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Looks Square to Me ...

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Review by Ron Aylor posted 01-23-2017 05:34 PM 2522 views 1 time favorited 22 comments Add to Favorites Watch
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For years I have used but four squares; a 2 inch steel engineer’s square, a 12 inch Empire combination square, an antique 9 inch rosewood square, and a 24 inch framing square. All of these instruments have been tweaked and tuned, and match each other perfectly. Or, as perfect as perfect can get!

Recently, I found my myself in need of a square somewhere between my 9 inch and 2 inch squares. It is possible to bend the ruler if too much of the length is hanging off the work piece. I decided to look for a 6 inch combination square. Given that I have an affinity for the underdog, and my Windsor chisels were such a good deal, I decided to visit Harbor Freight once again. I purchased the Pittsburgh® 6 in. Heavy Duty Combination Square.

Out of the package, my first impression was favorable; I liked the weight and feel of the cast zinc alloy body. The stainless steel rule is nicely etched in both SAE and Metric scales, graduated to both millimeters and 1/32nds of an inch.

Now for the moment of truth … I placed my 2 inch engineer’s square on the 90° right angle shoulder of my newly purchased square and gently slid the two rules together. To my delight there was no light between the rules. I then adjusted the new square to form a right angle with the rule and the shoulder and placed it on my 9 inch rosewood try square. Hmmm … a bit of light at the very bottom between the two rules. Upon further inspection I found an ever so slight bump at the very end of the 90° right angle shoulder of the Pittsburgh square, perhaps as a result of the casting process. With just four passes of a file the bump disappeared … and so did the light.

I am now the proud owner of a 6 inch combination square, and for the low price of $4.99 give it a great big thumbs up!




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Ron Aylor

2649 posts in 794 days



22 comments so far

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ralbuck

5124 posts in 2413 days


#1 posted 01-23-2017 06:35 PM

I have found some H-F tools to be great for the price. I have been totally DISAPPOINTED with the 4-4-1/2 inch grinders they sell though. I will never buy another of those.

I have checked my H-F 1/2 inch drive torque wrench against a Mac tools one and the readings for it were within 1% of the $250 wrench—Way good enough for me.

-- Wood rescue is good for the environment and me! just rjR

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dschlic1

442 posts in 2116 days


#2 posted 01-23-2017 06:53 PM

Several years ago I purchased a HF combination square. Unfortunately it was out of square. Fortunately it was not difficult to adjust it to square. Still have it today and still use it occasionally. A year ago I purchased a PEC combination square and that is now my principle tool.

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Rich

3662 posts in 736 days


#3 posted 01-23-2017 08:56 PM

I find those HF and Empire squares to be accurate, but the markings leave so much to be desired. If you want to check square, great, but if you want to set it to 3-15/16” to use as a guide, it’s difficult to read them.

I have a Starrett 4” combination that someone left behind and I adopted many years ago, but when I’m spending my own money, I find PEC to be just as nice for almost half the price.

-- Half of what we read or hear about finishing is right. We just don’t know which half! — Bob Flexner

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Ron Aylor

2649 posts in 794 days


#4 posted 01-23-2017 09:12 PM


I find those HF and Empire squares to be accurate, but the markings leave so much to be desired. If you want to check square, great, but if you want to set it to 3-15/16” to use as a guide, it s difficult to read them.

I have a Starrett 4” combination that someone left behind and I adopted many years ago, but when I m spending my own money, I find PEC to be just as nice for almost half the price.

- RichTaylor

Interesting … I find even the 1/32nds easy to read. I just set this little guy to 3-31/32” with no issue … and I’m positive my shop is darker than yours!

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Rich

3662 posts in 736 days


#5 posted 01-23-2017 09:33 PM


Interesting … I find the even the 1/32nds easy to read. I just set this little guy to 3-31/32” with no issue … and I m positive my shop is darker than yours!

- Ron Aylor

But maybe my eyes are worse than yours…lol

I guess they aren’t all that way. I had one that looked like the markings were struck with a cold chisel. I think it was an Empire.

As Roseanne Roseannadanna used to say, never mind.

-- Half of what we read or hear about finishing is right. We just don’t know which half! — Bob Flexner

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Planeman40

1257 posts in 2907 days


#6 posted 01-24-2017 03:35 PM

Not long ago I was working in my shop with my retired Lockheed engineer friend who was using one of my old Stanley squares. Being the precision kind of guy he is he checked my square before using it and found it to be “un-square”. I was surprised! But he was right. Needing another square, I bought one from Harbor Freight. It is dead on and satisfies my precision Lockheed engineer friend. Square is square is square! Be it a cheap HF one or a Starret one. Same for Harbor Freight’s dial indicator. It is as accurate as my Mitutoyo indicator. Just because its is “cheap” doesn’t mean it doesn’t do the job. Yes, some things are losers, but these are usually obvious upon close inspection at the place of purchase. I am usually satisfied with my Harbor Freight purchases. If not, I can return them with no questions asked. They are good about that. And often I find the exact same thing Harbor Freight sells at double the price or more at other stores. Their $30 spray gun was $75 at Rockler, their $20 air powered metal saw was priced at $90 at other industrial websites with one at $199! Harbor Freight buys in volume DIRECT from Chinese manufacturers whereas big box stores and other places usually buy from USA distributors who mark up the price, usually doubling it.

