Squares from the big box - Woodworking Talk - Woodworkers Forum
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post #1 of 14 Old 09-04-2019, 11:18 PM Thread Starter
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Squares from the big box

So you take your saved pennies from your paper route and go to the home center to buy a square. Oh my so many choices! How do you know which one is accurate?

Pick the one that you like. Then test it for accuracy. No, the home center doesn't have a square block for testing but they do have a bunch of other squares. First try the same brand. Then try with other brands. You might be surprised. It is unlikely that two different brands would be off in the same way.

A word of warning about fixed or framing squares. Many are dip coated for protection. Sometimes this leaves a fat drop of finish on the edge. You may have to scrape it off to get an accurate test. I've used a screwdriver or putty knife from the bin to remove the drop of finish.

Rich
In furniture 1/32" is a Grand Canyon
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post #2 of 14 Old 09-05-2019, 12:01 AM
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Take a sharp pencil with you to the store.
Pick your square.
Lay it on the floor with the short edge against one of the shelving racks.
Draw a pencil line on the floor along the whole length of the long side.
Flip the square over and align it back to the pencil line and draw again.
If you have one dead straight line, its square, buy it.
If you have a wavy or divergent line, put the square back and pick another.
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post #3 of 14 Old 09-05-2019, 05:28 AM
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It isn't always as easy as that. I recently bought a straightedge. In the stores, all of them were in packaging that prevented me from testing them side-by-side. They had shrink-wrap plastic, cardboard wrappers, or a combination of both.

(For NoThankYou - I looked at Home Depot, then Lowes, and finally got one at McFadden/Dale over in Anaheim). Same wrapper issue at all three places. I had to trust the "straightedge" text on the package label, then verify it when I got it home.)
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post #4 of 14 Old 09-05-2019, 06:21 AM
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I went thru this last winter. Wanted to replace my old square (an annoying nick in the edge) Never thought about checking it before I bought it (Lowes). Got it home, put it against my old square, different. First thought was my old one was out more than I thought. Wrong. The new one was out of whack. Went back to return it and checked every one they had and NONE were square. I know that there are tricks to tune them and make the square, but if I buy a new one, I shouldn't have to do that. I'm still using my old one and avoiding the nick.
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post #5 of 14 Old 09-05-2019, 08:45 AM
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I have a tape measure with one side inches, the other side mm.
and a phone with a calculator.


went to the big box store for a square.


a squared + b squared = c squared
will find a perfect framing square every time.
it's also a handy technique to check it after it gets dropped.
and also check in extreme temps - because squares are stamped from rolled plate - which has a "grain" at the leg juncture - which can deflect slightly with expansion....
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post #6 of 14 Old 09-05-2019, 03:56 PM
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I've found that generally the stamped versions (framing squares) are sufficiently accurate for almost all woodworking.

Adjustable try-squares can be wildly out of square. Buy it, check it, return it if it is not accurate.

Or carry a 4" x 4" x sheet goods, that you know to be square when you go to the store. Use it to check the squares.

The cast aluminum squares and the injection molded squares (plastic) can be way out of wack also. In an effort to make them more profitable, the moulder can speed up the molding process. If the plastic is not given sufficient time to cool in the mold and is ejected early in an effort to increase production, then accuracy can fail.

Also, if the squares are offered in different colors, be suspect. The colorant changes can (and usually do) result in different shrinkage as the plastic cools. Significant dimensional changes can occur when the colors are changed.
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post #7 of 14 Old 09-05-2019, 05:15 PM
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I took the plunge and bought a Groz precision square at Woodcraft. Use it mainly for squaring the miter and saw blade on my Ryobi BT3000. I have found it tells me one of my adjustable squares is actually square. Got instructions on how to file down the slot to bring two others to square.

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post #8 of 14 Old 09-05-2019, 05:26 PM
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As said earlier, lay the short edge along a shelf and draw a line up the long edge. Now flip the short edge over in the opposite direction and lay it up against the line drawn They should match perfectly - the edge of the square should be laying right on top of the line you drew.

