Not perfect, but good features

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Review by Tedstor posted 05-20-2011 10:20 AM 2752 views 0 times favorited 1 comment Add to Favorites Watch
Not perfect, but good features No-picture-s No-picture-s Click the pictures to enlarge them

I know most people tend to favor a combo square over a try square, but for whatever reason, I still find myself reaching for my try square for most 90 degree layout tasks. Up until yesterday, I used a Sears/Companion brand square that I inherited from my wife’s grandfather. However, it only has a 6” blade, is graduated in 1/8ths, and is generally worn out after 30+yrs of use.
My intent was to replace it with a similar tool with a slightly larger blade and scale graduated in 16ths. I actually didn’t think I’d find a wide variety of choices. I figured most try squares are basically the same. That turned out to be mostly true. However, one particular product did stand out from the (amazon) pack.

I bought a 12” Kapro “ledgend”. “Ledgend” refers to the ledge on the try square’s handle that allows it to be laid flat on the workpiece edge without additional support. Not a show-stopping feature. I could easily live without it. But its pretty cool none-the-less. I seem to remember seeing this feature on antique squares, but modern versions seem to have largely abandoned it.

What do I like about this tool?

It was $9.63

The scales are also a selling point. Both sides of the blade are identically graduated with fractional scales. No metric to be found (I hate rules that are cluttered with useless metric scales [no offense to metric lovers]). The first four inches of the upper scale is graduated in 32nds, the rest is in 16ths. Nice. The scales are etched and colored in a manner that makes it easy enough to read. The etching isn’t particularly deep, so I predict it will wear away after a while. But I’m sure I’ll get my $9.63 worth way before that happens. I compared the scales to my combo sqaure and tape measure. No deviations were noticed.

The feature that made this an easy choice for me was the bevel angles that are etched into both sides of the blade. Not a full spectrum of angles, but eight of the most popular/useful (10, 15, 22.5, 30, 36, 45, 50, 60). I’ll use this feature often to set my bevel gauge. So far, I’ve only checked the accuracy of the 45 and 60 degree angles. Both were perfect. I assume the others are fine as well. Its just a nice feature, on an inexpensive tool, that will make my woodworking life 1% better.

So what do I not like about this tool?

Well, out of the box, it wasn’t square (yeah, yeah, details, details). I used the square to draw a vertical 10” line on a piece of cardstock. When I flipped the square over and brought the blade up to the line, there was a deviation of app 1/16 over 10”. I repeated the test two additional times, with the same result. After inspecting the tool with rulers, straight edges, and calipers I found the problem. There was a slight lump in a small section of the plastic handle. It wasn’t an obvious defect at first glance, but was easily seen when held up against a straightedge. I sanded out the lump and rechecked the tool for square. Once I was satisfied, I used some acetone to buff the sanding marks out of the handle. All told, it took about 20-30 minutes to identify and correct the issue.

Even with the lumps aside, I generally dislike the plastic handlle. As a matter of performance, the lightweight plastic lacks the mass of a hardwood/brass handle. Not a huge deal, but a heavier handle does tend to stay in-place better than a light one. Overall balance between the steel blade and plastic handle kind of lousy too. However, the plastc handle is 100% usable and my complaint is probably a bit nit-picky. As a matter of preference, the plastic handle just doen’t have the satisfying look and feel of the hardwood/brass variety. And the redish/orangish/pinkish color, while making it easy to find on a cluttered bench, is butt-ugly. But I can live with it.

And as it turns out, I also do not like the 12” length of the tool. My original 6” square was long enough 85-90% of the time. An 8” square would probably suffice 95% of the time. This means that way more often than not, the extended 12” length of this square will simply get in the way and amplify the mentioned balance/weight issue. Of course, this was a poor decision on my part and not a flaw with the tool. Luckily, amazon sells an 8” version of this tool which I plan to buy in the near future. And the 12” tool will definitely serve plenty of purposes when I need it.

Verdict? Overall, I like the tool. It has some value-added features that set it apart from other try squares at any price point. The defect (lump) was a bummer, but was easily remedied. And for less than $10, such defects pretty much come with the territory. I think once I have the 8” version of this tool, I’ll be 100% satisfied. With better quality control, its a five star product. However, having to repair the handle, i could probably justify a 3 star rating. I’ll meet halfway at four stars, mostly because I just really like the the miter angles on the blade. What can I say? I’m easily amused.

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#1 posted 05-20-2011 06:28 PM

“I used some acetone to buff the sanding marks out of the handle”
now there’s a trick I haven’t heard before.. I’ve had issues with plastick fittings, handles and the like before and have NEVER been able to get back the orriginal finish. Just rub with the acetone, or seriously polish ?

(if I brought another square, level or guage in the door…. ;-(

-- Glen, B.C. Canada

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