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Good Product, but isn't it overpriced?

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Review by PurpLev posted 2235 days ago 6324 views 2 times favorited 26 comments Add to Favorites Watch
Good Product, but isn't it overpriced? Good Product, but isn't it overpriced? Good Product, but isn't it overpriced? Click the pictures to enlarge them

So I went to an Estate Sale, and found this Starrett 12” combination square still in the original packaging with the nylon wrap, and for $20… obviously I snagged it before anyone else had the chance to even think about looking at it…

I recently commented on teenagerwoodworker review of his Empire combination square. I’ve been using the Empire squares for the longest time, and had great results with them (12”,6”) they are accurate, slide fairly smooth, and lock pretty ok…. and they are $9-$6 respectively.

So I figured I might as well run a head-to-head test between my $9 Empire square, and my newly purchased (originally priced at $50-$70) Starrett which everyone is raving about.

1st test: Appearance and machining
I’d be honest – I like the way the Starrett look and feel, it’s heftier, and the chrome ruler, and cast iron head look nicer. I also like the finer measurements on the ruler – which – is the primary reason I wanted to get this one over the Empire. Also look at the picture above – you can see the difference in the groove in the ruler – supposedly make it slide smoother- does it really ? maybe… by just a little, does it lock better? maybe , but to be fair – when it locks it locks well, as with my empire I had on occasion locked it and the ruler slid off… but maybe it was me.

If you’ll look closer at the parts that make up the Starrett you can see that the materials are of better quality, thicker, and machined to a better degree.

2nd test: Leveling
I took an extra level, and put both combination squares on both sides of the level when it wasn’t completely leveled to ground. you can see from the picture that the Empire square has a similar size leveling capsule and looks similar to the level, whereas the Starrett has a smaller capsule, and the off level seems more pronounced. better worse? I guess its a matter of opinion…
Levels Off
Notice that when I did level the surface both combination squares show same result:
level on

3rd test: Squaring the ruler
For this test I took a piece of wood, butted the combination square against it’s edge, and drew a line along the ruler – then flipped the square 180 to it’s other face, and drew a second line at the same place I did the first line. reason dictates that if the combination square is really square and accurate- both lines should merge into a single thin line – and as you can see from the picture- both squares produced the exact same result – accurate and precise! the starrett is the line on the left, and the Empire is the line on the right:
Lines

Conclusion?
I am a sucker for quality tool like every other person reading this review… so I appreciate the fact that I got this Starrett combination square, and for the price I got it – It’s definitely worth it, but compared to the Empire – if the Starrett was at it’s original market price- I don’t think I’d EVER buy one not at 600%-700% of the Empire price.

Good tool, feels good, looks good, GREAT measurements (64th”), but personally I think it’s over hyped. If you have a good accurate Combination square – don’t feel like you’re ‘behind’ go make some square lines!

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




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PurpLev

8476 posts in 2282 days



26 comments so far

View sIKE's profile

sIKE

1271 posts in 2388 days


#1 posted 2235 days ago

Nice to see a comparative review of these two products. I surprised not to see a big difference in fit and finish of the Starrett product.

-- //FC - Round Rock, TX - "Experience is what you get just after you need it"

View Chris 's profile

Chris

1867 posts in 2625 days


#2 posted 2235 days ago

Thanks for the review… I spoke with a machinist friend of mine regarding why the Starret would be worth the cost and he said time is the real test; that he has had quite a few different rules and squares that started of good but after use & abuse could not keep up with his demands and only the Starret did. Maybe that the case here?

I can’t say for sure as I don’t own either of these combo squares. I just thought it might be food for thought…

-- "Everything that is great and inspiring is created by the individual who labors in freedom" -- Albert Einstein

View depictureboy's profile

depictureboy

420 posts in 2276 days


#3 posted 2235 days ago

I wish I could find stuff like that. I always find out about the sales after they are done, or they are too far away to reasonably get to on a busy weekend. The one time someone close by had some stuff, they knew what they had and it was all marked accordingly…sigh

I was lucky enough to snag some waterbed railings a couple weeks ago. Sure its probably only pine, but it was free, thick, and wide….all the rails were about 8/4 by 10 or 12 inches…the only problem is they have a finish on them, but I figure I can resaw that off. Gives me some play around wood.

but my dream is to find a decent jointer or fore plane, maybe a jack or smoother for a song…hehe. Course I think I share that dream with a lot of people.

by the way I went out and got the empire 6” pro version based on your recommendation in your other review(I think it was yours) eheh

-- If you can't build it, code it. If you can't code it, build it. But always ALWAYS take a picture.

View steveosshop's profile

steveosshop

230 posts in 2260 days


#4 posted 2235 days ago

Nice review and nice find for $20. Its good to know that a less expensive square holds up to an extent with the more expensive squares. But I guess if you need pinpoint percission the price may not be a big deal. I still think thats a great find at $20.

