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Suggestions for a quality square(s) for hobbyist?

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Forum topic by Winny94 posted 04-02-2021 07:32 PM 1960 views 0 times favorited 66 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Winny94

56 posts in 1517 days


04-02-2021 07:32 PM

I would classify myself as a hobbyist, but I strive for quality work (just not the volume as most of you here). Ive been using hand me downs, but looking to upgrade. If you had to suggest a square (or a couple squares), which would be recommended? Are accessories such as those made by woodpecker worth the premium? Is there a better value for lower volume/hobby work?
Upcoming projects include a 6.5’ dining room table top, shaker kitchen cabinet doors, bedroom dresser, end table. Those will keep me busy for more than a year.

thanks for any suggestions


66 replies so far

View corelz125's profile

corelz125

2763 posts in 2052 days


#1 posted 04-02-2021 07:42 PM

Can’t go wrong with a Starret.

View therealSteveN's profile

therealSteveN

7645 posts in 1650 days


#2 posted 04-02-2021 07:51 PM

I would suggest all people starting out to get to know Harry Epstein Especially his PEC tool seconds. I have several, and on none of them can I tell where they are “second” as in inferior to any brand name tool. Machinists use PEC as much as Starrett for their quality tools. You won’t be able to tell the difference in using them, but your wallet will love you for it.

-- Think safe, be safe

View Redoak49's profile

Redoak49

5232 posts in 3065 days


#3 posted 04-02-2021 07:58 PM

+1 for PEC seconds. I have several.

I also have a set of Groz engineering squares.

View SMP's profile

SMP

3935 posts in 982 days


#4 posted 04-02-2021 08:05 PM

I think the first rule is learning how to check a square for square and how to adjust it. I have read about brand new Starrets being out of square, and other brands. If you know how to check and adjust, then even the less expensive ones like iGaging are a good deal. As long as its cast iron. I cannot recommend the pot metal ones from the big box stores as they go out of square just looking at them.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=HByNXxtep00

View RClark's profile

RClark

126 posts in 3261 days


#5 posted 04-02-2021 08:12 PM

In my experience, I really use just a couple of squares.

- My main square is a 6” Lee Valley Precision Double Square. Use it all the time. I’ve had it for over 15 years. Last year, the locking screw failed; I called Lee Valley and they fixed me up with a replacement screw for $5. I use for measuring, marking, and checking square. I also use it for finding/setting depth of mortices and length on tenons. That little square is like an old shop friend. It feels good in the hand and certainly more accurate than I can take advantage of.

- My second most-used square is, believe or not, a Stanley combination square. It’s not even one of the antiques, and it has a plastic combo head with steel ruler. My parents gave it to me for Christmas more than 40 years ago. And it’s still straight. I really doubt you could find another one that has held up so well.

For checking blade settings I use plastic drafting triangles like those you can find a hobby store.

For checking square on large glue-ups, I use 10th grade geometry class (checking diagonal measurements with a tape measure).

I really don’t spend a lot on measuring tools.

-- Ray

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Winny94

56 posts in 1517 days


#6 posted 04-02-2021 08:38 PM



I would suggest all people starting out to get to know Harry Epstein Especially his PEC tool seconds. I have several, and on none of them can I tell where they are “second” as in inferior to any brand name tool. Machinists use PEC as much as Starrett for their quality tools. You won t be able to tell the difference in using them, but your wallet will love you for it.

- therealSteveN

I was really hoping to find a tip like this.
Question for ya, im probably going to pick up the double square
do you know if either of these 12” rules will work in the double square?
Grooved rule
Rigid rule

View tvrgeek's profile

tvrgeek

1858 posts in 2725 days


#7 posted 04-02-2021 08:38 PM

Bought some machinist Chinese squares. Not sure how much more square they could be. Nothing against Starrett, or the seconds as mentioned, but if you used them side by side you would not know the difference. If you put them back to back on a surface plate and the butt edges pass no light, they are square enough for me.

My combo square is an iGang. Iron head. Etched. Seems to be fine.

I also use my 6 inch aluminum carpenters square a lot. A couple features of the Woodpeckers squares look quite handy. Kind of want one. Some of the Incra look handy. I have a Marples square and several drafting triangles. I use a 5 inch Chinese combo square for a lot of marking. Many like the small ones as they fit in your apron. I loved the original Bridge City tools when they were rosewood. Don’t go for their new high-tech look.

So, buy a Starrett, or buy a handful of perfectly good ones. I also bought a pack of 6, 8, 12 inch rules with different scales for less than a brand name rule. An advantage of the good inexpensive tools is if you drop one, you won’t cry.

View DevinT's profile (online now)

DevinT

697 posts in 43 days


#8 posted 04-02-2021 08:39 PM

I don’t think you mentioned what kind of square.

For combination square, I would go with Starrett.
For try square, I own a Stanley #20 with a rosewood handle ($10 on eBay)
I have also made my own try squares out of various materials (including clear acrylic; $0.03 cost).
For miter-square, I have the Bridge City Tools MS-1 ($50 on eBay).
For framing square, I bought a Vinca from Amazon ($25)

I do not yet have a double square, but it’s on my list. I am also thinking about picking up a Bridge City TSV2 (try square version 2) because it quickly converts into a saddle square, not-to-mention the dovetail ratio markers built into the tongue/blade.

