How Does a Magnetic Dial Indicator Work for Woodworking?

How Does a Magnetic Dial Indicator Work for Woodworking?

Magnetic dial indicators are a precision measurement tool used in different woodworking projects, universally and indispensably.

This tool measures the distance between two surfaces or small amounts of component travel, such as measuring the deck’s clearance, straightness of crankshaft, etc.

A magnetic dial indicator also performs in metrology to check a part’s dimensional conformity.
In this article, we will look into the working process of a magnetic dial indicator. To learn the detailed process, we used a metrology application.

Working Process of Dial Indicator Components

Learning about the dial indicator’s different components will allow you to understand the working process of dial indicators.

Below are the main components of the dial indicators.

Needle and Graduate Dial: Minor increments are part of any measurement. These components are responsible for measuring minor increments correctly.

Needle and Clock Face: It records the main dial’s needle rotation numbers.

Plunger: This dial indicator component rotates following a vertical direction towards the subject of measurement. It extends or withdraws to measure some of the values shown in the dial.

The calibrated stem is used by a dial indicator that transfers the dial face to the easy linear movement for east reading.

Most dial faces graduate with 0.001” hash marks. As a result, indicator needles complete revolution is equal to 0.100” travel. It consists of a smaller calibrated dial, and it is attached to the initial dial face that indicates the .100” travel. Per inch, it comes with a decade mark. The benefit of this feature is, you don’t need to count the full revolutions number when your project requirement is to measure larger than .100”.

You will not get an accurate reading if the magnetic dial indicator is not mounted with more excellent stability. The measurement will be compromised if the indicator is all moved while measuring.

However, dial indicators are available with an adjustable magnetic base secured gently to a nearby surface. You can comfortably adjust the magnetic base to the dial indicator position. This way, reading the same directional movement as the measured part becomes easy for the stem. Based on the indicator position, both directions travel reading is possible with it.

How to Properly Change the Contact Point?

Dial indicator’s contact point changing process is a challenging task. You have to ensure proper guidelines are shared below. Following improper use of the dial indicator may damage the tool.

● Dial indicators come with a manufacturer wrench, and your responsibility is to use the same wrench to avoid any over tightening or loosening of the contact point. You have to be careful while loosening or removing the contact point used the manufacturer wrench, and tightening a fresh screw in the contact point.
● It is essential to use the same length contact point while replacing it.
● A long stem style indicator is necessary for long stem contact points because of the different sized threads. If you are unsure about the replaceable style, it would be best to look at the indicator case information.

Uses of Dial Indicators

Engineers, woodworkers use the best dial indicators in a wide range of projects. Some of the essential use of dial indicators are discussed below.

● When you need to ensure the alignment of a machine workplace, you can pick a dial indicator. For instance, it delivers the best result with machines like grinding, lathe, milling, etc.
● You also can use it to find out a machine tool’s spindle runout.
● A dial indicator helps a work piece to get aligned to rotate fixtures.
● Surface roughness can also be measured with a dial indicator.
● Measuring EDM’s pit depth is also beneficial to it.
● Dial indicators deliver accurate results of a surface plate’s height difference.
● At the same time, you can align 5 axis milling machines fixtures quite efficiently.
● Engineers or woodworkers use dial indicators to find grinding machines work piece precision.

What are the Advantages of Dial Indicators?

Dial indicators have many benefits, which are given below.

● They are best in delivering linear measurement.
● A dial indicator ensures a workpiece quality.
● Less tolerance and compact size are unique characteristics of dial indicators. As a result, you can use it for seamless mass production.
● The dial indicator is also useful in dimension control.


Dial indicator is a great tool that can accomplish many measuring applications effectively, like in the industrial and automotive industry settings. It is a multi-functional precision tool that is efficient enough to build a precise engine.

Do you have experience working with a dial indicator? Let us know your experience with the dial indicator in the below comment box.