I've owned one of these for several years and couldn't recommend it more. It always works like a champ with the lights on or off: http://www.musicdirect.com/p-7206-kab-speedstrobe.aspx
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What you need, in order to read a strobe disc, is a light source that is flickering to the 60 hz frequency of the power line. I don't know what kind of bulb you have in your light source, but, you should try a different kind of light. Incandescent bulbs do flicker enough to make the strobe markings visible (the image will look a bit hazy, but, you should see a faint pattern of still or slowly rotating lines. Flourescent bulbs tend to be better at bringing out the pattern. A hard time seeing the pattern is more an issue of lighting than problems with the strobe disc itself.
Flourescent light or any multi cell LED light won't work.
You need single-source light. If you're using those modern energy saving lights, replace them for the time being with regular bulb light.
The strobe also should have a certain dgree of glare so the printed out versions less likely will show you anything.
Timing light from Autozone is available to loan for free(loan a tool program when you first purchase it for the full price and than return with all money back) may do the trick where the blinking frequency is fully adjustable.
Thanks a bunch. Spoke to Kevin yesterday, hell of a nice guy btw. Indeed, he mentioned the best inexpensive route would be the Flourescent. His light, which he refers to as an illuminator, will also work. Not sure if I should have referred to the KAB light as being incandescent on my post.
Will try the Flourescent first. thxs-Don