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are starret/PEC tools really worth it?

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Forum topic by Spikes posted 10-24-2018 02:19 PM 1693 views 0 times favorited 63 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Spikes

95 posts in 243 days


10-24-2018 02:19 PM

Dear all,

I’m trying to address imprecision in my work and as part of that effort I’ve been reading on best practice around measuring/scoring and one of the things that came up was buying a good combination square to use to check all the other tools.

The one often mentioned is a starret or, slightly cheaper, one from PECTool. However these are by no means cheap and after doing the line-flipping test (https://www.instructables.com/id/How-to-square-a-combination-square/) on my $5 empire square bought at HD I don’t see any problems with it.

are higher end combination/try square really worth it?

that said, once I had made sure my combination square was square I used it to check the rafter and framing squares and they are both slightly off, about 1/64. Is that big enough of an error to worry about? I realize it depends to what precision I’m trying to build and I’d generally think it’s ok, but on the other end I’m worried my errors will multiply as I go along more complex builds and eventually show up big times with loose joints and pieces just not lining up correctly.

thanks,

Spike

-- Don't worry about making progress, worry about practicing. If you practice you will make progress even if you don't want to.


63 replies so far

View Heyoka's profile

Heyoka

4 posts in 50 days


#1 posted 10-24-2018 02:47 PM

Good tools are always worth the cost!

-- Heyoka

View Rayne's profile

Rayne

1106 posts in 1737 days


#2 posted 10-24-2018 02:52 PM

They are worth the cost, but if you don’t mind blemished ones, Harry Epstein sells the PEC measuring tools for super cheap. Both of my combinations squares are from them and love using them for everything. Always square.

View HokieKen's profile

HokieKen

7029 posts in 1336 days


#3 posted 10-24-2018 03:00 PM

Starrett and PEC are worth the money if you need the precision they offer in my opinion. They also have the benefit of peace of mind. I check my Starrett and PEC squares occasionally and they have all remained dead square always. But if your Empire square is square, then it’s good. Careful though because aluminum squares will wear the small pads the scale rides on fairly quickly and it can go out of square. So check it often. Higher-end squares offer the advantage of cast iron or hardened steel so they wear much more slowly and as a rule last a lifetime.

As far as 1/64 being too much, it does depend on how precise your work needs to be but, it also depends on how big your combination square is? If you check a 24” framing square with a 6” combination square and there’s a 1/64” gap, that’s 1/16” at the 24” mark. In other words, the error is per unit length so the longer/wider your work, the more the error will be.

Also remember that scoring a square line is one thing. Cutting to it is another. A perfect square won’t help if your miter gauge is out ;-)

-- Kenny, SW VA, Go Hokies!!!

View Fred Hargis's profile

Fred Hargis

5171 posts in 2691 days


#4 posted 10-24-2018 03:31 PM

You might check Harry Epstein’s prices on the PEC tools if those are the ones you want (they are very nice). He has some factory seconds (blemished) for very good prices.

-- Our village hasn't lost it's idiot, he was elected to congress.

View rwe2156's profile

rwe2156

3163 posts in 1679 days


#5 posted 10-24-2018 03:40 PM

I owned/tried to tweak 3 different combination squares, then got a Starrett.

That said, I have a Starrett 8” square (not a combo) that was pitifully out of square.

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

View LittleShaver's profile

LittleShaver

419 posts in 817 days


#6 posted 10-24-2018 03:43 PM

You can also do the same test on your framing square to check for square. Adjustments are done by using a center punch to at the corner to “push” the edge you need to move to bring it into square. If you punch near the outside corner, the legs move closer together, towards the inside of the corner, the legs move farther apart. Took longer to write this than it does to do it.

-- Sawdust Maker

View lumbering_on's profile

lumbering_on

574 posts in 688 days


#7 posted 10-24-2018 03:43 PM

For a beginning hobbyist – no. Starret is a great machinist tool, but I’ve used an Empire for the past few years, and it is more than accurate enough. Just make sure to test it every once and a while to ensure it is square.

