View Full Version : I need combination square recommendations.

03-06-2006, 10:10 AM
Should I bite the bullet and buy a Starret or can I get good quality and not spend quite so much?

How handy is the protractor attachment?

How handy is the center finder attachment?

I assume 12" size is more useful but is this true?

I can get the 12" Starret without the protractor and center finder attachments for about $64. Does that sound like a good buy?


03-06-2006, 10:21 AM
I suspect "it all depends." Personally, I don't think I'd ever use the center finder attachment. Other people might use it all the time. I do have the protractor head, and I have used it a couple of times. Whether I could justify buying it new, I don't know. (I bought my square used.)

I think I'd be inclined to get just the combination square head, unless you can think of a compelling need to get the protractor and/or centering head. You can always add them later, if you find you can't live without them.

As for Starrett vs. something else...that's your call. My personal whim is to indulge in top quality when I can, because having a really fine tool gives me a lot of satisfaction. Buying used may be one way to do that, for less money.

Gary Gill
03-06-2006, 10:34 AM
I have had a Starrett square head, center finder and protractor for over twenty years. Also the 12, 18 and 24 blades. My point is over a long period of time the cost is insignificant. It is a factor on the front end though.

03-06-2006, 10:35 AM
I have a used Starrett with all three heads. Perhaps someone will make clear why I need the protractor head, but personally, I find it a whole lot less precise than the dial protractor thingie that I bought from Grizzly on sale for about $35...which certainly must be less than the cost of the head for the Starrett rule. That device reads down to the half minute as I recall.

I have used the centering head once or twice for layout work.


03-06-2006, 10:37 AM
Buy the Starrett.
Its the best. Its a tool you will use every day for the rest of your life.
cheap combo squares always suck.

I bought my Starrett combo square in about 1976, from Seattle Tool, now long gone. The building isnt even there any more. But the square, and angle head, and dividing head, still get used all the time.

03-06-2006, 10:52 AM
Ries, I agree that cheap combination squares suck. My brother-in-law gave me a Stanley combination square that I used for quite a while for woodworking before I really checked it for accuracy. The thought never crossed my mind that what I thought was a 90* angle was off by at least 3*.

03-06-2006, 11:42 AM

J Tiers
03-06-2006, 05:01 PM
Just used the center-finder this weekend. hadn't for a while, as I usually use hermaphrodite dividers. But I wanted to scribe a diameter.

The 90/45 gets used all the time. In fact it fell and the level vial broke, which ticked me off a bit, as I use that part also.

The protractor is not very useful for many things because it won't fit or doesn't turn the right way. I use a little "General" protractor, and a combo depth/protractor more, just due to size.
But when it is useful it is very useful, not the least of the reasons being the level vial.... for finding angles off horizontal. I use it outside the shop as much or more than in.

I bought mine used, IIRC it is from Union Tool Co (long out of biz up east somewhere), at least the protractor part is. The other parts I suspect are not the same set, although IIRC all the rules are from Union.

I'd buy the best one I could afford, because an inaccurate one is worse than none at all.

But I'd sure look for used first....

03-06-2006, 05:22 PM
They're relatively common on ebay...I'd get the Starret with the square attachment and pick up the others as good ones appear on ebay...hopefully with a longer scale as well so you can end up with the attachments and an assortment of scale lengths. I've used the protractor...often, maybe not. But when you need it you need it.

03-06-2006, 05:45 PM
The Starrett center finder and the 30/60/90 thingie have been adequate for my use. Never have really had an occasion where I felt the need for the protractor.

I've used a woodworkers bevel angle when I've needed to measure angles. Will buy the separate Starrett protractor that does angles and is a depth gauge before I get the protractor that fits onto the Starrett ruler.

Woodcraft advertises the 12" combo square for about 80 bucks, so $64 doesn't sound toohorrible.

Best, Jim

03-06-2006, 06:03 PM
I have two Starrett 6-inch combo squares and use them 10X as much as my 12-inch. That is because most of my work is better suited to that size. I have the 33H and 33J (Junior) in the 6-inch size. The 33H has a bigger head and wider blade. The 33J has no level.

Lew Hartswick
03-06-2006, 06:06 PM
I just used the protractor head the other day
to grind an Acme threading tool. It even worked. :-)

03-06-2006, 06:54 PM
I've been using a Starrett comb. set at work for 30+ years. Almost as long for a B&S set at home. No complaints on either one. Actually the B&S is a little smoother, but I wouldn't trust the current B&S to be the same, if they even make them anymore. Square head gets used 85% of the time, protractor head 10%, center head 5%. Still nice having the whole set. I would recommend getting Starrett's "hardened" square head, and satin chrome rules.

