Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Engineer's Square: Old vs. New

I swear Josh Clark is worse than a crack dealer.  It seems I can't help buying tools from him at hyperkitten.com.

The latest tool I got in the mail from him is this beautiful 12" engineer's square by Lufkin.

Nice Lufkin 12" square with center finder.

I didn't really notice in the photo, so when it arrived I was surprised it wasn't black, but O.D. green.  I have no idea if this was common for Lufkin squares or not.  Perhaps it was made for the military, but I found no markings on it that would suggest it.  Besides, is O.D. green really going to blend in better than flat black when you need to measure something in the jungle?

Side by side with my 6" Starrett.
The 12" rule is marked exactly like my Starrett 6" rule, with gradiations of 1/8", 1/16", 1/32", and 1/64".  The markings on both rulers are engraved, dark, and easy to read.
Comparison of rules.
I have to say that the 6" Starrett I bought a couple of years ago has become a tool that I use often.  I like to make wooden squares, but for some reason I always have this one around when I am squaring up stock.  My only beef with it is the price.  Brand new they come at a price equivalent to the price of a new kidney.

I was eager to see how the old tool stood up.  I checked and it is square as I can measure in my shop.  Should be plenty good for woodworking.  Just for fun, I tried the center finder on my smaller Starrett, and it fit perfectly.  That might come in handy one day.

The fit and finish is just as good as the Starrett with only a couple of exceptions.  First, I really like the engraving on the rule.  The font of the numbers is really cool. 

Second, and most importantly, is the Lufkin feels so much nicer to hold in my hand.  The newer Starrett has a lot sharper of edges everywhere.  Somehow, those edges have all been softened on the old tool.  I suppose it is just a little extra attention to detail on the old stuff.

Over all, I have to say that the Starrett is an excellent tool.  It is always reliable.  I do not have to think about adjusting it or wondering if it is still accurate.  If you are in the market for one and have the money, don't hesitate. 

However, if you are a little short on funds, keep an eye out for a vintage model.  This Lufkin is just as accurate and stable, as far as I can tell.   I would say if you can look at it first, that is best.  Otherwise, use a reputable old tool pusher like Josh.

I look forward to seeing how this tool makes itself used in my shop.


  1. Hi Brian,

    The green color was standard for Lufkin, and people often confuse it for "military" green. That's a nice square, and I remember seeing it (briefly) for sale on Josh's site. I like larger knobs on combination squares, like your Lufkin. I had one with a tiny knob and it drove me nuts. The center finder makes a handy saddle square as well.


    1. Hi Eric! Thanks for the comment.

      That's interesting to know about the green. I had a feeling, as there was no U.S.A. printed on the square, standing for U.S. Army. Naval property is stamped with U.S.N.

      This square feels very comfortable in the hand, and the large knob is definitely a big positive. The exact same knob is on the center finder.

      Why green, I wonder? My brother in law painted his house baby poop green once, because there was a sale on that particular color. Perhaps Lufkin got a good deal on this color?

      Good point about the saddle square usage. I wouldn't have thought of that, and I don't have one. Cool!

    2. Eric

      Center finder as a saddle square. Absolutely brilliant.

  2. Conjecture: The colour might have been in fashion when they started using it and then it became part of the brand?

  3. Yup, Josh is my favorite pusher too!

  4. I have a 0-3" Lufkin depth micrometer than I use day in, day out at work as a turning machinist. I got it for a song and though it's likely 50+ years old, it is as accurate today as the day it was made. Lufkins are good tools! Too bad the company is gone...

  5. I think I bought the exact same square just last week. And from Josh too!