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Thread: Starrett adjustable square, or who... ?

  1. #1

    Question Starrett adjustable square, or who... ?

    Everning everyone,

    I am attending a traditional woodworking class at MASW right after Labor Day, and one of the tools mentioned is a Starrett square.

    I thought about buying the adjustable combination version to have more flexibility in my measuring/marking tool purchase. Nice, used ones can be had online (eBay for example).

    Are there other comparable manufacturers out there? Brown & Sharpe? Union? Are they all the same? Garrett Hack mentioned Starrett as the best brand to buy, in terms of accuracy. I know machinest quality non-adjustable squares can be had for good prices at LV, so that the other option.

    BTW, my wife bought my a $75 gift certificate to Lee Valley, so I will get that very nice $99 LA block plane with the adjustable mouth. Travelling to Ottawa the week of August 22nd. First time in 5 years to the original store! Sweet...
    Marc
    NWA Woodworker-Tech

  2. #2
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    Marc, for whatever it's worth, I followed the advice of a retired machinist friend of mine when I was looking at the same type of item(s). He advised against the online auction joint, for two reasons: 1) Often, pricing comes close to new ones. 2) No matter how nice it may look, you just never know how many times it may have hit the ground or just got carelessly tossed on some metal bench. I'd look for new. The Starrett is the purported "Cadillac", though I know the the B&S units are a comparable match. BTW, I did pick up the 12" Starrett combination square. Spot on and I use it regularly now for marking and setting up machines and or jigs.
    Cheers,
    John K. Miliunas

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  3. #3
    Marc,

    I just received this from Lee Valley about a week ago after wrestling (I have small hands) with a 12" Starrett Combo for a long time:


    Don't get me wrong, I love my Starrett, but I find this much easier to handle and it just feels better while using. And for $29.95, you can't beat it!

    Good luck,
    -joe
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  4. #4
    Join Date
    Aug 2003
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    The 18" blade on the Starrett square is very nice for larger work. I imagine the 24" would be really nice also. When I can get out the workshop, I either use the 18" or 4 to 6 inch squares. The 12" doesn't get use much.
    Old age can be better than the alternative.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Joe Unni
    Marc,

    I just received this from Lee Valley about a week ago after wrestling (I have small hands) with a 12" Starrett Combo for a long time:


    Don't get me wrong, I love my Starrett, but I find this much easier to handle and it just feels better while using. And for $29.95, you can't beat it!
    Joe, I have the same format from Starrett...it came in "combination" with the combination square when I bought. (slightly used from a now-closed ReTool store) I use mine a lot for layout work as well as depth measuring with another attachment. It doesn't fully replace the 12" combo, but gets a LOT of use in my shop.
    --

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  6. #6
    Both Brown & Sharp and Starrett are top of the line squares and almost exactly equal in quality and accuracy. This follows through for almost all of their measuring tools and gear. These two companies have been competing against each other head to head for over 130 years. A slightly less expensive brand of equally high quality is SPI which you can buy through MSC Industrial Supply and is often on sale on both their website and in their monthly fliers. To increase longevity make sure you spend the extra money and get the set with BOTH the blade and the head hardened. It's worth the few extra bucks.

    In my personal arsenal I have a Lee Valley/Veritas 4" double square, a 4" Starrett combo square, a 6" Starrett combo square, and a 12" SPI combo square. All are useful at different times and in different situations. Measuring tools are not a good place to try and save money. Quality will last several lifetimes if cared for properly. My 4" and 6" Starretts were bought used at auction and are over 75 years old.
    Dave Anderson
    Chester Toolworks LLC
    Chester, NH

  7. #7
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    I can't agree with Dave A more. I spent some money early on, buying cheaper squares. Big mistake. I was constantly wondering why things didn't fit right or cuts looked "off". Spend the money. Worth every penny. I have the same "mini" square as you Joe and I love the thing ! I can't believe how I lived without it for so long. Funny thing is square is square. Which is either to say it's square or it's not. doesn't matter who makes the square, 90deg isn't a few mils sharper at Starret _vs_ lee valley. so sometimes you find a gem in the coal mine so to speak, when browsing cheaper squares. but dependable quality time after time comes from these folks.

    Has anyone tried the squares from Incra ?
    Last edited by Keith Christopher; 08-11-2005 at 10:11 AM.
    "The element of competition has never worried me, because from the start, I suppose I realized wood contains so much inspiration and beauty and rhythm that if used properly it would result in an individual and unique object." - James Krenov


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  8. #8
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    I have three vintage Starretts - 4" and 12" combos and a 6" double square - and they are all just fantastic, as per their reputation. I have owned other brands as well.

