Reliable Straight Edge?

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I'm new to woodworking, so please bear with my obvious ignornace <grin>. I recently needed a straight edge to rip stock away from the table saw, I would also like to use it as a guide for hand router, etc.
So I go to Lowes to buy a Johnson 8ft straight edge for $20. It's two 4 ft sections that uses a joining plate slipped into the two pieces to make the 8ft length. All I can say is WHAT A PIECE OF GARBAGE. You could never be sure it was straight because of all the play there was every time you put the two sections together. I tried using my four foot level to "true" it up, but that seemed like the blind leading the blind since there was no guarantee the level was straight all the way its length.
So, my question is where (and how much $$)can one get a reliable straight edge from 4 to 8ft in length?
All insights appreciated!
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If you start with reasonable straight stock this shouldn't take too long http://www.tdl.com/~swensen/machines/straight_edge/straight_edge.html Joe who fully intends to do this, some day
John Doe wrote:

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Great article Joe, very insightful (and now I know what "lapping" is). The problem I see (for me) using this method is that I only have access/capability of using hardwood for the SEs... I'm sure over time the wood-made SEs will wear and the edges no longer straight. I would prefer getting something off the shelf for now to get my work back on schedule. But great article nonetheless, thanks!

I
ft
the
put
up,
straight
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I use a metal wall-stud, when I need a long straight-edge.

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Make a sawboard.Mind the text wrapping. http://members.aol.com/woodmiser1/sawbd.htm Tom Someday, it'll all be over....
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Now let's imagine that I don't have 50 hours to invest in making my own straight edges. Any other suggestions? I'm not the OP, but I have my eye out for one as well.
todd
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Maybe a piece of square steel tubing. I've seen lenggths in the borgs but haven't checked them for straightness, but if you try be sure to check a few against each other, similar to making your own. If three of them match each other along the length they should be accurate. Untill they get dripped. Joe
todd wrote:

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That's what I use for my router and circular saw. A 1" piece of square aluminum tubing bought at a HD like store. I cut a 9' footer in two pieces and attached the 54 " piece to a piece of 1/4" plywood which was about 12" wide and 48" long until I ran the saw down one side and the jig saw down the other. Now the edge of the plywood gives me the cut line of the CS on one side and the jig saw on the other. The other 54" piece serves as a guide for my router. Cheers, JG
Joe Gorman wrote:

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That's a great set of ideas.

aluminum
attached
long
edge of

the
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http://makeashorterlink.com/?T6E324E06 will point you to some sources.
But these seem to be gross overkill for most woodworking use. I like the "sawboard" someone else posted. Seems that it could be made for the router as well.
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Alex
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alexy wrote: Sawboard I

I'm a sawboard fan http://members.aol.com/woodmiser1/sawbd.htm
but I do something different for guiding a router.
This is what I do for cutting 3/4 inch dados, change the 3/4 to whatever size you prefer for a different sized bit.
Cut two pieces of straight 49 inch long stock into guides (3/4 MDF or whatever floats your boat). The width of one is from the edge of a my round router base to the far side of the 3/4 bit. The other is from the edge of the router base to the near side of the 3/4 bit.
Mark one edge of the dado on the piece of sheet goods to be dadoed, then use the appropriate near or far side guide to locate your straight edge and clamp the straight edge in place. Then run your router along the straight edge to make your router cut.
You could get by with just a the far side guide most of the time, but having both gives you more options in how you make you cuts.
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up,
This all depends upon how accurate you need to be. Might I suggest that wood does not require a really accurate straight edge. If that is so, a straight piece of bright steel bar may do or a piece of extruded aluminium of an appropriate section. The larger the section, the more stable the straight edge. Don't try to fabricate one though. Any welding will distort the beam. Try a local metal stockist. You may be able to find a used one. If you can find a company that uses a calibrated straight edge, they most likely buy a new one every year as it's cheaper to do that than have the old one retested. Try http://www.moore-and-wright.co.uk/Catalogue%20Index/Page%2057.pdf for details of the expensive ones.
John
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John: Try this one. I have the 50" unit and use it quite a bit. (Amazon.com product link shortened) If the wrap gets in your way, go to Amazon.com, then tools and hardware, then search on Griset.
Bob Schmall

up,
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Bingo Bob, that's about what I had in mind. It's nice to know you can get a one piece 8-footer for about $99 (as opposed to spending $300 - 500 for a precision straight edge from Starret, etc).
Thanks again.

