By Jim Tapp (retired)
Originally published in Talkin' Tech, May 2008
Back when I was teaching at Riverland Community College (Austin, Minnesota) my students found that one of the easiest ways to get me steamed was to not take care of their measuring tools. A machinist is only as good as his tools and that extends to his (or her) measuring tools. Here are a few guidelines that every competent machinist should practice:
- The precision machinists level comes equipped with a vial cover. Use it. The glass vials are VERY fragile so you need to make an effort to protect it. Remember, even a small crack will allow the alcohol inside to evaporate over time. When the level is not in use, be sure you have the cover closed. You'll also want to keep it stored safely where a tool won't accidently get dropped on it or it won't get knocked to the floor.
- Use the case that comes with your micrometers to protect them from damage. I don't know how many times I've seen micrometers tossed into toolboxes with no protection, only to hear complaints about their readings being inaccurate or impossible to read. Well, duh.
- A micrometer is NOT a C-Clamp. It is a precision measuring instrument
and should never (let me say that again, NEVER) be used to hold parts together for tack welding or anything else.
- Keep your micrometers, dial bore gauges, calipers; okay, keep all of your measuring tools clean and well lubricated. The only oil that you want to see on your measuring tool is the oil that YOU put there for lubrication. Honing oil or any other solution can carry dust and debris with it that can get into the gauges and interfere with accuracy.
I'm sure I could keep going, but you get my drift. Machinist's measuring tools are an investment, and some of them carry a hefty price tag. Take care of them so you don't need to replace them, or worse yet, you won't need to replace a head or block that you ruined because of inaccurate measurements resulting from poor care of your tools.