    What one must keep in mind when buying an adjustable square is not simply their ability to be square. What is so special about Starrett is their ergonomics. The adjusting nut, for example, moves easily on a spring and is quite unique in its ability here. The mechanicals are solid (thicker than most/all). The whole mechanism is taut yet slides effortlessly. Which is more than can be said for 90% of the competition.

    You buy Starrett as much for their quality as for their accuracy. That is why they last forever.

    Regards from Perth

    Derek

  9. #9
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    While they aren't adjustable, I have a set of Mitutoyo squares I picked up a few years ago when it was on sale from MSC.

    Something like this:
    http://www1.mscdirect.com/CGI/NNSRIT...&PMT4NO=706153


    I picked them up for ~$30 I believe and they are quote accurate.

    Anyway, food for thought if you can't stomach the Starrett prices...

    Cheers,
    -Mike

  10. #10
    Mike Weaver makes a good point. The non-adjustable engineers squares from Mitutoyo are excellent. There is a major caveat here though. Not all brands of engineers squares are of the same quality. Many of the cheaper house brands by Woodcraft, MSC, Rockler, and most of the other mail order houses either do not list their tolerance or reference ANSI standards or a British standard without telling you the requirements of the standard. The standards they cavalierly mention are incredibly broad and almost worthless if you want real accuracy. I call it misleading by omission.


    Again we're back to the same type of supplier if we want the really accurate stuff; Brown & Sharp, Starrett, and Mitutoyo. All of these folks publish and list their level of accuracy. It is most typically .001" of total runout over the length of a 4" or 6" blade. Personally I try and keep my engineers squares for use only as a reference to check the accuracy of other tools. They are far too liable to get dinged, dropped, or otherwise damaged if put into daily use. Once this happens, unless you have another square of known accuracy, you now have a tool of suspect accuracy. In a drawer of my mechanics type rolloing tool chest in my shop I keep all of my reference measuring tools which are used ONLY to check other tools for accuracy. These include 1 set of dial calipers, a 24" precision straightedge, a 4" Starrett engineers square, and a magnetic dial indicator stand with assorted dial and test indicators and changeable tips. This may sound anal, but it is a great way to insure that your arsenal of daily use measuring tools remain accurate. It also unfortunately means that when there is the inevitable screwup, you have only yourself to blame and not the tool.
    Dave Anderson
    Chester Toolworks LLC
    Chester, NH

  11. #11
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    Nov 2004
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    Winterville NC
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    Bargains

    I own Starret 4" double, 12" combination set , 6" combinatiion and 6" B&S 6" combination and center head all which are excellent including my grandfather's combinatiion. I also pick up either brand on sale particularly engineering squares and lots of calipers, in and out, dividers and other stuff. What you have to watch in my legindary stupidity when I bought a 6" scale (Starrett) that was in tenths, try that for your woodwork. So another note of praise to the good stuff but watch the tenths uness you have that desire. Harry

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Anderson NH
    Mike Weaver makes a good point. The non-adjustable engineers squares from Mitutoyo are excellent. There is a major caveat here though. Not all brands of engineers squares are of the same quality. Many of the cheaper house brands by Woodcraft, MSC, Rockler, and most of the other mail order houses either do not list their tolerance or reference ANSI standards or a British standard without telling you the requirements of the standard. The standards they cavalierly mention are incredibly broad and almost worthless if you want real accuracy. I call it misleading by omission.
    <snip great info>
    Dave,
    Thanks for fleshing out my thoughts. I couldn't agree more.
    In practice, I have a Starrett combination square I use a lot, and the engineers squares are for machine (neander-machines of course ) setup.
    And yes, you make excellent points - check the square's "lineage" carefully and don't drop it.

    Cheers,
    -Mike

  13. #13
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    Mark

    I have the smaller Starrett and the 24" Builders Combination. They are always handy - and always accurate.
    Michael in San Jose
    Non confundar in aeternam

  14. I notice no one mentions lufkin -- a brand I used in WWII in my dad's defense shop.
    Have they gone bad?

    Walt

  15. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by To increase longevity make sure you spend the extra money and get the set with [b
    BOTH [/b]the blade and the head hardened. It's worth the few extra bucks.
    Hmm - I know the Lee Valley's price for a 4 piece standard combination set is pretty nice at $142... is the hardened version an important consideration?

    I thought the cast iron version would be fine. Or is it simply because the hardened version is more resistant to abrasives, or it can better sustain an accidental drop?

    I noticed the referenced MSC Industrial Supply site has the hardened versions with the reversible protractor head for $187. That's with the 4R graduations - 16R seems to be overkill. That seems to be a pretty good price...

    Which brings me to another point - is the reversible protractor actually useful? Opinions?
    Marc
    NWA Woodworker-Tech

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