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depends on a lot of things........

for my engines I put clay strips on the piston and put the head on with no head gasket, considering whether or not the lifters have ever been pumped up to normal range

I always chuckle buying playdoh...an adult buying it!
 

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I would recommend always using plasti-gauge to check prior to final engine assembly. Isky likes to bring the valves within 1/1000" (iirr) of the piston which is very close while others like a lot more clearance. depends on the cam mfg.
 
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