Nice and functional, but could be improved

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Review by Vrtigo1 posted 03-15-2012 02:37 AM 3685 views 0 times favorited 21 comments Add to Favorites Watch
Nice and functional, but could be improved No-picture-s No-picture-s Click the pictures to enlarge them

I purchased the 36” Starrett 380 series straightedge to set up my 6” jointer. I purchased the 36” thinking I would need the extra length, but hindsight being 20/20 I think you could get away with a 24” straightedge for a 6” jointer, and the 24” is about half the price. This isn’t related to the review, this is just a statement that I hope someone else in the same boat sees so that they can be armed with that information before deciding which product to purchase.

With that being said, when the straightedge arrived, it was beefy looking enough to convince my coworkers that it really was something one might spend $150 on (none of my coworkers have the slightest bit of mechanical aptitude, so it took several tries to convince them this piece of metal was really so expensive).

PROS: It’s big and heavy, and presumably very straight. It looks straight, and when I put it on my jointer’s bed, I can’t get a 1 thousandth feeler gauge under it, so I presume it is. If Starrett isn’t the gold standard out there in this category, it’s certainly one of them. It’s mass and size mean it can stand on edge unassisted, which is huge for tool setups. Also, if you wanted to use this for drawing lines, it definitely wouldn’t move around on you.

The bad thing is that it’s big and heavy. It’s awkward to hold because of the sharp angles and lack of a handle. One problem I noticed immediately is that it’s too heavy to hold up to surfaces to check them without worrying about dropping it. For instance, if you wanted to use it to verify the flatness of a jointed board, you would probably want to do it on a workbench instead of holding the board, just because there’s no easy way to grab the straightedge and hold it securely. Other straightedges have holes milled in them that function as handles, which presumably make them much easier to handle.

Likewise, there is no hole for hanging it up to store, so you have to lay it flat somewhere. I also expected that one might get a storage / carrying case of some sort at this price point, but you don’t.

So, I’m knocking one star off for the combination of lack of carrying / hanging ability and the lack of a storage case. The other star I’m knocking off is due to the value of this particular tool. There are other straightedges out there that are probably “just as good” for the purpose of setting up woodworking tools, that cost half as much. If I have the choice, I’ll usually save up and buy the best tool I can so I don’t end up buying a cheaper tool first only to end up buying the better tool down the road, but in this case I think I would’ve done just as well if I had gone with a Lee Valley / Veritas or other less expensive option. I’d return this one to Amazon, but then I’d have to pay return shipping and deal with the hassle of returning it, so at this point I think I’ll just keep it.

So in summary – the tool is probably first rate at it’s intended function, which is being an exceptionally straight piece of metal. But in my book, the lack of handles and storage options, combined with the price would probably make this a pass if I were buying again.

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434 posts in 3847 days

21 comments so far

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135 posts in 3901 days

#1 posted 03-15-2012 03:29 AM

I recently purchased the Veritas 24” steel straight edge and believe it to be a truly excellent tool for a very reasonable price. I would stay away from any chinese import straight edge. Incidentally, it does not come with a case, but it was quite easy to make one.

View DIYaholic's profile


19921 posts in 3531 days

#2 posted 03-15-2012 03:36 AM

I have wondered if such a precision instument (at that price) is truely needed for woodworking. I can appreciate the accuracy, but not at that price point! I agree, for that money, it should come with a case! Convenience features such as carry handle & storage hole should also be a given.

Thanks for the insight.

-- Randy-- I may not be good...but I am slow! If good things come to those who wait.... Why is procrastination a bad thing?

View JohnnyB's profile


105 posts in 3245 days

#3 posted 03-15-2012 04:34 AM

It might be overkill for most woodworking machinery set ups, but there are some good points. 1) The Starrett website says it is straight to better than 0.0002” per foot. That means the most your straightedge can be off is 0.0006”. 2) You have proved that your jointer bed is straight. 3) You have a great tool for testing straightness and flatness. 4) You have a tool that you can pass down to your grandkids! I’d make a simple wooden storage case for it and pull it out every now and then just for a smile. A good tool is always a pleasure.

-- JohnnyB - - Sometimes determination can substitute for skill.

