Empire Combination Square - it is straight.

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Review by jond posted 06-07-2009 03:38 AM 15680 views 0 times favorited 11 comments Add to Favorites Watch
Empire Combination Square - it is straight. No-picture-s No-picture-s Click the pictures to enlarge them

When I was searching for an inexpensive combination square, I was unimpressed by the standard BORG-type plastic squares and was unable to justify quite a bit more for the Starrett model. I was intrigued by the discussion on here about the Empire squares in one review and decided to buy one. I bought the 16” version from Sears ($16 currently). I found it to be straight and square according to the “flip it and try to match your line” test, at least down to the width of my 0.7 mm mechanical pencil. What I did not know, however, was how straight the blade of the square was. It was guaranteed down to 0.001 per inch, or a maximum of 0.16 for my unit, which seemed like quite a bit of possible deviation.

For my sharpening station I recently bought a granite surface plate (Grade A – 2.4 micron deviation over the surface of the plate per the included calibration certificate) from Woodcraft, and I decided to buy a set of feeler gauges to complement the plate and examine some of my tools. I put the square on the plate and tried to put my 0.0015” leaf under the edge of the blade, and I couldn’t.

Thus, while the guaranteed deviation from straight on these units could be rather high, my tests indicate that my particular square is quite straight. The square seems to be a great value buy for those of us whose every dollar spent on tool A means a dollar less on tool B.

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11 comments so far

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#1 posted 06-07-2009 04:13 AM

thanks for a very good review.

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#2 posted 06-07-2009 04:36 AM

I was talking with the Starrett people at the IWF last year.
I asked them if they had any show discouints.
“Why not?”
“We don’t need to.”

They know their stuff.


-- No piece is cut too short. It was meant for a smaller project.

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8574 posts in 4421 days

#3 posted 06-07-2009 05:22 AM

good review- and I have to agree. I have an Empire 12” comb-square and found it to be true and square always. I then got the 6” version as well as an all around square- and it too was square – however , I found it hard to locate a 6” square that moved smoothly – I went to 2 HD and tried ALL of them out until I found one that was acceptable. the others were very stiff to move the blade on. but I never experienced that on the 12” version. it is a good solid performer for a VERY reasonable price. period!

now I do have a starrett as my main square, and use the Empire around the house – what I notice about the differences are not so much the squareness, but more the quality of materials used, and their machining – the starett materials are thicker and machined with a better finish = smoother. This gives a heavier tool, a smoother operation, and a more reliable locking mechanism. but from my experience – not more square than the Empire.

Enjoy the square – but don’t be one! :)

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

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#4 posted 06-07-2009 05:25 AM

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#5 posted 06-09-2009 04:34 PM

I too have a couple of empire squares…they are square …thx 4 the reveiw

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#6 posted 06-10-2009 11:08 PM

...should that be 0.016” for the length of your unit?

-- Never board, always knotty, lots of growth rings

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Jim Crockett (USN Retired)

852 posts in 4506 days

#7 posted 06-23-2009 05:16 AM

I also have a 6” Empire combination square that does not adjust smoothly. I thought mine was just an isolated case until I read PurpLev’s post above. I have emailed Empire to see if they have a ‘fix’ for the problem and will post any response received.


-- A veteran is someone who, at one point in his/her life, wrote a blank check made payable to "The United States of America," for an amount of "up to and including his/her life".

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Jim Crockett (USN Retired)

852 posts in 4506 days

#8 posted 06-27-2009 02:43 AM

This is the response I received from Empire Level Customer Support:


Thank you for your email. I have forwarded it on to my supervisor so that we can take a better look at the E255 6” combination square and why perhaps there is so much difficulty in adjusting those. I believe the problem is with the drawnut set. Which we do replace free to our customers. I would like to do that for you as well. Thank you for providing me with your full name and address so I know where to have the drawnut set sent. I wouldn’t say yours is an isolated case, however, we don’t have a huge amount of problems with this square. Thank you for bringing it to our attention.

I will get you a new drawnet set immediately.

Thank you and have a great day!

When I receive the drawnut set and install it, I will let you know if this corrects the problem. If so, you may want to contact Empire Level CS yourself for the “fix”.


-- A veteran is someone who, at one point in his/her life, wrote a blank check made payable to "The United States of America," for an amount of "up to and including his/her life".

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#9 posted 01-04-2013 07:47 PM

Jim, did the drawnut help?

-- John - Central PA -

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33 posts in 2007 days

#10 posted 02-12-2015 04:51 PM

I have a the same problem with my Empire 6” square. I read the directions (who does that…for a square!?) and it actually directs to run a line of light machine oil down the channel. I do that from time to time, and mine slides very nicely. Having said that, I can see how the drawnut would definitely wear down over time, and I think it’s excellent that Empire will send a new one upon request.


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188 posts in 3039 days

#11 posted 03-24-2016 06:05 PM

Just my 2 cents, I bought the Empire tru blue 16” square first and found it to be dead on accurate. About two years later, I bought the 6 inch version for easy carry in the workshop and it too is dead accurate using the flip the square test and with a cut line, thinner than my 0.5mm lead. I find that I am seldom using the 16” square and rewarded my self with a new 12” Empire about a month ago. It is actually painted blue and is true (accurate) so it is my real true blue. The first two were black. I have a small 4 inch double square from PEC that is handy in the apron and accurate, but accuracy over 4 inches must be easier than over 6, 12, or 16 wouldn’t ya think? The better name tool is the least smooth operating of the four, the PEC, but the 4 and 6 in will certainly receive the most use as I am beginning to do more “shop work” than carpentry. I have truly considered buying another Empire 6” true blue ($8) just to save measurements during a project. Easier than making a marking gauge, the sharp thin blade of a good marking knife and an accurate adjustable square comes in handy.

-- Like Guy Clark sez - "Sometimes I use my head, Sometimes I get a bigger hammer"

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