Combination Square or Razor Blade

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Forum topic by Eastern posted 06-11-2014 03:22 PM 1096 views 0 times favorited 14 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Eastern's profile


17 posts in 873 days

06-11-2014 03:22 PM

Bought a cheap combination square from HD – made in China.

Very dangerous to handle – not joking. The measuring blade was just that – an unfinished piece of steel that you could cut a steak with…..

They should tell the customer that it’s a “mostly finished product – sanding required”

14 replies so far

View Buckethead's profile


3140 posts in 1291 days

#1 posted 06-11-2014 03:31 PM

I bought a couple combo nation squares from big box stores. It was truly a waste of money. They are entirely worthless. I found a few at an antique store, and along with a simonds back saw, a brace and a couple brace bits. (12” combo, 6” combo, 12” protractor square, all with centering finders, all but one starrat, and the other is of equal quality) for $125.

That may seem like a lot of money, but I had researched new starrat combo squares, and soon realized that it was truthfully a good bargain.

If anyone is considering saving money by buying big box store combination squares…. Reconsider.

-- Support woodworking hand models. Buy me a sawstop.

View Loren's profile


8168 posts in 3070 days

#2 posted 06-11-2014 04:01 PM

Poke around at flee markets and yard sales when you can. I’ve
found several fine machinest tools for a few dollars over the years.

Sometime you’ll encounter a cache of marvelous stuff if you
keep your eyes open. It does happen to all of us who play
the old tool game, sooner or later.

View jonah's profile


687 posts in 2721 days

#3 posted 06-11-2014 09:17 PM

I have to disagree. Well, not that the cheap combo squares have poor fit and finish – they undoubtedly do. The Empire 12” square I got first is a PITA to lock down securely because of poorly machined threads.

That said, it is dead square. A pair of lines down a flat surface from that square is indistinguishable from the 6” and 12” Starrett squares I have.

Is it slightly irritating to use? Yes. But you can’t argue that it serves its intended purpose (making perpendicular lines down different surfaces) just as well as a combo square costing five times as much.

View TheFridge's profile


5682 posts in 909 days

#4 posted 06-11-2014 09:36 PM

Starrett makes high quality tools. If you are going to buy any kind of square from a box store, invest in a 6” engineers square to bring with you. It’s a crapshoot with the cheap stuff, but if it has a hump or 2 that can be filed down it’s just as good as an expensive square.

And it may or may not. I wouldn’t trust a combo square but that’s me. You might find a good one out the batch at Home Depot, but when you buy a starrett it is what you pay for.

-- Shooting down the walls of heartache. Bang bang. I am. The warrior.

View bandit571's profile


14084 posts in 2106 days

#5 posted 06-11-2014 10:02 PM

Empire isn’t too hateful, if you find the non-plastic ones. Swanson makes a decent one, also.

I have a few ( can never have too many) all metal combo squares. Even a Starrett or two.

One thing to try while looking at the rack of squares. Look a little to one side or the other, you will find a few Framing Squares. Grab the STEEL one, run the blade of the combo square all the way out, and check it against the outside edge of the framing square. You can even ask the clerk( if you can find one) to help out.

My biggest beef with these squares? Trying to READ the markings. Not all are easy reads, some downright painful. As for that little level? I ‘d rather not have one there. Same with that little needle like pointy thing that MIGHT work as a scribe? Too dang small for these fingers.

You might also check to see IF the ruler is even straight. Not bent, but the edges may be less than straight along their length. That straight line you draw, may have a curve in it…

-- A Planer? I'M the planer, this is what I use

View Eastern's profile


17 posts in 873 days

#6 posted 06-11-2014 10:02 PM

Thanks for the input guys….....

I ran some emory cloth over all edges to knock off the burrs. It’s just fine now and square. But how can Swanson put out such a product? I doesn’t take anything at all to do one more production step to knock off the burrs. But clearly they don’t ….......................

Next time your at HD – run your thumb across one…..

View mantwi's profile


312 posts in 1319 days

#7 posted 06-12-2014 04:30 AM

Both Empire and Johnson have a line of squares that are guaranteed to be as accurate as any woodworker will ever need one to be. Jonah is right about them being dead square and also about the nuts loosening up in use. Just drop an inside toothed lock washer on the bolt and the problem will be solved. I always check the squares in the store because quality can vary from one to the other. Take your time and take a good 4 tor 6” engineers square along to make sure the square you buy is indeed square.

View Loren's profile


8168 posts in 3070 days

#8 posted 06-12-2014 04:47 AM

Squares can be adjusted with a narrow file. There are little
tabs on each end of the head and if it’s out of square you
file of a smidge and check again. I did it with a $7 Harbor
Freight square years ago when I was starting out. It’s in
my carpentry stuff now… I have a Starrett or something
similar in my bench drawer now, but honestly, aside from
the better markings on the finer square they are about the
same for woodworking applications.

View jonah's profile


687 posts in 2721 days

#9 posted 06-12-2014 07:57 AM

I got my Starrett squares used, but I’ve never seen the appeal of spending huge amounts of coin on measuring and layout tools. If you can spend a fifth the money and get the same accuracy, why break the bank?

I would consider the fit and finish, ergonomics, and the superior ruler markings of my Starrett worth the ~$35 I paid, but I’d never spend more than that on a square. We’re not doing metal work here – a few thousandths here or there aren’t worth worrying about.

View Kaleb the Swede's profile

Kaleb the Swede

1720 posts in 1392 days

#10 posted 06-12-2014 10:57 AM

I found a starrett 12 inch square with centering head and protractor at a pawn shop close by. I walked out with that and a drill press for 80 bucks; I didn’t argue

-- Just trying to build something beautiful

View waho6o9's profile


7124 posts in 1999 days

#11 posted 06-12-2014 12:25 PM

View MrRon's profile


3898 posts in 2666 days

#12 posted 06-12-2014 10:39 PM

I have a Starrett combination square that I use as a reference tool. I use it to check cheaper squares. I don’t want to expose the good square to shop environment.

View jonah's profile


687 posts in 2721 days

#13 posted 06-12-2014 10:55 PM

Other items in my shop that are dead square/flat according to my Starrett square/Veritas straightedge:

- my $4 plastic speed square
- my $7 aluminum speed square
- my 12” empire combo square
- the Harbor Freight combo square I bought for my kids
- my cheap aluminum drywall t-square
- my empire 4’ level

Just sayin’... you don’t have to fork over big bucks for marking and measuring tools.

View Eastern's profile


17 posts in 873 days

#14 posted 06-13-2014 01:15 AM

Thanks again for all the input….

Just sayin’… you don’t have to fork over big bucks for marking and measuring tools.

Speaking of inexpensive tools I just jumped on the digital protractor bandwagon. Some guy on youtube said they were dead accurate and with my eyes getting older – I can’t read those tiny ticks on a regular protractor….

What really sold me was the abilty to “zero” it. I’m getting the one from Think Geek. The guy in the video didn’t say what brand he was using but the Think Geek was a match…….......

Large display- Easy to use – very accurate – ability to zero …....sold sold sold sold

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