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2816 posts in 3739 days

#4 posted 03-15-2012 07:38 AM

Now that you have verified that your jointer is flat and true, you should make a simple frame for it and put it up above the fireplace for future generations to admire… I wonder if a handle drilled through it would cause it to flex and therefore lose some of its accuracy? Veritas has a 3’ aluminum straightedge, whereas not as accurate as the Starrett, it is quite a bit lighter.

-- Sometimes the creative process requires foul language. -- Charles Neil

View Fuzzy's profile


298 posts in 4844 days

#5 posted 03-15-2012 04:14 PM

I think you are being just a bit unfair here … kinda like, you know that a Ford will get you from point A to B, but, you really like the reputation of the quality of the Lincoln, so you save up and buy the more expensive Lincoln … now, you’re happy with it, but complain that it cost more to get you from A to B. I think they call that “buyer’s remorse”.

As to it not having it’s own factory carrying case … most of these are bought by machinests & tool/die makers … they tend to not have any spare storage space for such a case AND, they tend to take very good care of their tools which eliminates the need for such a case. As to not having any holes on which to hang it … that is intentional … any penetrations can cause warpage due to stresses.

As simple as a straightedge appears, you will need to learn how to use it properly, including storage. When STARRETT sells a tool, they don’t include much in the line of instruction … they assume you learned how to use it during your apprenticeship.

-- - dabbling in sarcasm is foolish … if you’re not proficient at it, you end up looking stupid … ... ...

View jonmulzer's profile


48 posts in 3521 days

#6 posted 03-15-2012 07:47 PM

Fuzzy is correct. Any holes, grooves or anything else that would make it “easier to use” could also possibly cause it to minutely warp with temperature fluctuations. Not enough to matter for our woodworking purposes. Let’s face it, the wood we work with will routinely warp just by sitting overnight more than one of these would over a lifetime if it had holes and handles.

I do disagree with Fuzzy about your rating though. I believe you were fair. You reviewed it in a woodworking context. There are perfectly adequate options for woodworking that cost much less and are easier to use. If this were a metalworking forum, you would have probably given it 5 stars. :)

View PurpLev's profile


8588 posts in 4504 days

#7 posted 03-15-2012 08:53 PM

good review. This is a straightedge that is meant for machine shop – as such it is good for testing your jointer bed, but is not really meant to check for wood straightness (even though it CAN be used as such) since it’s heavy.

This is a precision tool and as such should be taken care of and kept safely away – not hung in the shop. some of starrett tools come with a case while others don’t. this one should be kept in a drawer protected until needed.

I agree that for woodworking the rating is legit – this is not the best straightedge for woodworkers to have even thought it’s very high quality.

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View Fuzzy's profile


298 posts in 4844 days

#8 posted 03-15-2012 08:57 PM

Sorry, but I gotta stand by my criticism of the low rating … a STARRETT straightedge is guaranteed to be dead flat & straight to within less than 0.0002”/ft. If the item purchased did not meet that specification, I would agree to a lower rating being in order … the issue was that “It COULD have been better” ... the user also COULD have saved himself some money by purchasing a more appropriate tool for the task at hand … the LEE VALLEY model comes to mind … it is lighter and has a handle … does that mean the Lee Valley model is straighter or more accurate ??? NO … it means that it was better suited for the task at hand, and would have been a better choice for this user.

Giving a high quality, high dollar tool a rating of 3 out of a possible 5 implies that it is defective in some manner and only marginally useful … hardly the case.

-- - dabbling in sarcasm is foolish … if you’re not proficient at it, you end up looking stupid … ... ...

View Dusty56's profile


11859 posts in 4544 days

#9 posted 03-15-2012 09:46 PM

You can’t fault the Starrett straight edge for your lack of forethought.
If you bought it sight unseen and asked no questions of anyone , then you need to rethink your buying strategy for starters.
Face it , you bought the Starrett for gloating purposes and now regret being foolish enough to pay that much money for a piece of metal. You could return it and ,even after shipping charges , still come out ahead by buying something that you can really use and enjoy using. , that meets all of your wants / gripes listed above.
Your 3 star rating downgrades the tool not only here on LJs , but worldwide.

-- I'm absolutely positive that I couldn't be more uncertain!

