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Adjustable parallels, Starrett v Chinese - Which is "better" ?

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  • Adjustable parallels, Starrett v Chinese - Which is "better" ?

    Okay, I know that isn't really a question in some ways... So let's add some detail

    Starrett 154 set of 6 for around $150 (used) or $275 (new), versus Chinese set of 6 for $40

    Usage - Semi-retiree Home Shop Machinist who likes to try to think he can hold things down to the thousandth's level but can't always achieve his goal. Likes to be precise, but admits that the one thing he worked on that went into orbit was a long time ago and he ain't never doing that again. So I am tending towards the cheaper Chinese products IF they are "okay" in use. But if they are made so poorly that I would be frustrated trying to use them, then I can bite the bullet and buy a used set of Starretts. Or a different product if somebody out there has a recommendation for a hidden gem.

    Problem - can't find any specifications on parallelism... even the Starrett site only gives dimensions but not tolerances.

    Versus a typical example of the Chinese:

    So, I'd like to ask for reviews from people who have used one or the other and recommendations for YATP (yet a third product) if somebody has a line on a good set of parallels that are good value for money.



  • #2

    I got both a Starrett set and a cheap, cheerful Chinese set. Have owned each set for 25+ years. The Starrett set is a bit easier to to snug up vs the CCC set. But it's not $200 better.........

    If you are willing to spend the money to have the name to brag about, go for it. But if you need to save egg money to get a set, there is no shame or loss of accuracy in the cheaper set.
    If you think you understand what is going on, you haven't been paying attention.


    • #3
      I have been sort off looking at adjustable parallels also. I read some comments that the Chinese sets were coming with a lot of grit in the slots and required a thorough cleaning before being usable.
      I see that KBC has there own Chinese house brand for a fairly low price. I wonder if they would be any better?
      Larry - west coast of Canada


      • #4
        Originally posted by dalee100 View Post
        ...If you are willing to spend the money to have the name to brag about, go for it...
        If you have no appreciation for, and get no joy from using a quality tool, go for the cheap crap.
        12" x 35" Logan 2557V lathe
        Index "Super 55" mill
        18" Vectrax vertical bandsaw
        7" x 10" Vectrax mitering bandsaw
        24" State disc sander


        • #5
          Originally posted by Cuttings View Post
          I read some comments that the Chinese sets were coming with a lot of grit in the slots and required a thorough cleaning before being usable.
          I bought an import set a few years ago and they were like that. They work as intended once cleaned and lubed.


          • #6
            A word of caution don't use them to clamp down on and do drilling or milling. They will slip.
            Now using them in a vise with the jaws doing the clamping they are great.

            I scored used Starretts years ago, pretty sure it was under 75 bux, great to use but I drilled I to them a few times.
            The narrow ones are excellent for measuring slots accurately.


            • #7
              A good used set doesn't have to be expensive nor does it have to carry the Starrett name. Unless it's an urgent need keep searching.

              If you want Starrett, I'd throw this guy an offer:
              or keep a watch on these:
              or these:
              Last edited by reggie_obe; 01-30-2019, 02:30 PM.


              • #8
                Originally posted by ezduzit View Post
                If you have no appreciation for, and get no joy from using a quality tool, go for the cheap crap.
                OH please!!! You know, some don't have that kind of money!!


                • #9
                  It's nice to have respected name brands for some things. But when it's a hobby and spending won't create any income we have to pick our choices with an eye towards getting the most utility from the budget. And this is one place where we simply don't really need the big dollar name.

                  How I decide on which is OK to buy for cheap and how I decide on the nice things is how easy or practical it is for me to tune up any shortcomings. And a set of adjustable parallels is something that isn't hard to tune up.

                  As mentioned above take them apart and give them a good cleaning and even using a fine stone file deburr as needed. Next up you can easily inspect these for parallelism. Just clean your mill table and set up a dial gauge or more sensitive DTI on a stand or in the quill and pass the parallel locked to some suitable height under the finger of the gauge. It'll tell you quickly if it's true enough and how far, if any, it's out of parallel. From there if the amount is something you can easily see and it bothers you reduce it with a bit of focused lapping against some fine wet or dry paper using the mill table or some other suitable known flat surface as your "surface plate". Of course if you have a surface plate you can use that. To wear down the high side but still keep the edge flat and straight push down about 1/3 of the length in from the high side. The focused but off center pressure will keep the lapping straight but reduce it more on the one end. And it doesn't take all that much to remove a couple or three tenths of a thou.

