Who are we supposed to believe???

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Blog entry by SST posted 05-04-2009 06:44 PM 1600 reads 0 times favorited 17 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Not long ago, I wandered into Harbor Freight. (Hello, my name is Tom, and I’m a Harbor Freight-o-holic…group response, “Hi, Tom, tell the group your story…”

They had Cen-Tech combination squares with the center finder & adjustable angle thingie(not a technical term) on sale for about 6 bucks, so I bought one, even though I have 2 old Starrett combo squares in the shop. I think I was drawn in by that adjustable thing because my Starretts don’t have that. (Also, they were on sale & who can resist stuff on sale. It’s not a matter of need, I’ve got clothes I don’t wear that I bought on sale because they were really cheap), but, I digress….

The other day, I decided to check the square of the square, (does that take it to the 4th power???) I put it up to one of my Stanley tri (or it that “try” we have 3 uses here, or we just “try”ing to get things square? That has always bewildered me) square, and, lo & behold, it was off a little bit. I then put it up to one of my other Stanley tri (same bewilderment) squares. It was also off, but not the same amount. Then up to a Stanley all metal mini builders square, and my other Starrett combo, and everything seemed a tiny bit off from everything else.

So my question, and maybe this goes more to the philosophical rather than to the empirical, “Who do we believe?”

What’s my frame of reference? Does it really matter as long as my projects fit together?

If one square is off in one direction, and one is off in the other, should I use both of them alternatively to balance the project?

Should I arrange a trip to where they are made to compare my squares to the master square? Do these companies have a master, or do they have to go to the Bureau of weights, measures, and square things for their info? Are they kept in a square room?

Can someone please help me get to the square root of all this??? -SST

-- Accuracy is not in your power tool, it's in you

17 comments so far

View DrDirt's profile


4424 posts in 3736 days

#1 posted 05-04-2009 06:52 PM

Gotta measure to a reference line.
Take a known straight edge – and place the square on it and draw a line. then flip your square over using the same edge and draw a line beside the first one.
IF they are parallel you are good – if not – the square is off.
I have always seen how to straighten carpenters squares – but on adjustable squares – I have no idea how to fix them.
Here is the engineer/geek in me – I would bring a nice staight piece like 12×6 MDF to the store along with a pencil and “sort” through the squares and find one that is nuts on.
For precision – use an exacto line and see if you can scribe a perfect match. As for your collection, go through them and figure out which one is “Right” – and send the others to a garage sale – so you don’t accidentally set up machines using them.
Good Luck

-- “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” Mark Twain

View PurpLev's profile


8535 posts in 3642 days

#2 posted 05-04-2009 06:58 PM

like Dave suggested, it’s fairly simple to check a comb. (or regular) square for squareness.. you don’t need a secondary ruler to check against.

place your square against a straight edge, and draw a line- flip the square, and draw another line at the same location- if the lines align in one another -your square is good to go, if it’s off square, you’ll notice the error in the angle between the lines.

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

View a1Jim's profile


117087 posts in 3571 days

#3 posted 05-04-2009 07:01 PM

Well that’s along the same line as Dave but I’d take a framing square or other square and put it along a straight edge of wood draw a line flip it to the other direction to test if it’s square or not . if it’s square it will match the first line if not there are ways to correct it but to solve this problem keep testing your squares until they pass this test them compare your other squares the same way,

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View Julian's profile


880 posts in 3519 days

#4 posted 05-04-2009 07:04 PM

I’d say stick with the accurate square/squares, and sell or give the others away. There’s nothing worse than having tools that aren’t good at what they are designed for.

-- Julian, Park Forest, IL

View jlsmith5963's profile


297 posts in 3342 days

#5 posted 05-04-2009 08:40 PM

Don’t forget an architectural drafting triangle is another good source for checking for square and I agree with everyone else about about getting rid of the out of square squares.

-- criticism: the art of analyzing and evaluating the quality of an artistic work...