View Fuzzy's profile


298 posts in 4844 days

#10 posted 03-15-2012 11:43 PM

My point, exactly … it wasn’t a 3 star tool … it was a 2 star decision to buy a 5 star tool … STARRETT don’t make junk, and a 3 star rating puts it in a class with Chinese crap … WHICH IT’S NOT !!!

-- - dabbling in sarcasm is foolish … if you’re not proficient at it, you end up looking stupid … ... ...

View buffalosean's profile


174 posts in 4243 days

#11 posted 03-16-2012 12:35 AM

Starrett is the cadillac. First time I’ve ever heard a negative thing about their tools.

Also, a 150 dollar straight edge is meant to go in a mechanics tool box where it does not get damaged or stolen in a break in. If you buy a mechanics or machinists tool, it is geared toward that worker.

Again, if it came with a carrying case, the price would go up. If you were a mechanic. A hundred and fifty dollar straight edge is cheap, compared to your 3 snap-on angled box wrenches that cost $150.

not trying to beat you up vrtigo1, but voicing my opinion for guy that looks at this review, who is looking to buy this straight edge…. Some guys do metalworking and woodworking, in my opinion, it would be a great product for that kind of worker.

-- There are many ways to skin a cat...... but, the butter knife is not recommended

View Vrtigo1's profile


434 posts in 3847 days

#12 posted 03-16-2012 03:06 PM

Thanks for the feedback. I wrote the review from the hobbyist woodworker point of view, and think I was clear to point out that the areas I felt were shortcomings were based on that criteria (i.e. for use in a home woodshop). I want to be clear on that, and thought I was. I think it’s an excellent tool that does exactly what it’s supposed to do, BUT I think there is room for improvement in some areas when it comes to convenience. Again, this is a woodworking forum, so I reviewed it in that context. As far as metalworking goes, the review there may be completely different, so I would suggest to anyone reading this review, just consider it invalid if your intention is not to use it in a woodshop.

I pointed out the lack of carrying case not only because it’s difficult to store without one, but also because as a steel tool, it will rust if left out. It my shop, I don’t really have many areas where I would feel safe storing this due to the size. Most everything I have that is similar, i.e. levels, etc are either hung on pegboard or leaned against a wall in a corner. Due to the precision nature of this tool, if I accidentally knocked it over, I don’t know that I would trust it’s accuracy anymore, so I just felt I would point out the issue of finding a suitable way to store it in a woodshop.

Also, as far as selecting a straightedge, it’s pretty difficult if you can’t put hands and eyes on them before making a decision. All you have to go on are manufacturer specs, reviews and the reputation of the company. Perhaps I should’ve realized that the lack of reviews of starrett straightedges on woodworking forums meant that this might not be the best tool for a woodworker, but I took it to mean that most folks elected to buy one of the less expensive options.

View Moron's profile


5048 posts in 4749 days

#13 posted 03-17-2012 03:18 AM

I think Starrett makes an a high quality, very heavy straight edge. Like all their tools and mine, they are heavy .

Heavy,……….in the world of woodworking shouldn’t be a bad thing. Really what I mean, is that if the weight of the tool burdens you because you could have bought a cheap light weight “straightedge”, then why bother delving into woodworking ?

Surely the product that leaves the bench, in it’s size, it’s weight, the magnitude of woodworking, should make a quality tool, make you feel privileged to slag what you know little about.

I think your review was poor at best.

Sorry, but I think they are pretty sweet,

a “straight edge” that is in fact straight is critical to woodworking for many reasons. One is, that most folks buy sheet goods and hope sheets of plywood are square ? or solid wood and hope its straight and any random journey that dithers from their, requires at least something straight. So in fact you need the skills to either continually make a new straight edge

or you buy one

-- "Good artists borrow, great artists steal”…..Picasso

View Dusty56's profile


11859 posts in 4544 days

#14 posted 03-17-2012 03:42 AM

Still no reasons given for only 3 stars.
The product does exactly what it is intended to do and the accuracy is hard to beat.
How did you ever chose such a tool without looking at it first if you wanted handholds and hang holes in it ?

-- I'm absolutely positive that I couldn't be more uncertain!

View bglenden's profile


16 posts in 3451 days

#15 posted 03-17-2012 08:54 PM

Contrary to several of the above posts, I thought this was a good and appropriate review for the straightedge as a woodworking tool on a woodworking website. Good job and thanks for taking the time to post your experience and explain your reasoning.


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