Reading Indented Info
by Stovebolters Motorheads and assembled by Woogeroo
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         So there you are, stuck upside down in your engine bay, flashlight in your mouth, pencil in your nose, paper in your back pocket and both hands trying to keep yourself from getting impaled on the breather tube. You're stuck and you can't even call to your spouse for help. Good Job!! Why this self-induced waterboarding torture (no water, but the effect is similar....) Silly! You saw the great VIN Buster on The Stovebolt Page, or the Casting Number breakdown on the Inliners' site and you just have to get that number off the block. Only after 60 million years of getting plastered with prehistoric goo..... it's IMPOSSIBLE TO READ!!!! Never fear -- Woogeroo posted this in the forums in September 2005, solicting "what's your trick for reading indented part numbers?" He offered his and a host of others joined in. The Woog did the "wrap up" and now we've got this nice tidy tech tip. (Too bad I can't write indented ... that would be a great effect). Save your pride! And your back! Try these...

Tricks and Tips for reading indented part numbers

         # 1 Use some Bon Ami (white dishwashing powder scrubbing stuff) or another brand and sprinkle some onto the side of the part with the number that you need to read. Scrub it some and rinse it out good, get the gunk off of it to get at the number. Then you can sprinkle some more of the white powder on there, then wipe across with a rag or your finger, use your discretion, then the Bon Ami fills in the indented space. The white powder against the rusted part or whatever the background is, shows up better and makes it easier to read.

         # 2 Do a relief rub, like people do with old Tombstones. Take some paper, something kinda of thin, and a crayon. Lay the paper against the part number and lightly scribble back and forth across the paper. The part number should show up with the crayon marking around it.

         # 3 Using chalk to fill in the part number. Rub chalk into the timing marks or part number and wipe off the excess so the degree marks/numbers will show up. They show up real well when using the timing light. This method works good for part numbers and maximum drum widths on old rusty brake drums, etc.

         # 4 Using a digital camera and a digital image manipulation/editing program, you can take a picture of the part number with a digital camera. Stick it on your computer and then blow up the picture with software to the size you want. Another trick for photographing ID numbers in hard-to-reach places is to use an off-camera flash on your camera (either with a cord, or a pricy remote trigger). That way you can light the number from the side, and that makes the number stand out due to the shadows.

         # 5 Liquid paints or other coatings. A Type – o fluid such as liquid paper or typex. It is the same as chalking it, but it lasts a bit longer. You can use white paint for the numbers

         # 6 Sanding the part, will sometimes work well too. This creates a shiny surface with rusty numbers. The contrast helps you be able to better read the numbers.

         # 7 You can spit on the part number, and wipe it with your finger (use discretion). This does not always work, especially on real rusty and dirty parts, but sometimes it works.

         # 8 A strong acid will eat away the steel around the numbers faster than the numbers it self, where the steel is a bit more dense from the punch. Clean the entire part very well after trying this, as the acid will keep eating the metal away and you might loose that part.

         # 9 Keeping the part numbers visible. To keep them visible, like a frame number, that has to be checked for yearly inspection (in some places) you can fill in the number with paint and cover it with some layers of “varnish” or a clear coat of some kind.

soapstone         # 10 You can spray the numbers by holding a flashlight from an angle while simultaneously spraying the area with Gunk. The numbers will stand out. When you stop spraying, you likely will not be able to see the numbers anymore. This method was used with success on reading the block numbers on an engine. Writers note: Gunk is a brand name of greasy parts and hands cleaning stuff, which comes in sprays, gels and creams; check your parts store.

         # 11 You can rub welders soap stone (it's predominently talc, according to Wikopedia) across casting numbers, helps to see see the numbers. Lowe's, Home Depot, National Welders or someplace like Tractor Supply or any metal working shop and they have them. Drew "66stepside" Waller says "Around here we refer to them as soap pencils. They are either round or flat in a metal case. Here is a link to a soapstone." (Wow! On the National Welder's Supply site, the round white one is only 10 cents!)

The Stovebolt Gang

       Be sure to check out our extensive Forums discussions -- from General Truck talk, Electrical Bay, Big Bolts, Panels and Burbs, Engine and Driveline, Paint and Body, Interiors, Tool Chest -- The Stovebolt Collective can help in your quest and walk you through the mire and magic of working with old iron. ~~ Editor.  

v. February 2007

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