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View shelly_b's profile

Do I really need to spend $50 to get a square square????

by shelly_b
posted 10-05-2012 11:36 PM


35 replies so far

View a1Jim's profile

a1Jim

112062 posts in 2227 days


#1 posted 10-05-2012 11:40 PM

View Handtooler's profile

Handtooler

1082 posts in 782 days


#2 posted 10-05-2012 11:42 PM

I got a 4 piece set of stainless steel engineers squares from Grizzly and they are square when you scribe a line turn them over and check for square. Is that square enough? Or, do you need a metrologist to garrantee and certify it square?? Christopher Schwarz has several blogs and a video on making squares for woodworking from hardwood and how to adjust rafter squares by use of a punch and hammer.
squares.

-- Russell Pitner Hixson, TN 37343 bassboy40@msn.com

View shelly_b's profile

shelly_b

841 posts in 767 days


#3 posted 10-05-2012 11:48 PM

flipping is square enough for me! I don’t have any equipment to tell me otherwise lol

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shelly_b

841 posts in 767 days


#4 posted 10-05-2012 11:48 PM

can I make a square without having a square to reference it?

View CessnaPilotBarry's profile

CessnaPilotBarry

890 posts in 760 days


#5 posted 10-05-2012 11:55 PM

Square, no… Most all combination squares are adjustable by filing tabs that support the sliding blade. You simply take a stroke or two of a file to the tab on the obtuse side of the square, test, repeat as necessary.

There are plenty of cheap engineer’s squares that are square. Be aware that they may be square to spec on one side of the blade ONLY.

Absolute joy to use and useful for other operations? Yes, if you want more than a one trick pony, you’ll need to spend more.

What I find makes a Starrett square worth the money is the easy on the eyes satin chrome blade, the super smooth blade action and locking mechanism, and comfortable to hold edges. Also worthy of note are interchangeable 6, 12, 18, and 24” blades. I can even buy old blades and slide them into my newer square head.

My 6” and 12” combo squares are my most touched tools in the shop… I don’t see the value of scrimping on them.

-- It's all good, if it's wood...

View Alexandre's profile

Alexandre

1417 posts in 841 days


#6 posted 10-06-2012 12:10 AM

If you want a square that shouldn’t lose its accuracy, then you could get this… http://preisser.co.uk/productcode.asp?code=136

-- My terrible signature...

View Alexandre's profile

Alexandre

1417 posts in 841 days


#7 posted 10-06-2012 12:12 AM

You could check using the 3-4-5 rule…

Measure out 3 feet (or 3 anything…inches, feet…but the longer the better) on one side and mark it. Measure out 4 feet(or units) on the other side and mark. If the corner is 90 degrees, the measurement between marks will be exactly 5 feet (units).

-- My terrible signature...

View Dallas's profile

Dallas

2904 posts in 1137 days


#8 posted 10-06-2012 12:25 AM

Harbor freight sells a set of three aluminum squares. The two largest are adjustable so to make them square, put them on a known square surface, scribe a line, then flip them over to check that the marks are exactly the same at 180°. If not, adjust and check again and again until they are square.

http://www.harborfreight.com/3-piece-l-square-set-with-levels-98556.html

The problem with buying expensive squares that are square from the factory you may ask?..... The first time the bugger hits the floor it is no longer square so you’ve wasted your budget.

-- Improvise.... Adapt...... Overcome!

View John's profile

John

45 posts in 723 days


#9 posted 10-06-2012 12:49 AM

I got a small (~6”) steel “engineers” square from Woodcraft a couple of years ago for about $15. It’s made like a try, with one thick leg and one thin. Handy and very accurate, and I’ve seen them lots of other places. For day-to-day use, I have a cheap Stanley combo square that’s quite square, though definitely not as nice to use as a Starret. Big orange box, $15. Best user is a small (4”) try square made of wood (fat leg) and brass (thin leg). Either Popular Woodworking or Fine Woodworking did an article on making one yourself within the last year or so.

You can check any square for square on a board or other surface with one straight edge. Usually the factory edge on a sheet of plywood is straight if you’re in a pinch. Just use the square in question to draw a line perpendicular to the straight reference edge, flip the square over and draw another. Any deviation from 90 degrees shows up quickly.