03-06-2006, 07:25 PM
I several different one that I use for different purposes.

The first is the "USA hardware store" type used for construction, or things where 1/16 inch accuracy is "over kill". I don't feel bad if it starts to rain, or hits the concrete, again. (I have more than one of these, will all the different attachments).

The second is a higher quality made in USA, not Starret, or B&S, with all the fixen's that is used for stuff that needs to be about 1/64 inch accurate.

The last are the Starrets, keep safely in my machinist tool box, used, then returned cleaned to their place of honor. I find the six inch ruler easier to use, most of the time.

The middle set got a workout, with an 18 inch rule, when I had to make left/right mirror image curve stairs, every measure and angle done twice, as opposites. Six weeks of head scratching. Used all the accessories, too.

Today I will gladly share my experience and advice, for there no sweeter words than "I told you so."

03-06-2006, 07:31 PM
** duplicate, deleted **

[This message has been edited by nheng (edited 03-06-2006).]

03-06-2006, 07:34 PM
I use the protractor to set up angled cuts on the mill drill unless they are critical enough to pull out the indexing head.

The square is always handy and a short blade or small version of the square is handy for machine setup.

The center finder is used on rare occasions BUT as mentioned, it is job dependent. You may have a job or hobby that requires the use of it frequently. One that comes to mind is rapidly locating a rough center hole location when the diameter doesn't permit chucking in the lathe.

If you find a hardened set of Starretts, they are even better in finish but probably initially built to the same spec (just guessing here). There have been NOS sets on ebay from time to time ... but IMHO there haven't been a lot of bargains on ebay in a long time.

P.S. B&S also made quality heads with easy on the eyes satin chrome scales ... on a par with Starrett and maybe a bit cheaper if you find any. I have a small set (3" head (??), 6" scale) and use them a lot more than the bigger Starrett set. No protractor though.


[This message has been edited by nheng (edited 03-06-2006).]

03-06-2006, 07:50 PM
I've owned a 12 inch Mitutoyo since they first came out. I also have Starret in 6 inch. I use them all just about every week.
All the attachments come in handy sooner or later.

03-06-2006, 09:25 PM
I have used Stanley tools at home (they are cheap) and Starrett tools at work ('cause the government pays for them).

There is no comparison. Every time I used the Stanley, I wished I had the Starrett at work.

Finally last December I just bought the whole Starrett set (forged to boot). I figured they were ending their year long anniversary sale, and they wouldn't get cheaper in 2006. Now I smile at home and at work... worth every penney.

Although I rarely use some of the attachments, I have had cases where I needed them and if I didn't have them, I would have been stopped in my tracks.

As a hobbyist, I value my off time, and anything that detracts from my ability to finish my projects just causes me to waste valuable "off time". The square could easily be the most used tool in the shop (for wood too), and every time I need the center finder or protractor attachment, it is just icing on the cake.

03-07-2006, 09:19 AM
That centering head comes in handy at the drill press too! Put the centering head on and the square/level. Make both legs of the centering head AND the end of the scale touch the round stock. Move side to side til the buble shows level. Use them to find the high point to make sure you are drilling perfectly centered!

[This message has been edited by mark61 (edited 03-07-2006).]

03-07-2006, 06:58 PM
i have and old b&s with all three heads.
but the one that gets used the most is the
m.s.c. i have three blades for it 12",18" and 24" and i use the three heads for it also.

Peter S
03-07-2006, 08:18 PM
I would buy a Mitutoyo - they are excellent. My Mitutoyo combination set has been round the world several times with me! (For what its worth http://bbs.homeshopmachinist.net//rolleyes.gif )

I have a nice Starrett back home which never gets used...

By the way, back in the 1980's I checked my then new Starrett 45* on a sine bar - it wasn't that impressive. All I remember was the old Moore & Wright that I also checked was much better. But M&W have changed since those days too...

03-13-2006, 05:41 PM
I got this one today. How did I do? (just under $64)

Item : 12", 4R Grad, Satin Chrome Blade
Product : Combination Squares with square head
EDP No : 56366

Size 12"
Graduation No. 4R – 8ths, 16ths, Quick Reading 32nds, 64ths
Blade Satin Chrome
Description Cast Iron Heads with Black Wrinkle Finish