Empire - e255 6" Combination Square (Rating: 5)

For the past couple years, I have been using a 12" Swanson combination square. Its a good sqaure, but far too often I find it too big for the given application. I was constantly grabbing a 40yo Companion Try Square in order to avoid the cumbersome 12" combo sqaure. Unfortunately, the try sqaure is only graduated in 1/8s, and lacks the functionality of a combo sqare. All that said, I went to Sears in search of a smaller tool.

I often times buy tools via internet. However, measuring tools are tough to judge without actually holding them in your hand, and examining them with your eyes. So I was glad to see my local Sears had three different small CS in stock. One was some off brand garbage with an aluminum blade and plastic body. It was immediately disqualified without much thought.
The other two were a Craftsman 7" and the Empire e255 6".
Both tools had identical bodies. And I mean identical as in they appeared to have both been made in the same foundry and built to the same specs. No complaints here. The aluminum body is decently machined and no defects can be identified. The locking screw mechanism turns smoothly and locks the blade securely. The level is fine…..as good as any I guess. One thing I really like about the body is the scriber compartment. The scriber is secured into the body with some sort of spring/friction mechanism instead of the screw threads that seem to be common on other makes/models. Definitely not a make/break feature, but I like it none-the-less. Heck, I rarely use the scribe, but maybe I'll use it more often since this model's is easier to install and remove. A firm pull or push is all that is needed to remove and reinstall. Nice.

Heres were the Empire and Craftsman part ways. The craftsman had a 7" steel blade with black numbering and graduation marks. I have an el cheapo sqaure with similar type markings, and it tends to wear rather quickly. The graduations were another issue. It was graduated in 1/8ths on the top of the blade on both sides. The bottom of the blade had 16ths on one side and centimeters on the other. I really prefer a measuring device be graduated in 16ths at minimum. The side with metric graduations is almost useless to me since I don't use metric and the SAE scale was in 1/8ths (i hope that makes sense).

The Empire on the other hand was etched and graduated flawlessly. The marks are not colored, but are etched fairly deep into the stainless steel blade, so they are easy to read. Both sides of the blade have a scale graduated in 16ths. The other scales are in 1/8ths and 1/32nds, which is great. No metric here.

Both tools were made in the USA. Empire actually gets a lot of my business since many of their products are domestic and tend to meet my standards for features and quality.

So the empire came home with me, where I immediately tested it out for sqaure. I adjusted the blade several times in several different points along the blade. After each adjustment, I checked for sqaure. Zero deviations. A solid tool. And only cost $9. One of these days, after I hit the lottery, marry a supermodel, or get an unexpected inheritance I might spring for more pricey measuring tools. The Staretts sure look nice. But for now, on my budget, and at my skill level; this will get it done.