                  I would never use this trick on fixed and matched parallels. But on adjustable sets? No problem. But more likely than not they'll be just fine but a bit gritty and needing of light deburring and then they'll be fine.
                  Chilliwack BC, Canada


                  • #10
                    While it is not always true, the 'murrican brands can be WORSE than the chinese.

                    I had a heck of a time with telescoping gages, they always read wrong for me, and I figured my technique was "that" bad.

                    Then I too a close look.... my "murrican branded telescoping gages were bad.... Several of them had a flatted part on the end, which meant they were reading the diameter at a chord, and not at the full diameter. But the mic would then read the flat spot as the full diameter. It was off a couple thou on the bad ones in the set.

                    And it was NOT "wear", the flat spot had been plated over when the parts were plated, it was clearly a factory defect.

                    I found a set of import gages that have worked perfectly ever since.

                    Keep eye on ball.
                    Hashim Khan

                    Everything not impossible is compulsory


                    • #11
                      I have a couple sets. Vintage General brand perhaps. Most of the time I simply use them for adjustable packing in oddball setups. For my purposes the less expensive I'm sure would be fine. Ok for you depends on what you are doing.


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Tungsten dipper View Post
                        OH please!!! You know, some don't have that kind of money!!
                        I can't afford to buy cheap tools.



                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Doozer View Post
                          I can't afford to buy cheap tools.

                          I understand. It isn't necessary to call something that works crap! A lot of us use asian products, and do quite well, I'm tried of Starrett snobs. Yes I have Starrett, Brown& Sharpe but mostly Mitutoyo.


                          • #14
                            there is more to adjustable parallels (AP) than just being parallel !
                            No doubt, they need to be parallel and flat for their primary purpose
                            Anything outside of .0002" is crap first of all and even .0001" is not good. It's a instrument and a tool.
                            Second, the thickness should be flat and parallel.
                            Third , the corners should be square with maybe a .002" radius or less ( I tell you why in a moment). NO Variations !
                            Fourth, and VERY important . The dovetails should be matched `on both pieces and consistent ! On a good set from USA,Germany,UK,Japan you can loosen the screw(s) and the two parts will slide with no hangup and NO loosness , in other words, smooth and silky.
                            Fifth, the screws MUST clamp evenly , and allow a snug slide (if required) or when tightened, not allow movement. If there is uneven drag or snags or abrupt stops, it's crap.

                            Now if you just want an adjustable " height" parallel for the drill press, then go buy a piece of crap. It works for that.
                            If you "need" to use a precision tool, better check out the stock available with the above comments in mind.
                            I have some Starritt, some Japanese and some General (USA cheap) in my tool box and their use is based on the need at the moment.

                            Learning time for newbies from an 80 yr old fart:

                            Use your AP,s for many things, like setting them for a desired depth in a Bridgeport . Say you want s 1.388" depth . Set the AP with your mike, then lower the quill till you touch the part, then set the quill stop using the AP for a gauge. Or any similar setup.

                            Here is a method I have taught for 50 years . Use the AP as a "Accurate" bore gauge ! thats right , no dial bore gauge needed -no telescopic gauges, no ID Mikes !
                            Take you bore job and stick a AP in the bore and expand it . Wiggle it to make sure it is set right, which is what it will generally do anyway.
                            If the AP moves in the Front of the bore, it is "Bell Mouthed" . If it wiggles in the back , you are barrel shaped --in other words, a taper bore.
                            Now the nice part, Use your regular micrometer and measure "cross-corner' . You will get a accurate bore diameter and be able to use the SAME mike for measuring your shaft. So you need fewer tools and get a more accurate job...and it is so simple. ( thats why corners on the AP are important !)

                            Last edited by Rich Carlstedt; 01-30-2019, 04:39 PM.
                            Green Bay, WI


                            • #15
                              Obviously Starrett are better, but, as dalee100 says, are they better value? Ask yourself, will I be using them every day, to make my living, and expected to last a lifetime of hard use? Then buy Starrett, assuming their products are still made in the USA and not imported and marked with the brand.