-- Steve-o

View BroDave's profile

BroDave

107 posts in 2448 days


#5 posted 2234 days ago

Looking through Empire’s specs I can’t find any mention of the squareness on their combo squares, other than the True Blue level vials.
Starrett specs. for the 12” combo is guaranteed accurate to +/- .00001”

I believe the difference can been seen if you miter a corner with each square and cut on the line.
The Empire square would be perfectly fine if marking rafters or joists, if you build a chest or a box, not so much.
I freely admit, I am anal retentive about square, plumb and level when there just isn’t any need it, like cutting the end of a log with a chain saw, character flaw on my part.

What I’m saying is the two tools have different intended uses.

-- .

View PurpLev's profile

PurpLev

8476 posts in 2282 days


#6 posted 2234 days ago

Chris – I thought about the time issue as well, and although I have been using the Empire for several years, it’s still somewhat of a short time, and since I am the weekend warrior – I haven’t really stressed out any of my tools – so thats a good point you mentioned there… I guess time will tell us all.

BroDave – Empire Pro combination squares are guaranteed to within +/1 .0001” (one thousand of an inch) – it’s a nice thing to see that Starrett has a guarantee for a higher precision than that… but as woodworkers – I don’t really reckon we need that much precision do we? even to setup our tools and tables… but one point you mentioned was the 45 miter angle which I forgot to cover in this test… I’ll try adding that up later… another part of the tool that is critical and was overlooked.

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

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BroDave

107 posts in 2448 days


#7 posted 2234 days ago

”Empire Pro combination squares are guaranteed to within +/1 .0001” ”

Ahh, I could not find that on their site.
“but as woodworkers – I don’t really reckon we need that much precision do we?”

It’s that anal retentive thing again Old Son. Probably don’t need it, just bothers me that I can’t get it. :D

Bench rest shooters have a saying.
Accuracy is a tiny hole that consumes huge amounts of money.

-- .

View PurpLev's profile

PurpLev

8476 posts in 2282 days


#8 posted 2234 days ago

Hmm…. so I went to check Empire website, and you’re right – the guarantee only refers to the Vial and within 0.001”... I bought this a while ago, and I forgot what it was referring to… good catch – my bad (PS- I accidently wrote an extra 0 on my last post… I was thinking one thousands of an inch, but for some reason added one too many 0 to it making it 1 ten-thousands of an inch)

I’m anal about precision and quality… but only to a certain degree where it doesnt hurt me… BroDave – I guess you surpass me on that one by a mile… ;)

But all said and done – it is true that the Starrett is much better made (material, machining, etc), and I can see it go for $30-$40… but not twice that much… I just don’t see the reasoning – is there such low demand for it that there are less products sold that they need to get their money’s worth?

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

View gizmodyne's profile

gizmodyne

1763 posts in 2724 days


#9 posted 2234 days ago

Interesting review.

My thoughts:

I have never leveled anything with a combination square. Although you’ve got me thinking about what I could level.

I have found that the Starret handles more abuse (if you drop it per say (don’t ask how I know)).

Also the Starret has multiple styles of marking the various fractions. You can use a different side for each.

I would buy the Empire to lend to others though.

-- -John "Do I have to keep typing a smiley? Just assume it's a joke." www.flickr.com/photos/gizmodyne

View sIKE's profile

sIKE

1271 posts in 2388 days


#10 posted 2234 days ago

Gizmo,

You slay me, buy a combo square to loan …..

-- //FC - Round Rock, TX - "Experience is what you get just after you need it"

View Karson's profile

Karson

34870 posts in 3034 days


#11 posted 2234 days ago

Thanks for the review and all of the comments.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Southern Delaware karson_morrison@bigfoot.com †

View BroDave's profile

BroDave

107 posts in 2448 days


#12 posted 2234 days ago

Oh yeah, I pegged the weird meter long ago.

I don’t mean to knock the Empire square or hi-jack your thread at all though.
I have several brands and types of squares in shop and they all have their place.

-- .

View PurpLev's profile

PurpLev

8476 posts in 2282 days


#13 posted 2234 days ago

BroDave: hijack the thread? are you kidding? isn’t this is what its supposed to be? sharing info between everyone – the more input we get from more people, the closer we get to a real point of view. thanx for butting in… lol

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

View Tom Adamski's profile

Tom Adamski

306 posts in 2405 days


#14 posted 2234 days ago

It is what it is… ! Starrett makes precision measuring and marking tools for people who value precision in their work. Price is subjective… Starrett charges what the market will bear. I love mine and consider it an investment in the future of my work. Should you decide your $20 Starrett is a needless frill, I’ll offer you double your money back. <g>

Tom

-- Anybody can become a woodworker, but only a Craftsman can hide his mistakes.

View sIKE's profile

sIKE

1271 posts in 2388 days


#15 posted 2234 days ago

I’ll plus $1 that offer >:)

-- //FC - Round Rock, TX - "Experience is what you get just after you need it"

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