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Highlighting Index Lines

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Len Morris 218/10/2020 10:44:34
57 forum posts
29 photos

Hi Everybody,

What is the best method of highlighting index marks on lathe dials, steel rules etc?

Have tried paint, felt tip pens and Typex but without much success.

Thanks and regards.


Dave Wootton18/10/2020 12:18:54
290 forum posts
65 photos

Hi Len

I used something called clockmakers dial wax I got from ebay, not cheap but it leaves a very clear mark in the dial and has lasted really well, seems unaffected by oil or coolant.

I used boot polish and black wax crayon before that, it works but doesn't last very long.


Martin Kyte18/10/2020 12:48:20
2725 forum posts
48 photos

For micrometer dials you can use a steel blacking solution such as Black-it after engraving and then take a fine skim of the surface to remove all but the engraved bits.

regards Martin


Andrew Entwistle18/10/2020 13:00:25
106 forum posts
200 photos

+1 for clockmaker's dial wax. I use a magic sponge (melamine) to remove excess wax without damaging even plastic surfaces.

Clive Foster18/10/2020 13:03:05
3104 forum posts
107 photos

Key to success seems to be getting things absolutely clean right down to the bottom of the line and having sufficient depth of line to work with.

Rules in particular seem to pick up a surprising amount of crud over the years which can be hard to shift. Job for a retired toothbrush and decent solvent I've found. But check the handle in the solvent first. Way back I had one try to dissolve!

Never found anything that worked on the shallow lines found on some relatively modern equipment. Martins comment about black-it and skim makes me wonder if thats the sort of process used on modern shallow lines. The dials on my S&B 1024 show no evidene of actually being etched in the first place. Just thin black lines.


Edited By Clive Foster on 18/10/2020 13:07:25

Edited By Clive Foster on 18/10/2020 13:07:50

Neil Wyatt18/10/2020 14:30:14
18992 forum posts
734 photos
80 articles

I read an article once that recommended oily crud as the easiest solution.

I use a magic marker/sharpie or black enamelk paint followed by a quick wipe over with s cloth and a suitable solvent.


John Purdy18/10/2020 18:42:49
337 forum posts
198 photos


I do the same as Martin, use steel blackening liquid, in my case cold gun black. After scribing the lines and punching the numbers I use a fine file (#6 cut) to remove most of the raised material then after a good cleaning with a solvent use the gun black, working it well into the depressions of the lines and numerals. Once satisfied I use the file with the part rotating in the lathe to remove the remaining raised material and the black on the smooth surfaces. I initial tried skimming the surface as Martin does, but found invariably some of the lines or numbers disappeared, so now just use the file and find it works better. I have done many this way and find they hold up very well. dscn3394.jpg

Edited By John Purdy on 18/10/2020 18:44:40

Len Morris 218/10/2020 19:42:59
57 forum posts
29 photos

Some excellent advice there so thanks to Everybody. I like the idea of clockmaker's dial wax. Found it on E-bay and the shop selling it is within 5 miles of my house!

I also like the idea of using Black-it. Amazingly I have a new kit on hand but never thought about using it for this application!

Being pragmatic I think oily crud works well and is probably what most of us live with on a daily basis but on a new machine restoration it's nice to start with fresh dials.

Lots of things to try



Tim Stevens19/10/2020 17:23:26
1587 forum posts

As an apprentice I was amazed by a respected (much) older colleague, using a steel rule which was so well used that no markings were visible. I asked how he managed without marks, and was told 'Oh, that's easy, I just remember where they were'.


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