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Or ten bucks for a piece of angle iron.
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John Doe wrote:

(Amazon.com product link shortened)
You'll love it, I've had mine for 3+ years, as well as the lighter 36" & 50" models. Before that I used a piece of 1/4"x3" steel flat stock that I had a machinist true up for me on one edge. I still use it but only as a straight edge for when I'm scoring long pieces of laminate.
Scott
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John,
I think you expected the wrong thing from this straight edge. Its designed to be clamped into place for guiding a router, handheld saw, etc. The idea is that if you need some fine adjustment, you'll take a straight edge standard and lay it along the joint of the Johnson guide, then clamp it down. Using any kind of hand held guide for hand held tools puts you in the ball park of "good enough" for cutting sheet stock in construction carpentry or cutting it down to size for later use with more precise tools.
Perhaps what you are looking for would be more along the lines of the guide described here https://www.popularwoodworking.com/features/fea.asp?id 04
Bob

up,
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Appreciate the comments Bob, but no, I wasn't expecting too much from the Johnson guide. My big beef was that it was two pieces in order to rip a 8ft cut. And if you saw the way the two aluminum pieces butted up end-to-end you would laugh at how badly they were machined. (I'm slowly learning that everything at HD and Lowes is good enough for a homeowner that doesn't know any better.) If I needed to carry around a "straight-edge-standard" just to "straighten-out" my straight edge every time I needed it, then it kinda defeats the purpose of having a "straight edge"...lol!
Nope, all I was looking for was a reliable one piece 8 ft straight edge that would allow one to make smooth cuts with a skil saw or router. But again, the insights and comments are appreciated, I'm here to learn like everyone else.

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Oh, I know more about the Johnson, than you might realize. I own one. Your comments made me think about how I have used it in the past and why I think its a useful guide. The keyword here is "guide". Its shaped just right for clamping down with small C-clamps and using to provide a guide for your saw or router. Its stable and smooth and does that job just perfectly. That's something to consider - smoothely guiding a 2-3 HP handheld saw or router. You need something that is sturdy and thick enough that you can safely press the whirling dirvish against it with confidence.
Last year I made some heavy duty shelves for my garage that required routing a bunch of 3/4" wide slots in a bunch of 2x4's. These slots needed to line up reasonably well, so I clamped them together in groups of eight with pipe clamps, clamped down the Johnson straight edge and routed away. It was perfect. Judging by your comments, I assume you did buy one. Its not obvious in looking at one on the shelf that there are hold down screws to make sure the two pieces stay together during the job.
When I cut sheet stock, I always measure from the factory straight side of the plywood or whatever at multiple points and mark it, then lay down the straight edge along those marks and clamp it down. In fact now that I think about it, using a "straight edge standard" to line up the Johnson is something I may have done once - but that is not how I really use it. The other thing - I use the heck out of 1/2 the Johnson. Would I want a one piece 8 foot? Yes, but not without having a shorter version to go with it.
You've received all kinds of information in your query. That's what I like about this conference. It arms you with facts, viewpoints and information with very little BS so you can make your own decision.
Bob

<grin>.
I
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it
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snipped-for-privacy@earthlink.net says...

I've got a similar guide, although I don't know the brand name. Even with the hold down screws, there's some give in the middle when clamped at both ends.
Since it's often impossible to clamp in the middle, I drilled a small hole sized for a finishing nail. I don't have to drive the nail in very far to stabilize the middle, and the resulting hole is next to invisible for the kinds of projects I'd be using the guide for.
--
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