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Great Innovations, But Not Perfect

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Review by jayseedub posted 08-14-2021 07:36 PM 1510 views 0 times favorited 15 comments Add to Favorites Watch
Great Innovations, But Not Perfect No-picture-s No-picture-s Click the pictures to enlarge them

I caught a bit of the Red-Thing bug when I got some of Woodpeckers’ tools at a garage sale—for half retail price since they were used. I was inspired to consider other Woodpeckers tools, and the In-Dexable combination square seemed to offer enough innovation in it that I plunked down the $170 (gulp) and bought the regular (non-XL) 12” version.

(I also bought a spare 6” blade—but I wish I hadn’t. The head of the combination square is just too big (it’s normal-sized) for such a short blade, so I’ll just use the 6” one on its own I think.)

Manufacturing fit and finish on the combination square is superb. The engraved scales and numbers are lighter than I’d like—I’d prefer more contrast and visibility—but it’s fine. They say they’re “crisp and dark” but I’d say they’re crisp and not-dark.

The blade is wider (1-1/2”) than most combination squares, but I don’t know if that’s good or bad—just something to consider if you’re buying one. It’s also actually 12-3/8” long. Oddly, the blade feels thinner because it’s wider (weird, right?) but it is 2.25 mm—just like my “real” combination square!
The adjustment knob is beefy, perfectly grippy, fast, and comfortable between the fingers. The barrel is rounded on the edges—a great detail.

Its accuracy is perfect for woodworking and as good as any other square I own, engineer’s or otherwise.

The two features that really make this square unique are the In-Dexable pin which definitively registers the head at one-whole-inch increments and the slide-out shoulder on the head.

The slide-out shoulder is perfect. It’s almost a rubberized-gasket feeling to slide it out and back—stiff, but not too stiff. Intentional. The toothing on the shoulder, which your thumb pushes against—is aggressively toothed and your thumb won’t slip off it… ever. It’s a nice feature to have so that you don’t have to hold the square perpendicular to your work and is helpful.

The In-Dexable pin is… almost worthless and actually distracting. [8/16/21—see update in my comment below regarding this] It’s almost making me want to return it. When the head is loosened the pin continues to stick out just enough that it slides/scratches across the blade, and ever-so-slightly catches on it every whole-inch. As you zoom up and down it click-clickety-clicks every whole inch. It’s not a full-on-grab (most of the time), mind you, but it’s a clickety-hiccup sometimes that just detracts from the smoothness. And sometimes it does grab one of the index holes when you don’t want it to—and that’s just not right.
It seems like the In-Dexable pin should fully retract with a spring until you WANT to use it. How lovely it’d be if it had some of the same resistance that the slide-out shoulder had, if that was possible. There—by intention—when you WANT/NEED to use it, but totally out of the way when you don’t. It does seem like there’s a spring in there, but it’s the world’s weakest spring.

One other odd thing is this: I’m designing some new storage of my tool wall and using magnets for a variety of purposes. The stainless steel blade is almost non-magnetic (I’ve emailed Woodpeckers to ask about this). Yes, the blade is full of holes and is thinner than most of the other combination squares—but my strongest magnets barely stick to it. They stick, but barely. [8/16/21—Woodpeckers says this to me in response to my inquiry: “We use 301 stainless for these blades. 301 has a high nickel content and is considered austenitic (non magnetic) in its annealed state. It can become magnetic through a cold working process that we do not use.”]

My order came with a metal bracket for wall-mounting it—something I didn’t expect and was a nice surprise.

Everyone reading this is going to comment about Starrett squares—I know—I’ve been here long enough. Good on you. I bought this one, and I’m quite happy with it except for those quibbles above. Maybe I got a bum-one, maybe my complaints won’t be yours—but I thought I’d share my experience with a $170 combination square purchase, and hope it helps you as you consider your needs!

[10/12/21 Update: After using this for a number of weeks I’ve really found that the laser-etched numbers reflect the light and aren’t as dark as I need them to be. I emailed Woodpeckers and they sent me a replacement ruler with slightly darker numbers/lines. Kudos to them for great service—though I’d still like the etchings even darker.]




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jayseedub

221 posts in 3213 days



15 comments so far

View BigAl98's profile

BigAl98

287 posts in 4287 days


#1 posted 08-14-2021 08:26 PM

The value part (ie:value to price ratio) is high, but the price part is higher yet. Doesn’t add up for me. Starrett (at least the pre 2020’s) are still the best for me!

-- Al,Midwest -To thine own self be true

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jayseedub

221 posts in 3213 days


#2 posted 08-14-2021 08:37 PM

Thanks BigAl98—first comment, and as predicted in my review, Starrett has now been brought up and accounted for!

:-)

View ChuckV's profile

ChuckV

3439 posts in 4775 days


#3 posted 08-14-2021 11:19 PM

It sounds like the worst part for you is the indexing feature. Could you return this and get one without indexing? (I know nothing about these products, so this might be a stupid suggestion!)

-- "Join the chorus if you can. It'll make of you an honest man." - I. Anderson

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HokieKen

19422 posts in 2387 days


#4 posted 08-16-2021 01:25 PM

Thanks for the review. Have you contacted WP about the issue with the index pin? I just wonder if it’s designed to behave the way it is for you or if maybe you got a lemon? If there is supposed to be a spring or other retainer in there that isn’t working, I feel sure they would rectify it for you.

