a hslf dozen or so in various sizes and ranges, Imperial and metric, never a problem with calibration. All are AGD style and made prior to their merger with Mahr. The only drawback I had with Federal was with the test indicators because the dovetails were not compatible with B&S or Interapid.

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    Quote Originally Posted by johnb53405 View Post
    Brand recognition, in a nutshell. I have a hslf dozen or so in various sizes and ranges, Imperial and metric, never a problem with calibration. All are AGD style and made prior to their merger with Mahr. The only drawback I had with Federal was with the test indicators because the dovetails were not compatible with B&S or Interapid.
    I have both dial and test in 0.001, 0.0005, and 3 in 0.0001 All have not let me down either.
    I don't use them necessarily to measure, I only use them to compare.

    my dovetails are compatible with my B&S, and best test .. so apparently there are different versions of things out there.

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    If you can twist the lense without difficulty then your Federal is better than Teclock.

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    I have a few. prolly late 80's or so, work great. Before they were Federal-Mahr...

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    Quote Originally Posted by rons View Post
    If you can twist the lense without difficulty then your Federal is better than Teclock.
    That's a fairly low bar. Federals are a LOT better than that.

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    My all time favorite Federal is this good size ( 3" OD ? ) example that has .400" travel and is a "tenth" indicator

    For actual photos instead of Photo Bucket silliness, see Post #10

    Setting Lathe Compound For Tapers

    have fun

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    long island indicator mocks them. calls them junk and soldered together or with glue and tape. maybe
    they are just harder than most to repair........ i have a few. they are ok....certainly on par with starett
    or other overpriced tools. PEC or teclock are a better value when new, but federal can be had for cheap ,used.
    same with helios... nobody knows the brand.

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    I noticed that with LI indicator service too, they say Federal are junk and won't work on them.

    I say that's hooey. I got about a dozen or so in a tool box that I think belonged to a grinder hand. They had a lot of coolant residue on them and a sticky action. After opening one up for cleaning, which I must say seemed decently made on the inside, I would up just cleaning the outside and sticky stems on the rest.

    A few drops of acetone or a squirt of electronics cleaning spray on the stem cleaned out the sticky stuff and most of them work just fine. They have a nice smooth action and are comparable Starret or B&S.

    I also have a three inch size tenths indicator and it will drive you crazy since a hundred thousand's movement is visible on the dial.

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    Quote Originally Posted by neilho View Post
    That's a fairly low bar. Federals are a LOT better than that.
    Can't help it. If they can steal the election then I will lower the bar.

    I've got two TecLocks and trying turn the outside dial/lense is like trying to engage a clutch for shifting gears. Plus specks of dirt and oil
    travel onto the dial face by mysterious paths.

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    Quote Originally Posted by rons View Post
    Can't help it. If they can steal the election then I will lower the bar.

    I've got two TecLocks and trying turn the outside dial/lense is like trying to engage a clutch for shifting gears. Plus specks of dirt and oil
    travel onto the dial face by mysterious paths.
    ah, a stupid person who still believes the election was stolen... you had to take this thread sideways... I've been trying to keep off it myself, but if you want to turn it ugly... then fu retard.

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    Quote Originally Posted by tnmgcarbide View Post
    long island indicator mocks them. calls them junk and soldered together or with glue and tape. maybe
    they are just harder than most to repair........ i have a few. they are ok....certainly on par with starett
    or other overpriced tools. PEC or teclock are a better value when new, but federal can be had for cheap ,used.
    same with helios... nobody knows the brand.
    I noticed that as well. Today I took the backs of all of them to see how everything looked. No solder any place and several had jewels in the frame at the gear anchor points. All except 1 are working well. I cleaned them up and will put in the drawer with all the "in service" indicators. The one that doesn't function had been dropped. The probe was broken and bent the main shaft. I'll use it for parts.

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    I have used Federal dials and thought that they were as good as many others.

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    I bought a couple used federals in the early 90's. Expect they were a good ten years old then. Still working fine. Otoh, been thru 2 interapids since early 2000's. I gave up on them

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    Yes, I think they primarily suffer from lower name recognition. I have an old Federal and it works just fine. Only thing is the crystal is yellow and scratched. It checks better than +/- 0.001" over it's whole 1" range.

    I have to say this about DIs; I have a collection of at least a dozen, probably more. Some I purchased new and others were used. Some are top, name brands and some are inexpensive imports. The only one I have had any trouble with is a Mahr Millimess where the grease/oil dried up and so the needle was slow to start working. But after it started working, it was fine until it was unused for a week or so. I have never had a DI or DTI fail other than by my own carelessness and that was only one instance.

    I do not ever test a DTI for accuracy due to the cosine error that is built in to them. Calibration would make zero sense. They either work or not. All of mine do. But every DI that I have tested, name brand and imports, has tested over it's entire range well within the distance represented by a single division on their scale. That means that my 2" import DI, which reads in thousandths, is accurate to +/-0.001" over that full, two inch range.

    Anyway, as far as I am concerned, Federal is or at least was a good quality DI.



    Quote Originally Posted by daryl bane View Post
    I have a bunch and always thought they were excellent. I think back in the day 40's thru 60's, they were equal to Starrett and Brown and Sharpe, just didn't have the same name recognition.

  22. #19
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    I think that Federal is one of those manufacturers that concentrated on selling direct to large manufacturers instead of through jobbers and dealers. Don't remember ever seeing them advertised in but a few dealers catalogs over the years. They are definatly not junk. I like them almost as good as my Mit's. Pricewise and rough use around the shop and the fact you won't cry if you drop one Tecloc can't be beat.

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    they came as .000005 with moore jig boring machines and tool grinders and such. super delicate movements.


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