View a1Jim's profile

a1Jim

112062 posts in 2227 days


#10 posted 10-06-2012 12:55 AM

These seem like they are priced very reasonably http://www.amazon.com/Northern-Industrial-Engineers-Square-Set/dp/B002VMK906

-- http://artisticwoodstudio.com Custom furniture

View Dallas's profile

Dallas

2904 posts in 1137 days


#11 posted 10-06-2012 01:11 AM

I also would like to ask why the square has to be 100% square? If you check any piece of wood for square, and then check it again later, you will find that it has moved some.
Even dead wood is alive and won’t hold still.
It’s the same reason sheep herders wear their pants legs inside their boots…. the sheep move!

-- Improvise.... Adapt...... Overcome!

View Alexandre's profile

Alexandre

1417 posts in 841 days


#12 posted 10-06-2012 01:13 AM

Technically.. Nothing is exactly square…

-- My terrible signature...

View Loren's profile (online now)

Loren

7533 posts in 2297 days


#13 posted 10-06-2012 01:17 AM

For woodoworking and joinery, an inexpensive adjustable
square works just fine. You can file the nibs inside
the thing to make it square enough for joinery. I did
it years ago with an $8 square I got at Harbor Freight.
The 12” ruler is a bit awkward but it will serve for
laying out joints and setting up machinery.

I’ve accumulated several squares since then, mostly got
at yard sales. Some Starretts and other good ones. I
like the little 4” double squares a lot.

I’ve been doing woodworking for a long time and I doubt
any of my squares are “perfect” and I don’t worry about
it. Square to within 1/64th over 12” is square enough in
general for wood. Blade flutter, operator error, warped
boards and other factors combine to make chasing
perfect machine setups a fun activity, but no panacea
for flawless joinery nor perfect boxes.

When I say 1/64th” over 12” is square enough, I am not
saying that is the tolerance I work to. I am shooting for
closer 1/128” over that, or 1/32” over 48”, but I am set
up with considerable investment in machinery.

-- http://lawoodworking.com

View nwbusa's profile

nwbusa

1017 posts in 936 days


#14 posted 10-06-2012 01:18 AM

Dallas makes a good point, however I personally like to start as close to “square” as I can get, and it bugs me if I am using a tool that is substandard to my expectations. If something doesn’t work right, I can blame myself instead of my tools.

-- John, BC, Canada

View CessnaPilotBarry's profile

CessnaPilotBarry

890 posts in 760 days


#15 posted 10-06-2012 01:45 AM

Checking the wood for square is one thing…

Checking blade angles, jointer fences, etc… is quite another.

ONE accurate square is essential to have. An easy way to check any square, purchased or shop made, is the “flip” method. You knife a line, flip the square along the same edge and knife another line. the difference in parallel is twice the actual error.

The beauty of having one accurate and pleasurable to use combo square is all that it can do. It can check for square and 45 degrees on wood, measure bit height, check depth, measure thickness and width to it’s limits, check for straight edges, verify fence and tool right and 45 degree angles, check for straight sharpening…

-- It's all good, if it's wood...

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile

TopamaxSurvivor

14742 posts in 2325 days


#16 posted 10-06-2012 02:17 AM

I see this subject here quite regularly. Maybe I’m just lucky, but all my squares seem to be on except for one. I was curious so i checked several at Lowe’s one day after one of these threads was going. They were all extremely close or dead on. I use a pair of ACCur squares for the standard. They are guaranteed to be within a billionth at all their angles. I think I got them from Peachtree when they were running one of their bulk buy specials.

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

View DavidH's profile

DavidH

508 posts in 2392 days


#17 posted 10-06-2012 02:32 AM

i have a set of engineer squares from woodcraft that i use for tool setup and an adjustable square made by empire (sears sells the brand) they aren’t the cheapest they aren’t the most expensive, and the ones i have (6 and 12) were both square out of the box….

-- David - Houston, Texas. (http://www.justsquareenough.com/)

View MonteCristo's profile

MonteCristo

2095 posts in 838 days


#18 posted 10-06-2012 03:14 AM

You can get square squares for next to nothing these days but sometimes they have a few short comings. For example, cheap combination squares usually don’t slide the rule as nicely as one you have to pay a bit more for. Same goes for steel rules. I bought a cheapo from Grizzly and it’s a lot clunkier than the Shinwa I bought from Lee Valley – but both are straight . . .