View SST's profile


790 posts in 4189 days

#6 posted 05-04-2009 09:03 PM

Perhaps there’s some “out of kilter” universe where all these things belong that I should send it to…a twilight zone for measuring devices. -SST

-- Accuracy is not in your power tool, it's in you

View dusty2's profile


323 posts in 3423 days

#7 posted 05-05-2009 02:43 AM

I think you have probably learned how to determine whether or not your squares are accurate. What I would like to suggest if that if your squares are all so out of whack – maybe you are not treating them like precision measuring equipment.

I have a couple that I treat with the greatest of respect. I used to have three but I dropped one on the concrete floor in the shop. It is no longer a precision devise.

I suggest you get yourself a new set of good squares and don’t drop them.

The best square I have is probably as old as I am. It is a steel framing square that came to me from my grand father who was NOT a woodworker. The only things I don’t like about it are two. One – it is heavy and two – it is dark in color and hard to read. I can’t bring myself to clean and polish it. It came this way and that just doesn’t seem right. Crazy, I know.

-- Making Sawdust Safely

View RBWoodworker's profile


441 posts in 3346 days

#8 posted 05-05-2009 04:40 AM

I agree.. I have a starrett that I bought years ago and use it quite often and after I’m finished with it.. back in the box it goes and get’s put away..I have made it clear to others in the shop to please do not handle it since it was very expensive and I use it for precision measurments. you have to have a good precise measuring tool.. I also have a stainless steel ruler that has the increments etched on it that I use solely for layout..the ol tape measure stays in the toolbox when I make furniture..LOL

-- Randall Child

View Napaman's profile


5526 posts in 4071 days

#9 posted 05-05-2009 05:19 AM

tom…my students called me square…and i asked them if they were sure…and by what measure?

-- Matt--Proud LJ since 2007

View ajosephg's profile


1880 posts in 3555 days

#10 posted 05-05-2009 05:22 AM

You can buy a reference square from Edward J. Bennett Co..

-- Joe

View Moron's profile


5032 posts in 3887 days

#11 posted 05-05-2009 06:03 AM

the law of averages exists in a square?

if you own enough squares, and measure and mark them, an average develops….........generally to your favour providing the squares you own are indeed “square”...............and then any fool can say what he wants?

if you own just one square…...................just not much of an average?

I guess the key is to be able to make the “un-square square”......square?

does any one know how to do that?.......................or do you all go out and buy another square that isnt square?............and then how do you check if its square??????

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

View Moron's profile


5032 posts in 3887 days

#12 posted 05-05-2009 06:09 AM


make sure the outside edge of the square fits the door you just made so that not even a sliver of light comes through when held to the light and when all hell breaks loose, blame the square maker?


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

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


18266 posts in 3670 days

#13 posted 05-05-2009 06:52 AM

Dave got to the square root of squaring squares right off the bat. That’s how I check my squares for square. I haven’t had any unsquare squares of the squares I’ve checked for square. My framing square is square and I use that square to square my other squares. I was thinking about to resquare the square of my trisquare when I was checking it, but it was still square even when loose and sliding, so I didn’t have to resquare that square afterall.

I think checking a square for square is at least to the 4th and bringing in another square to square it would be a square of at least the 8th. As far as gettinig to the square root of squaring squares, this is as close as we will ever come unless we digitize the issue with a Wixey, but then are we checking the square or the Wixey?

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View marcb's profile


768 posts in 3667 days

#14 posted 05-05-2009 07:01 AM

You can buy a reference square from Edward J. Bennett Co..

From the guy who brought you “Overly complicating Table saw alignment” comes “Overly complicating tool checks”

View SST's profile


790 posts in 4189 days

#15 posted 05-05-2009 09:12 PM

Finally…some tongue-in-cheek. I was beginning to think I had lost my touch.

And, by the way, none of my squares have been dropped or abused in my (considerable) lifetime, nor do they show any signs of that from previous lifetimes…and, like I said, all my projects fit together. (Although maybe I just clamp the stuff hard enough to squish the stuff together. -SST

And remember…cupcakes may be round, but pie are square.

-- Accuracy is not in your power tool, it's in you

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