-- I collect hobbies. There is no sense in limiting yourself (Don W) - - - - - - - - Kenny in SW VA

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jayseedub

221 posts in 3213 days


#5 posted 08-16-2021 02:19 PM

So I’ve done some more work to diagnose the actual problem of the catching/grabbing In-Dex Pin. It’s actually not the pin—that works perfectly. It’s the moon-shaped clamp (that rides in the blade’s groove and secures things when locked down). Most combination squares don’t have holes in that groove every inch, so that clamp-part just glides along the groove. In this square there ARE holes every inch, and the doo-hickey does skip across them and often grab them.

That part needs improvement—it’s not pleasurable to constantly wonder if your $170 square is going to snag, get caught, hiccup, jerk, stop—or what.

View Andre's profile

Andre

4750 posts in 3054 days


#6 posted 08-21-2021 04:16 PM

My order came with a metal bracket for wall-mounting it—something I didn’t expect and was a nice surprise.

LOL! That was a clue, you are supposed to hang it on the wall and “Just look at it” I am also in the Starrett club, but have a I-gauge as a bench square, as well as a bunch oh 2” to 4” ones kicking around, the 2 1/2” Lufkin gets the most use:)

-- Lifting one end of the plank.

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Madmark2

3104 posts in 1836 days


#7 posted 08-21-2021 04:29 PM


Incra marking square ~$30

-- The hump with the stump and the pump!

View MrRon's profile

MrRon

6188 posts in 4492 days


#8 posted 08-24-2021 12:08 AM




Incra marking square ~$30

- Madmark2


The problem with the Incra marking square is; you have to use 2 hands to use it. If you use the pencil lead (.5mm) to scribe a line, the lead breaks and also when scribing, the head of the square can “pivot” away from the straight edge.

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Madmark2

3104 posts in 1836 days


#9 posted 08-24-2021 01:08 AM

Don’t you use both hands with a regular square? One to hold the square, the other the pencil? The T-square doesn’t pivot any more than a regular square.

The trick with the .5 mm lead is to go with the grain. Clicking the end of a mech pencil is easier than using a sharpener you can also use a marking knife.

You can set a measure and slide it giving a perfectly straight and parallel lines in 1/64” increments (or .25 mm for the metric crowd.) It even has a scale on the end so you can set it on edge to measure cutter height.

-- The hump with the stump and the pump!

View Drew's profile

Drew

423 posts in 4348 days


#10 posted 08-26-2021 09:08 PM

I have the Joiners version of this square (in a 6”) and very much like it. I also have a 12” Starrett (and a 4”) that I’ve had for 15+ years. My Woodpeckers 642 is by far my most used square. Well, I might actually use my 1812 more.

Starretts are as good as it gets, but that doesn’t mean that Woodpeckers are not damn good too!

-- TruCraftFurniture.com

View jonah's profile

jonah

2226 posts in 4547 days


#11 posted 08-27-2021 02:03 PM

I still do not understand the value proposition for just about every WP tool.

You can get a top quality combo or double square for about a fifth the cost of this thing (cosmetic blemish PEC tools). This thing isn’t more square than those. Hell, a $4 speed square is just as square as this thing.

I like that they’re thinking about new features. I just can’t ever imagine spending two hundred bucks for indexing and a shoulder pin.

View jayseedub's profile

jayseedub

221 posts in 3213 days


#12 posted 08-27-2021 02:15 PM

@jonah—you’re largely right. I have a cosmetic blemish PEC combo square—and I’ve come to realize/understand that many of our purchases as hobbyists aren’t justified/justifiable by cost alone. My friend has a mega-sports-car—it’s his hobby—but none of its features is worth $200K to me, but it’s his hobby.

I did think that the indexing feature on the WP square would be worth something to me—but it isn’t—and it’s a cautionary tale to be told here that it ends up actually causing me frustration.

I really do like the fit/finish of the rest of it, and I can see myself using it more than my PEC square, actually. The Woodpeckers really FEELS better in the hand—but that’s not worth $200 either.

View Drew's profile

Drew

423 posts in 4348 days


#13 posted 08-27-2021 08:17 PM

It’s only a few bucks more than a Starrett.

To me a quality square is worth the money. I find a quality tool is almost always worth the extra money. Except Festool! Almost never worth the premium price!

-- TruCraftFurniture.com

View MrRon's profile

MrRon

6188 posts in 4492 days


#14 posted 09-06-2021 05:56 PM

I would suspect that most woodworkers who bought Woodpecker squares never heard of Starrett or Brown and Sharpe or PEC. WP’s are over priced compared to precision tools sold as such for machinists. What I really don’t like about WP tools is they make parts from aluminum. IT is too soft to use for a precision tool and can get damaged easily.

View jayseedub's profile

jayseedub

221 posts in 3213 days


#15 posted 09-06-2021 06:46 PM

@MrRon—I don’t know what people have heard of or not, but I’d guess that anyone laying down $150+ for a square has done some research and knows at least one of those names (probably Starrett).

Regardless, I got the combo square with the stainless steel rule for the durability and share your concern about the limitations of aluminum. I’ve dropped one of my steel squared and it dented too—so disasters will happen to anything.

I will say that I actually do like the functionality AND feel of the aluminum head over my high-end combo square made of steel. It feels better, more comfortable, actually is smoother, and it’s a little bulkier (in a good way, for me) than the steel.

Hard to quantify, but I do actually like that part better than steel.

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