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Thread: Price point for a good square

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2020
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    San Jose, CA
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    57

    Price point for a good square

    Hi Everyone,

    I've been working with a aluminum speed square, and some of my grandfathers old framing squares (which I can't imagine are still square given how many times i've personally seem them fall onto the concrete floor of our garage growing up)

    I'm a little lost on how you evaluate if a square is square or not, without a true square to reference off of. Speaking of reference squares, I should probably get one that is (really really close to) square. How much do you really have to spend to get an accurate square? The $5 square with 3 stars probably isn't what I should use as a reference, but what should I be shelling out for accuracy? A simple engineer square should probably be what I'm looking for? What are the benefits to something crazy expensive from woodpecker? These look super cool, but are probably a bit excessive? https://bridgecitytools.com/products/ts-2v2-try-square

    What are peoples go to squares? And the key to keeping them square?

    Best,
    John

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2020
    Location
    Redwood City, CA
    Posts
    119
    I've been happy with this machinist square from Groz. https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0...?ie=UTF8&psc=1

    Also a few bucks cheaper now than what I paid for it.

  3. #3
    There are a lot of options and you will get a lot of good ideas from folks here. In general, the more they cost the more accurate they are likely to be. There is a big debate here on how accurate you really need for woodworking, but here's what works for me..

    Lower cost options. If you are using home center tools, these will be an immediate upgrade for you without breaking the bank:
    * I have a set of these engineer squares from Lee Valley: LINK and use them all the time.
    * I also have a couple double squares made by PEC, that I bought as "blems" from Harry Epstein. LINK

    More expensive options:
    * Starrett makes a nice combo square for about $100. I have one.
    * You already know about Woodpeckers. Those are nice, solid tools. I have one but don't notice any significant difference in how it performs. (However, there's no doubt in my mind that it IS square and will STAY square for my lifetime.)


    This should also help you..... Google > how to check if your square is square < and several methods come up. You can start getting familar there.
    Last edited by Frederick Skelly; 11-29-2020 at 4:53 AM. Reason: Fixed bad link
    "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."
    - Sir Edmund Burke

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by John Strong View Post
    Hi Everyone,

    I've been working with a aluminum speed square, and some of my grandfathers old framing squares (which I can't imagine are still square given how many times i've personally seem them fall onto the concrete floor of our garage growing up)

    I'm a little lost on how you evaluate if a square is square or not, without a true square to reference off of. Speaking of reference squares, I should probably get one that is (really really close to) square. How much do you really have to spend to get an accurate square? The $5 square with 3 stars probably isn't what I should use as a reference, but what should I be shelling out for accuracy? A simple engineer square should probably be what I'm looking for? What are the benefits to something crazy expensive from woodpecker? These look super cool, but are probably a bit excessive? https://bridgecitytools.com/products/ts-2v2-try-square

    What are peoples go to squares? And the key to keeping them square?
    Learn how to test the square you have. Use it to scribe a line, then flip it to re-scribe what you think is the same line. If they match to your satisfaction, then you’re good.

    Assuming that you’re using a reference edge, of course.
    Last edited by Doug Dawson; 11-29-2020 at 4:55 AM.

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by Doug Dawson View Post
    Learn how to test the square you have. Use it to scribe a line, then flip it to re-scribe what you think is the same line. If they match to your satisfaction, then you’re good.

    Assuming that you’re using a reference edge, of course.
    +1. This is the method I use. It will come up when you google > how to check if your square is square <
    "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."
    - Sir Edmund Burke

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2019
    Location
    Staatsburg, NY
    Posts
    20
    And remember to check both sides of the blade. The inside of my Empire square is bang on, but the outside is not.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Nov 2012
    Location
    North Dana, Masachusetts
    Posts
    192
    My approach is to use the right square for what I'm doing.

    When I build another wood shed, I use an old rusty combination square and an expendable framing square.

    In the shop, I have Starrett squares for checking squareness of machined wood. It's expensive to set up, but getting the machines cutting accurately several times a day for 32 years has reduced the cost per use of the squares to almost nothing. If they just sat in a box, they would be costly, and a waste of money.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Oct 2013
    Location
    Northwest Indiana
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    639
    Mr. Skelly mentioned the "double square" above. I got my first, and old 4" Starrett with a rule that is barely readable, as part of a tool lot purchase. Had it for about a year before i actually used it to strike a line one day--and for me it quickly became a tool i use all the time. As have the two additional Starretts and the 2 or 3 Pec's that have also been added. I get the most use out of the 4" size, the 6" not near as often, and the 12" rarely. I mention this only because i see Double Square rarely mentioned.
    earl

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
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    South Coastal Massachusetts
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    6,500
    http://imgur.com/gallery/76TXn8V

    I follow William's approach : precision is relative to acceptable tolerances.

