Wise Buys: Precision Steel Rules
Why buy? One of the most important woodworking tools you should own is a dead-on-accurate steel rule. It not only helps you mark perfect measurements, but it also proves indispensable at setting blade and bit heights on machines, as well as checking the accuracy of measuring tapes. If you can get only one such rule, we recommend a 12" version. We tested several models in each of three categories, and then named our favorite rule for each category. All of our picks here feature a dull finish (to diffuse glare), etched markings (which are more precise) rather than printed or stamped (which can rub off with wear), and scales in at least 1/8" and 1/16" increments. While a 1/32" scale proves useful, we find 1/64" scales difficult to read and mark.
STANDARD BENCH RULE
Lee Valley's rule provides the essentials for a bench rule at an attractive price. Its matte finish on hardened stainless steel proved the best at resisting glare of the four standard bench rules we tested. It has easy-to-read 1/8" and 1/16" scales along one side and 1/32" and 1/64" scales on the other. Another nice feature: The etched fraction lines are proportional for quick reference, with 1/2" marks longest, 1/4" and 3/4" next longest, and so on.
I also preferred the beefier thickness of Lee Valley's rule (.040") to that of Starrett's standard rule (.025'). The only shortcoming I could find with the Lee Valley rule was the absence of end scales: perpendicular markings at one or both ends of the rule. These prove helpful for setting router bit and saw blade heights. Starrett's rule has these markings, but its price tag triples that of the Lee Valley.
-- Tested by Jeff Mertz, Design Editor
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