Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Some tools

There are some tools in my shop that I haven't shown or talked about but that I really appreciate, in part for their quality and in part for the story behind them.

The first one is a Starrett 2" no. 20 square:

This tiny square is so handy that I use it daily.  It's great when dovetailing, jointing edges and a host of other tasks.  It belonged to my father-in-law and, while I have treasured it, I didn't realize what a precision tool it is, accurate to .0001" per 6" and made of hardened tool steel.

There is a story about the next two tools.  I was driving somewhere when I passed a garage sale and noticed there were a lot of tools in the open garage, so I stopped.  There were two machinist's tools that I was admiring when the seller came up to me and told me I needed them, asking if the prices were reasonable.  I said yes and that they were great tools but that I am not a machinist and would have limited use for them.  He said his father-in-law would have wanted them to go to someone who liked them and he would take $30.  Sometimes, rarely, it pays to be nice.

The first is this Helios vernier caliper, which is very well made.  I have a dial caliper but I really don't like it and use it rarely. Sometimes you don't know you want a tool until you have it.  I have found this one to be a great tool that I use everyday.  It has simultaneous fractional and decimal scales and is surprisingly precise, more than enough for woodworking.  This and the little square live in my apron.

The second tool was a Starrett no. 230 micrometer that is essentially NOS, complete with the original invoice and packaging:

I really have little use for this but I am amazed at its quality and precision.  I will maybe use it to measure the set on saw teeth but I can't think of any other use I have for it.  Nevertheless I really like it and am very glad to have it.   These vintage tools from a bygone era, whether for machinists or woodworkers, are wonders.


  1. I'm with you on the small squares, Andy. I find them so useful. My "go-to" square was a 4" machinists square (like yours above, only a little larger), until I dropped it and sent it out-of-square - arrgh! I used it for everything - checking square and squaring knife lines around project parts. Fit my hand perfectly.

  2. Andy,

    I grew up living above my Dad's machine shop in Odessa, TX, there and a dirt farm north of Big Spring, TX. Of the two places I much preferred the machine shop :-). Micrometers are a fond memory and an amazing tool.