-- Always remember: It is a mathematical certainty that half the people in this country are below average in intelligence!

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OggieOglethorpe

1276 posts in 2257 days


#7 posted 01-24-2017 04:54 PM

I have one of the Pittsburgh examples, it’s decent, was inexpensive, and I use it outdoors…

The good thing about combo squares of any brand is that “squareness” is easily user adjustable. All you need is a file with one unsafe edge and some blue tape.

To me, “square” is about 25% of the value of a combo square…

To me, it’s the other 75% that makes owning at least one of the more expensive examples worth owning. Because I do so much more than check for square with the tool when I’m working in my shop, the single tool that easily spends the most time in my hand is a combo square. I’m a big fan of the locking, unlocking, and sliding action, the way satin chrome works for my eyes in just about any light, interchangeable blades and fittings of different lengths, scales, and measuring systems, and simply the way the top end examples feel in my hand.

I really like my Starrett stuff but can also recommend PEC. PEC makes many of the other brands that use satin chrome blades, including some of my Lee Valley examples.

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Ted78

401 posts in 2146 days


#8 posted 01-24-2017 07:30 PM

Just a quick question. Are the markings on it really etched? or are they stamped? I know it doesn’t really matter but some of the more aggressively stamped rules just feel kinda rough in the hand, and this would be by far the cheapest I’ve seen any etched rules.

-- Ted

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Ron Aylor

2649 posts in 794 days


#9 posted 01-24-2017 07:39 PM



Just a quick question. Are the markings on it really etched? or are they stamped? I know it doesn t really matter but some of the more aggressively stamped rules just feel kinda rough in the hand, and this would be by far the cheapest I ve seen any etched rules.

- Ted78

Yes sir … stainless steel rule with etched markings. My old Empire square has stamped markings … and boy can you tell a difference!

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Ted78

401 posts in 2146 days


#10 posted 01-24-2017 09:34 PM

Cool, I think Ill pick one up. Thanks for the review

-- Ted

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Planeman40

1257 posts in 2907 days


#11 posted 01-25-2017 02:15 AM

And her is a tip.

If you have trouble with the locking nut on the square, just add a thin lock washer between the nut and the square body. It keeps tension on the nut and keeps the nut from loosening and allows the measuring blade to still slide back and forth if the nut is backed off a touch. You may have to round over the locking edge of the lock washer a bit, but I haven’t had to do this.

-- Always remember: It is a mathematical certainty that half the people in this country are below average in intelligence!

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dday

164 posts in 1576 days


#12 posted 01-25-2017 01:27 PM

Good info. The guys here at work were talking about this subject one day and how their “precision” measuring tools weren’t square. Went home and checked my cheap Lowe’s combination and framing squares and they are right on the money. They are made by Swanson and are reasonably priced. I’ll keep HF in mind for others.

As for reading them, I saw a youtube video about painting them, so that’s what I did. Some red model paint, brushed on and then wiped off leaves a very readable contrast between the etching and stainless

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MrRon

5086 posts in 3390 days


#13 posted 01-26-2017 10:16 PM

Combination squares are used by woodworkers and machinists. Each has their own level of precision. From a woodworker’s point of view, the HF square may be adequate, but if real precision is needed as with a machinist, high end squares like Starrett, Mitutoyo, B&S, etc need to be employed. In that case, HF won’t hack it.

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Planeman40

1257 posts in 2907 days


#14 posted 01-26-2017 11:01 PM



Combination squares are used by woodworkers and machinists. Each has their own level of precision. From a woodworker s point of view, the HF square may be adequate, but if real precision is needed as with a machinist, high end squares like Starrett, Mitutoyo, B&S, etc need to be employed. In that case, HF won t hack it.

- MrRon

True. However we are talking woodworking here. There is a vast difference in tolerances that are required or can be achieved between the two mediums. And most amateur machinists (I am one) are hard pressed to work to a tolerance of .001 inch in metal. Its an impossibility in wood (and is unnecessary).

-- Always remember: It is a mathematical certainty that half the people in this country are below average in intelligence!

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Ron Aylor

2649 posts in 794 days


#15 posted 01-26-2017 11:59 PM


True. However we are talking woodworking here. There is a vast difference in tolerances that are required or can be achieved between the two mediums. And most amateur machinists (I am one) are hard pressed to work to a tolerance of .001 inch in metal. Its an impossibility in wood (and is unnecessary).

- Planeman40

Could not have said it better myself!

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