-- Devin, SF, CA

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DevinT

697 posts in 43 days


#9 posted 04-02-2021 08:47 PM

The reason I went with a Starrett combination square is specifically because Starrett makes longer blades for it. I have the 24” blade for the combination square and I can’t tell you how valuable that is to me. I’ve been thinking about picking up the 36” blade when I can. For me, the initial offering of a 12” blade which almost every Starrett-copy combination square comes with, just wasn’t enough. I knew that the materials I would be working with-respect to position of cuts and shortest distances from nearest-edge demanded more than a 12” rule.

I had serious reservations that:
1. Anything longer than 12” from any other company would have any hope of being dead-accurate
2. That a Starrett 24” ruler would fit in any other manufacturer’s combination square

So I invested in the company based on bigger needs and future possibilities. Forbid that I would ever need a 500 mm blade for the thing, I could get it. It would cost a pretty penny, but I would have confidence that it was as accurate as could be supplied (unless I somehow made it myself … but then I would need something else to check it against).

-- Devin, SF, CA

View sepeck's profile

sepeck

505 posts in 3217 days


#10 posted 04-02-2021 09:06 PM



I would suggest all people starting out to get to know Harry Epstein Especially his PEC tool seconds. I have several, and on none of them can I tell where they are “second” as in inferior to any brand name tool. Machinists use PEC as much as Starrett for their quality tools. You won t be able to tell the difference in using them, but your wallet will love you for it.

- therealSteveN

I bought a PEC tri-square off a recommendation in the forums here. Have not regretted it. It’s an awesome square.

-- -Steven Peck, http://www.blkmtn.org

View therealSteveN's profile

therealSteveN

7645 posts in 1650 days


#11 posted 04-02-2021 09:45 PM


I would suggest all people starting out to get to know Harry Epstein Especially his PEC tool seconds. I have several, and on none of them can I tell where they are “second” as in inferior to any brand name tool. Machinists use PEC as much as Starrett for their quality tools. You won t be able to tell the difference in using them, but your wallet will love you for it.

- therealSteveN

I was really hoping to find a tip like this.
Question for ya, im probably going to pick up the double square
do you know if either of these 12” rules will work in the double square?
Grooved rule
Rigid rule

- Winny94

The square will have what I have always called a “nail” inside of it. That nail matches the groove in the grooved rule. So for a tighter fit I would say go with the grooved, and use a flat one just to lay flat and measure with, or make flawless straight lines.

I won’t say anything bad about Starrett, they make great tools, but so does PEC. They aren’t some junk line you get for 2 bux at Lowes. The fact of it all is wood constantly moves, so insisting on machine shop quality tools doesn’t really cover the door charge to get in, and most companies make grooved rules up to 36”. Just keep in mind the error margin at the far end of that really long rule is greater than the margin right next to the base. For that reason I really like 4 and 6” lengths the best. I’ll mark reference lines out, and use a known good straight edge to fill in the gaps if I really need a line. Most processes don’t really require a line to do them. :-)

-- Think safe, be safe

View Robert's profile

Robert

4551 posts in 2557 days


#12 posted 04-02-2021 09:57 PM

You need one definite standard, and that’s a machinists square – brands that a machinist would use, most popular with ww’ers obviously Starrett.

That said, I did buy a Starrett square (not a combo) that was woefully out of square.

The problem with combo squares other than not being square, is the heads are made of pot metal. Yeah, they can be fettled into square, but you really want a cast iron head.

Starrett, Woodpecker, PEC, Igaging (a distant 4th ok on the digital stuff).

-- Everything is a prototype thats why its one of a kind!!

View Andybb's profile

Andybb

3271 posts in 1680 days


#13 posted 04-02-2021 10:03 PM

I’m sorry, (and crucify me) but “square is square”. A square harbor freight square is just as square as a Starret. I have one tool that I paid good money for that I know is square. It’s the Woodpecker 24” T-square that is in my avatar picture with the homemade 3” square on top of it. It is also square. I use the WP to check every other tool that is supposed to be square. My plastic HF 12” speed square is “square”. My fathers 60 years old 9” square is still square.

I did this little experiment last year. I combined all manner of expensive and cheap plastic squares starting with the WP square and when I added the last piece, “It was square!” So is the CD case.

This is not to say that I haven’t run into cheap tools that weren’t square but like I said, as long as it passes the Woodpecker test it gets to live with me vs the trash.

-- Andy - Seattle USA

View Tony_S's profile

Tony_S

1489 posts in 4159 days


#14 posted 04-02-2021 11:19 PM



I m sorry, (and crucify me) but “square is square”. A square harbor freight square is just as square as a Starret.

- Andybb

Don’t be sorry. You’re 100% right.
I can build a 50K stair and railing and use my $12.00 Swanson combination square throughout…because it’s square and it works well.
Beyond 50K though? I have to borrow a Starrett from LeeRoy so I look more spiffy…Makes me look like I actually know what I’m doing.

-- “Wise men speak because they have something to say; fools because they have to say something.” – Plato

View LeeRoyMan's profile (online now)

LeeRoyMan

1773 posts in 803 days


#15 posted 04-02-2021 11:35 PM


Beyond 50K though? I have to borrow a Starrett from LeeRoy so I look more spiffy…Makes me look like I actually know what I m doing.

- Tony_S

LOL, good one. I’m in the category square is square. If I showed up on the job with my squares, they would wonder how good a job i’m going to do.
But then, unlike most of the people here, I’m not building rocket ships.
This site has more machinist woodworkers than I have ever seen. That said, it is nice to have nice things.

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