-- Dwight - "Free legal advice available - contact Dewey, Cheetam & Howe""

View Tedstor's profile

Tedstor

1369 posts in 1282 days


#19 posted 10-06-2012 07:28 PM

PEC makes a nice square at a reasonable price. Oh and its made in the USA. I’ve been meaning to buy a double square, but don’t yet own any of their tools. However, I have handled a 12” combo square and it was every bit as nice as my Starrett.

This Double square is $35

This solid square is $15. Hardened, tool steel blade.
Its “B” grade, but spec’d to .0006 inside and out. Any woodworker that thinks they need tighter tolerances is fooling themselves. No one is THAT good.

View Bill White's profile

Bill White

3446 posts in 2610 days


#20 posted 10-06-2012 07:54 PM

Nothing is truely square (see curvature of the Earth). Man, the is really esoteric, but I use the draftsman square made by STAEDTLER MARS 965 1045 for all my setup. Not expensive at all as squares go. Look for ‘em at an office/drafting supply store. If ya need more accurate stuff for woodworking you’re gonna have to go to some EXTREME measuring devices.
My saws love my settings.
Bill

-- bill@magraphics.us

View Clint Searl's profile

Clint Searl

1446 posts in 1011 days


#21 posted 10-06-2012 08:02 PM

If it’s eyeball square, it’s square enough.

-- Clint Searl....Ya can no more do what ya don't know how than ya can git back from where ya ain't been

View CessnaPilotBarry's profile

CessnaPilotBarry

890 posts in 760 days


#22 posted 10-06-2012 08:05 PM

PEC also makes the Lee Valley squares that look the same, but painted black.

They are very nice to use, they have a similar satin chrome finish to Starrett. I own the 4” double version and can also recommend it.

-- It's all good, if it's wood...

View Tedstor's profile

Tedstor

1369 posts in 1282 days


#23 posted 10-06-2012 08:18 PM

As Bill said, I too use Staedtler drafting squares and triangles for various tasks. A reputable brand like Staedtler is inexpensive but incredibly accurate. Oh and dropping a plastic geometry triangle is not nearly as catastrophic as dropping a $50-100 combo square.

View a1Jim's profile

a1Jim

112062 posts in 2227 days


#24 posted 10-06-2012 08:55 PM

Someone brought up Grizzly earlier and they have a set for less than $20

http://www.amazon.com/Grizzly-H2993-pc-Machinist-27s-Square/dp/B0000DD4EE/ref=pd_cp_hi_0

-- http://artisticwoodstudio.com Custom furniture

View NiteWalker's profile

NiteWalker

2710 posts in 1226 days


#25 posted 10-07-2012 01:54 AM

I have both the lee valley double squares (4” and 6”), a 6” engineer square and 2 starrett 12” combo squares (the hardened steel head types). All are square based on the parallel line techniques. When I do the test, I draw the lines on both sides of the blade for outside and inside accuracy.

You certainly don’t need to spend that much on a good square, but the $105 I spent on my starrett I do not regret a single bit. You’re buying an heirloom quality tool.

-- He who dies with the most tools... dies with the emptiest wallet.

View shelly_b's profile

shelly_b

841 posts in 767 days


#26 posted 10-10-2012 12:14 PM

I have an empire combination also that I got a couple weeks ago for not too much that says it is guarunteed to be square and seemed to be. I did not know the flip test but tried it out and it is square…I also wanted a nice try square mainly for blade and equipment so I bit the bullet and ordered an incra square at the end of last week and got it yesterday. It is very solid and square so yes it was expensive, but I don’t think I will ever have to buy a new one. I had been using an orange plastic framing square for the last year b/c I thought it was square, and i checked it and sure enough it is. The only problem is it is too big to fit in some places. I now have a good combination square and a good try square so should be set. I also got the incra 12in precision marking rule when I got my square…I think it will come in very handy but it looks very fragile lol. Tedstor, those both look very well made. I would like to get a 6in square since everything I have is quite large. I set up my miter fence on my table saw with what I thought was a square square to make an arched panel cabinet door and when I went to put the face frame together the joints would not go together without one having a gap…so I would like to be as close as possible. Thanks everyone!