You could spend the extra bucks and get an Engineers Square. They should be right on right out of the box. Like I said once before: Think of Lowes as Walmart and Home Depot as K-mart.

here is another mind blower. I havent tried this is a few years but here goes. Pick up two or more tape measures and lay the hook ends on a table top. Pull out the tapes about 3 feet or so and look at the differences all along the way.

Anyway, back to squares. Go to a store that sells drafting supplies and buy the plastic triangles. they are cheap and very accurate. Only down side is that they dont come with a secondary edge to lay against anything. They are totally flat. You have to just lay one edge on there by sight and feel which is not a big issue. If you want to use it as a typical square, surely you can find a straight piece of wood, drill a few holes in the plastic square and into the wood to create an outside edge to lay against your work piece.

One would think that in this day and age of technology that some manufacturers can make a square that is actually square and for a reasonable price.

Tony B



Retired woodworker, amongst other things, Sold full time cruising boat and now full time cruising in RV. Currently in Somerville, Tx
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post #9 of 14 Old 09-05-2019, 05:54 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tony B View Post
here is another mind blower. I havent tried this is a few years but here goes. Pick up two or more tape measures and lay the hook ends on a table top. Pull out the tapes about 3 feet or so and look at the differences all along the way.
Oh goodness YES!
I did that and wound up throwing a Harbor Freight away. At 96 inches it was off by 3/16. Since then I have specialized using ONLY Stanley Fat Max tapes. Are the Stanley tapes traceable to NBS? Irrelevant! What matters that they are all the same. And as a real life bonus they match up with the tape on my Biesemeyer fence system out to about 36 inches.

A funny story. A neighbor asked me to cut a piece of wood for his backyard gate. I said OK but to bring the ruler that he measured with over too. I take his tape and like so many the has been glued (with caulking compound) in a fixed position. I set up a couple pieces of scrap on the bench and asked, "How did you measure?" I did the hook between the two pieces and the hook over. Then I converted his measurement to mine. I threw his tape into the trash, gave him another tape and explained why the hook moves. Oh, the piece that I cut fit perfectly.

Rich
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post #10 of 14 Old 09-05-2019, 07:53 PM
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My wife used to work with me in the shop. We got in to an argument over accurate measurements. Turned out her Stanley tape and mine were quite different. When I got employees I had a machine shop make a one meter long test bar, steel, with both in & out stops and machined lines at short and long distances in both metric and imperial. It is mounted on the shop wall. I suppose it should be mounted in a climate controlled container, next year.
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post #11 of 14 Old 09-06-2019, 12:30 PM
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i bought an expensive Starrett tri square, and leave it on the shelf as our "shop standard". all other daily use squares are checked against it when they become questionable.

the only way i know to check a square is against another "known" square/BLOCK. all other methods are relying on a straight edge to be straight, or inch marking to be accurate.

how do machinists do it??
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post #12 of 14 Old 09-06-2019, 01:42 PM
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The shop standard does not have to be an expensive brand, it has to be one that is stable and accurate and is not used for anything other than a reference for other squares.

The superintendent of the last company I worked at had a steel rule in his desk drawer that all new rules supplied to the staff were checked against. That was the only way product could move through the plant on a consistent basis.

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post #13 of 14 Old 09-06-2019, 01:46 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TimPa View Post
i bought an expensive Starrett tri square, and leave it on the shelf as our "shop standard". all other daily use squares are checked against it when they become questionable.

the only way i know to check a square is against another "known" square/BLOCK. all other methods are relying on a straight edge to be straight, or inch marking to be accurate.

how do machinists do it??
You can buy precision bars, etc.
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post #14 of 14 Old 09-07-2019, 01:17 AM
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I don't have the resources to purchase state of the art calibration, (although I did manage to get my planer knives to within .005" of each other and the bed), but I always use the same tape all the way through a project. It may turn out a little different on your tape, but the dimensions will be correct with respect to each other.
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