    I use a cheapo 4" double square from PEC and an "adjustable" 9" square made by one of our own SMC members. For verification I use a Stainless steel Shinwa carpenter's square.

    The last is really only useful for feeling the edges. (It's marked in a traditional Japanese scale.)

    *****

    Your sense of touch may be more useful in evaluating squareness than your sight. It's a subtle thing that I only recently began to trust. I'm good to feel a "ledge" about 4 thousandths of an inch.

    I like the Shinwa brand as it resists rust.

    Lee Valley is a reliable supplier of Crack for us addicts.
    https://www.leevalley.com/en-us/shop...-double-square

  10. #10
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    I was going to make the same suggestion, but you beat me to it.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    Location
    SoCal
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    20,908
    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Ruud View Post
    And remember to check both sides of the blade. The inside of my Empire square is bang on, but the outside is not.
    In the 'rough work' arena I have two inexpensive framing squares corrected for inside and outside respectively and marked as such ;-)

    I have a Starrett 12" combo that I like. Several PEC double squares for detail work. Focus on the blade treatment and how each finish will work for you in your use. A satin finish with black markings works best for me under shop lights. I will say the Groz from Rockler do not have the quality to match the price point (returned) but, Woodcraft, Lee Valley and others are OEM'd by PEC and have been high quality, reliable users. PEC badged versions are available from Harry J. Epstein Co. and others.
    "The Danish government believes that if we train 5,000 designers, and produce
    one Hans Wegner, the money is very well spent." - Ole Gjerlov-Knudsen

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Feb 2004
    Location
    Perth, Australia
    Posts
    7,789
    John, I am one of the crazy people who go weak at the knees when I see excellence in a marking tool (I just posted about such on the Hand Tool Forum!).

    A Starrett 12'/300mm combo square is probably all one needs. Add in a 6"/150mm Starrett double square.

    But who can resist (unless you look at the price) the wonder of a Chris Vester square? These are essentially machinist squares and will never lose their highly specced squareness ...



    And if you get one of these, then you must also get Chris' sliding bevel. Best in the world (no joke) ...



    Regards from Perth

    Derek

  13. #13
    If youíre using plywood (for example) make sure the edge youíre referencing is square. I was ready to throw my dads old square in the trash when I realized my track saw was cutting at a bevel. Depending on where the square lands on the bevel if will be off. Drove me nuts for a little while. Also, I found a woodpeckers knock off on Amazon thatís really nice. From South Korea, colored black. Canít remember the name, but was much cheaper.

  14. #14
    A lot of good points mentioned already. I have lots of squares that I use for different situations.

    Cheaper combo and framing squares for most job site / rougher work where the tolerances and rougher conditions donít justify bringing out the $$ squares and risking damaging them.

    Iíve worked as a timber framer as well as a woodworker / carpenter, and Iíve found a handful of vintage steel framing squares from antique markets or otherwise used and have taken the time to true them with a punch and periodically check them and re-true them as needed. They are still useful in some larger scale woodworking tasks.

    I have some engineer squares from Groz and Starrett that are very useful for machine setup mostly. Combination and double squares from Starrett. They are worth every penny and last for decades even under full time use. This is something that is worth buying once and crying once and then you know that itís right. Flat rulers from 6Ē up to about 36-48Ē are also very useful to have around. Shinwa makes an excellent 12Ē ruler for a good price.

    I know I will likely get some hate mail for this, but Iíve never seen the appeal of Woodpecker stuff. Seems vastly overpriced, gimmicky, and shiny so the YouTube / maker crowd can have something fancy to have hanging on the walls behind them in their content. Iíd take Starrett or similar all day long and twice on Sunday.

    One type of square that is probably my most used square for woodworking and also sees a lot of use in finish carpentry / fine trim work is the Veritas Precision Square from Lee Valley. I have 2 of the small ones which are 3Ēx6Ē and basically like a mini framing square. Iíve used the Large one as well from a past co-worker and itís pretty useful for the same types of things only larger scale. Iíve found it to be extremely accurate and something that is never out of my reach when Iím in the shop. Iím sure some folks know about them, but I donít see them mentioned as much as you would think.
    Last edited by Phillip Mitchell; 11-29-2020 at 11:18 AM.
    Still waters run deep.

  15. #15
    I've worked with "old timers" who just expected to have to file a new square ...square. You keep checking it by
    comparing "left profile" to "right profile". The old squares have a beefy thick corner,with arms tapering to thin. I like 'em
    and endorse 'em !......without fees !!!
    PS: talkin" framing squares only,not sliders !
    Last edited by Mel Fulks; 11-29-2020 at 2:30 PM.

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