The reality is that if you are noticing inaccuracies in your work, it’s likely due to either your technique, cutting/shaping tools, or most likely both. You will get far more benefit learning how to tune your table saw properly, and how to make accurate cuts than buying an expensive combination square.

View BroncoBrian's profile

BroncoBrian

847 posts in 2156 days


#8 posted 10-24-2018 03:51 PM

”one of the things that came up was buying a good combination square to use to check all the other tools.”

YES.

https://www.amazon.com/Starrett-K53-8-N-Stainless-Carpenters-Square/dp/B00ELMS8Q6

I like this one best. It is my go to to check blades and fences. In woodworking, you do not need machine precision, but your machines do. Having one of these should give you confidence in your tools. Starrett is actually a good value for precision. Once you see it and use it, you will understand.

Edit… and the comments about Hobbyist vs Professional, how is that relevant? I am not a professional race car driver, so should I not worry about air pressure or wheel alignment? I don’t care if you work in your shop for 20 or 2000 hours a year. Right is good, wrong is bad.

I threw away my craftsman combos and some other cheap stuff after realizing they were not actually square.

-- A severed foot is the ultimate stocking stuffer.

View BroncoBrian's profile

BroncoBrian

847 posts in 2156 days


#9 posted 10-24-2018 03:58 PM



I owned/tried to tweak 3 different combination squares, then got a Starrett.

That said, I have a Starrett 8” square (not a combo) that was pitifully out of square.

- rwe2156

I have few Crown squares that are not square. That 8” is budget Starrett, mine is dead on, guess QC is lacking on that one. Bummer. I like the lightweight feel because it is more of a utility tool for me. Some have complained about it not “feeling” like a real Starrett.

-- A severed foot is the ultimate stocking stuffer.

View Woodknack's profile

Woodknack

12430 posts in 2578 days


#10 posted 10-24-2018 04:13 PM

Yes they are worth it. I’ve never regretted buying a high quality tool but I have often regretted not it sooner.

-- Rick M, http://thewoodknack.blogspot.com/

View bondogaposis's profile

bondogaposis

5086 posts in 2549 days


#11 posted 10-24-2018 04:18 PM

Buying quality only hurts once, junk tools hurt every time you use them.

I used it to check the rafter and framing squares and they are both slightly off, about 1/64.

That is not much off for framing a house but for making furniture that is a huge error because errors accumulate.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View oldnovice's profile

oldnovice

7321 posts in 3566 days


#12 posted 10-24-2018 04:58 PM

I agree with bondogapos as it is also my opinion, you need ONE precision square!

-- "I never met a board I didn't like!"

View jonah's profile

jonah

1913 posts in 3496 days


#13 posted 10-24-2018 05:32 PM

The cosmetic blemished PEC squares on eBay are an excellent deal.

I have several, and the biggest plus over cheapo squares is ergonomics. They’re easier to lock down and tend to stay locked a little tighter. Not a huge deal, but they’re not much more money, the markings on the rule are easier to read, and they have better ergonomics. That’s enough for me to pay a little more.

I’d never buy a Starrett (or PEC) square for full price. That’s completely unnecessary, IMO.

View pintodeluxe's profile

pintodeluxe

5798 posts in 3011 days


#14 posted 10-24-2018 06:03 PM

For most tools there is a cheap starter model, some mid-price options, and the cream of the crop.

With combo squares there only seems to be garbage and gold. I tried every make and manufacturer under the sun, before switching to Starrett. In the end, I paid way too much money on many, many, many cheap combo squares. I should have switched sooner.

-- Willie, Washington "If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice" - Rush

View ColonelTravis's profile

ColonelTravis

1931 posts in 2092 days


#15 posted 10-24-2018 06:11 PM

yes

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