View Purrmaster's profile

Purrmaster

795 posts in 743 days


#27 posted 10-12-2012 12:54 AM

I believe iGaging sells some squares that are reasonably inexpensive but quite accurate. I got a (rather small) engineer’s square from Lee Valley that didn’t break the bank. I share your frustration, however.

View DKV's profile

DKV

3132 posts in 1154 days


#28 posted 10-12-2012 01:39 AM

Are you building aircraft parts for Boeing or Airbus?

-- My bad, 2015 is the correct year...

View grfrazee's profile

grfrazee

331 posts in 789 days


#29 posted 10-12-2012 02:44 AM

I got a set of three Groz squares for Christmas one year and I’ve been pretty happy with them. Granted, I never actually checked their precision, but the box says the bars are all parallel and within some number of micrometers square, so that’s good enough for me.

-- -=Pride is not a sin=-

View shelly_b's profile

shelly_b

841 posts in 767 days


#30 posted 10-12-2012 06:03 PM

Just setting up my tools mostly. When I made a cabinet door the other day and didn’t find out until i went to put it together that my miter fence was pretty far off b/c i didn’t have and accurate square, i was pretty frusturated! There was no way to clamp it and not have one of the joints gaping…so i decided i wanted to make sure all of my equipment was set up as close to square as possible so i didn’t get to the end of a project to find out i had to go back to the beginning:(

View riverguy's profile

riverguy

91 posts in 714 days


#31 posted 10-12-2012 06:32 PM

I’ve bought some really fine OLD squares and other precision measuring tools from eBay sellers, and at a fraction of what a new one would cost. In just about every case, an old, high-quality (like Starrett) measuring tool is far superior to a new “consumer” brand. I’ve also found some good ones at garage and estate sales, but eBay is there when you need it!

-- Skip, Forestville, CA, http://www.sonomastainedglass.com

View NiteWalker's profile

NiteWalker

2710 posts in 1226 days


#32 posted 10-12-2012 10:36 PM

FWIW, I bought an igauging 4” double square and an empire 12” combination square and both were a bit off.

AT the very least, don’t go for bottom of the barrel price range.

-- He who dies with the most tools... dies with the emptiest wallet.

View joeyinsouthaustin's profile

joeyinsouthaustin

1254 posts in 722 days


#33 posted 10-13-2012 12:00 AM

simple flat steel squares are all tunable. Use a hardened steel punch or nail set in the inside or outside of the corner. The metal will spread opening or closing the legs in the desired direction. this in combo with the flip method and your square can be perfect every time…

That said my favorite square is a little lucite square I got with a makita saw 5 years back. For the table saw it works great, and the legs of the lucite have the effect of being clear until in contact with the blade or fence. It produces amazing results. I will include a pic… maybe even write a review on that little piece of polycarb. it beats the drafting squares mentioned because of that effect. I have set up shaper fences with it, and then mic’ed them to .003. that is awesome.

To put my answer to this thread, you don’t need to spend that much… just need to learn how to MAKE things square… as several have pointed out, it is math not the object that determines square.

-- Who is John Galt?

View David Craig's profile

David Craig

2135 posts in 1758 days


#34 posted 10-13-2012 03:32 AM

I do not want to get beat up by Starret purists, but I have gotten a great deal of use out of this Swanson 6 inch square – http://www.amazon.com/Swanson-6-Inch-Combo-Square-Stainless/product-reviews/B0008JF0U8. I have purchased cheap squares before with mixed results but this is a pretty solid unit and has been my main “go to” for setting up fractional rip cuts on my TS.

-- There is little that is simple when it comes to making a simple box.

View NiteWalker's profile

NiteWalker

2710 posts in 1226 days


#35 posted 10-13-2012 01:02 PM

There’s an article by fww just put out; they tested 4” double squares and 12” combination squares.
Starrett won best overall in both categories and PEC tool won best value in both categories. I’d give PEC a look.

Article link.

-- He who dies with the most tools... dies with the emptiest wallet.

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