I am a beginner wood worker. I was told one of the essential tools
beyond any power tools is a good machinest square. So... I went to my
local Woodcrafters and purchased a $60 Starrett Machinest 6" square. I
was happy with my purchase and excited to use it to better set up my
TS. When I started using it to check alignment of the fence with the
miter slot I found what I think is a flaw but it might be so small
that it is to be expected and/or does not matter for what I am doing.
When I placed the steel ruler of the machinest square in the slot
width wise. As if I was ripping the ruler on the TS but had it stood
up on end. One end of the ruler fit in the slot perfectly and I could
not twist the ruler at all, it was locked in, the only thing I could
do was pull it up out of the slot. But when I put the other end of the
ruler in the miter slot at the same spot the fit was loose. I could
spin the ruler in the slot. I hope I explained this well if not I will
Is this a reasonable amount of imperfection in a $60 machinest square?
I am guessing it is only difference of less than 1/32 of an inch but I
am not sure. Any advice would be much apprecaited.
A machinist square usually has a large heavy "body" and a thin
"blade". With that type of square, you wouldn't be able to put both
ends of the blade into the miter slot, because one end is embedded in
Exactly what type of square do you have? Can you post a URL to a
picture on the web from the dealer or manufacturer's web site?
You are saying that one end of the ruler is wider than the other?
While theoretically, the blade (ruler) could still be square with the body
on one side, the other edge of the blade would not be square. That would be
a problem if you were using the non-square side of the blade to check
something. I'd take it back and have them measure it with a caliper to
confirm your observation. Then have them check through the rest of their
stock to find one which doesn't have this problem. A 32'nd in one foot is
enough to make things not fit right.
I have misspoken, I told you I was a beginner. I am now looking at the
box and it is a Starett combination square the numbers if they mean
anything are C11H-6-4R. I have a Delta 36-650 contractor saw. It is
the low end of the Delta contractor saws.
From what I have read here, it sounds like it is more likely the saw,
but I should have my combination tested at the store. The miter slot
being out of wack does not make sense to me because I tested the end
of the ruler at the same place in the miter slot. So, it would be the
ruler that would be different not the slot. Unless the slot is really
wacked, which is possible.
Thanks for all the comments, please keep them coming!!
How accurate should I expect a combination square to be? I got a cheap one
from Enco about a week ago (thinking it might not be great for machinist
work, but good enough for woodworking). Took it out of the box and checked
it with a precision ground square. Holding it up with a light background, I
could see a gap. (Comparing two of the precisions squares showed no hint of
Should have measured it with a feeler gauge, but anyway, the cheap one is
I have an old Stanley that was my dad's, but that's square either.
(Actually, the old Stanley is what got me thinking "if I'm using a square to
check if a workpiece is square, and the square's not square....hmm...I need
a solid reference square - hence the precision ground set).
Now I'm wondering what combo square I should look for, and what kind of
accuracy can I expect? With a reasonable cost, of course, which for me is <
For wooddorking, you should be able to place it up against a
freshly jointed board, mark a sharp thin line, flip the
square and not see any deviation.
To name a few, Starrett, Brown & Sharp, Lufkin, Union and
that Mititoyo (Japanese company whose name I always forget
how to spell). You can usually find one or all the above on
eBay in your price range. One of the nice things about a
Starrett is they (Starrett) will take your old squares and
bring them back up to snuff for a small fee. It would be
real nice if it was for free but...
Anyway, on eBay, go slow at first, test the waters and when
you feel a wee bit of confidence jump in.
So in other words, you had the square set up so it was being
used as a depth gage so to speak? When you retracted it
from the slot it read 3/8"?
Sounds to me like your blade is wider from one end to the
next. If this is the case then it's not right. A quick
trip back to Woodcraft to check it against another square or
in this case using a caliper is in order.
On the other hand, you've got a pretty rare tool there.
I've never heard of a Starrett that was out of the box out
of whack. Kinda like a stamp or money that comes from the
mint with an imperfection.
Oh by the way, the blade on these squares should be dead
nuts 3/4" wide. Your miter slots are seldom dead nuts 3/4"
wide and usually you'd be able to set the blade into the
slot anywhere up and down the length without it becoming
stuck. I doubt it's the saw table.
I just thought of one good way to determine if a square is square...
On a flat surface, with something clamped to it at 90 degrees, hold
the square against the flat surface and the clamped item. Draw a
very fine line using the edge of the square. Then turn it around 180
degrees and draw another line right over the first. If there is any
deviation from square, the lines will diverge. It should be readily
apparent since the amount of the error is doubled. If both lines
are exactly parallel, the square must be good.
The software said it ran under Windows 98/NT/2000, or better.
So I installed it on Linux...
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