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Straight Edges An Essential Tool Reviewed


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For some reason straight edges always come up in forum posts as tools to own. I know I have about 10 total; more than any one person should need in a life time. Some were purchased for the hell of it and others for a specific use.

I will look at 5 straight edges I own one being the Stumac Notched straight edge.

If you have been looking for something reasonably priced or accurate read on.


All but the Stumac are true straight edges and are sold that way. All of these pictured are dead flat but did not come that way.


This is the straight edge I compare my straight edges too. This was my first purchased back in the early 80's and I cannot remember how much I paid. Over the years it has been my first reach tool for many different uses. But it had some dings and wear, the metal was soft so the bar is no longer straight along its length, only the edges are flat. So it has been relegated to minimal use in critical situations. As I can always expect this to be my final reference. If you have the bucks this is the tool to buy. Hopefully the steel is harder these days.


I bought this special 3 piece set with bevel edges for the bevel. Came with a 12", 24" and 36" straight edge. They are heavy with a polished surface. They also have a ruler etched in the bevel, which is hard to read. The three were less than straight with the 36" being so far off I have not been able to fix it. The 12 and 24 inch rulers were flattened on a piece of 48" glass with sandpaper. These two are usable now on the beveled edge only but it took some work. The price of these cheapo straightedges are not worth the cost. In my opinion these are a definite pass unless you have access to a metal shop with an accurate surface grinder or time to kill.

Lee Valley (veritas)

There is nothing that makes me happy than buying a tool and having it perfect out of the box. I first bought the 24" Aluminum straight edge (black color) just to see how it was. I was surprised at how accurate it was for the price. Then I ordered the steel 36" straight edge for a stubborn jointer which needed a more precise setup; and that too was good to go. Both of these were referenced off the Starrett. The cost is reasonable especially for the Aluminum. I find the wide base on the aluminum and light weight a plus. Also the dark finish helps when looking for gaps with a back light. This would make an excellent first tool. However the metal straight edges may last longer if you are like me and treat your tools less than perfect. This 36" steel straight edge has a wide base of almost 1/2".

Additional note: The aluminum from Lee valley may not be the best choice if you are using the edge to cut veneer into strips or marking wood with a scoring blade as you might score the straight edge as well.


Well not really a true straight edge. Without frets on a fingerboard it has no use as far as I can see, but when you need to check a fretted fretboard I can see no other tool for the job. Like the GarrettWade this tool did not come flat. In fact this is my second one. The first one I received was so bad I sent it back and had them replace it. Because you use both sides both sides have to be flat. Each one came with a curve to the metal, so one side was convex and one concave. This one I kept but I still had to flatten it on glass with sandpaper. I could go into the SM discussion about how bad their quality control is but I wont. I suggest you buy and accurate straight edge first before buying or using this tool. If you haven't checked yours already you may be making the instrument you are using it on worse. The finish on this is the worst of any in the review and it is the thinnest, and thus easiest to flatten. Once you get past the quality control issues it a good tool to own.


If you need a straight edge I suggest Lee Valley. Without a good straight edge you cannot check flatness, set up equipment and do other tasks like connect two points together with a straight line. If you say you can make your own I will only say you can but whats your reference to it being truly flat?

Like a good plane or hand saw, this should be on everyones list of basic tools to have. I would go as far to say without one you are selling yourself short.


THe edges shown are 24" except the Veritas Steel 36" and the Stumac approx 18"

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What do you feel is a good length to go with if your sole use will be solid bodies and acoustics? I did quite a bit of research on straight edges trying to determine what to buy, I checked reviews on each of those listed here minus the notched straight from Stewmac and I came to clear choice of the Starrett, it took me a long time to find enough info to even get to that choice and still thats just based on reviews and my own personal feelings. Home Depot has the 18" version of the Starrett for around $57 which sounded like a great deal to me, but that has no measurements and no beveled edge. The ones with the beveled edge are more expensive, same for the one with the etched ruler and same for the one with both those features. I like the idea of having one beveled edge on there, but I don't know if I want to pay for it.

Anyhow, I just couldn't decide on what size. 18" seems big enough to ensure I get nice flat fretboards and frets, same for blank glue ups and so on. Jumping up to 24" would ensure it reaches across the entire fretboard, but it still wouldn't reach from the nut to the bridge for certain measurements. I feel like I could get away going with 18", but I want to make sure I'm not missing an obvious use for the 24" or bigger that would be important.

Anyhow, great review, thanks for all that info, it really breaks it down well and enables the reader to determine which edge would suit their needs. From all the reading and reviews that I found, I would say that your break down comes to a very similar conclusion. Thanks again, great help. J

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Nice. I've been looking at pickup up a new, nice straightedge.

For those on the cheap: I ordered a few of the polycarbonate straightedges from LMII - cheap, they're my go-to for when I know I'm going to be bonking things around a bit. If I drop it and they break, I'm not crushed.

I had three of them (I can't find the third one now). The the only way three edges can match is if they're straight lines, and all the edges on these matched as good as could be from my eye and feeler gauges, so I've trusted them for a while now.

I took two of them and made my own notched edges, easy to cut with a dremel.

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I would say for a first straight edge go with a 24", 18" may be too small. As you can see my first choice is 24" for layout. Not too big not too small.

I did not mention but have modified my post: the aluminum from Lee valley may not be the best choice if you are using the edge to cut veneer into strips or marking wood with a scoring blade as you might score the straight edge as well.

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I'm often using a notched Stew-mac SE not only for checking a board with frets, but also a board *without* frets. I mean, even with the notches, I'm still able to see how the majority of the board is. Plus, I can just move that SE left or right to get contact where the notches weren't before.

I even often use it for checking the tops of the frets. Again, by moving it left or right.

BUT, I have two StewMac notched edges and neither is perfect. One has an annoying side deflection, and the other doesn't seem to be perfectly machined on the edges, so I really never use that one. They sent that as a replacement for the first one with the bad side deflection (and let me keep it). But their replacement is pretty much useless to me. Maybe someday I'll try to tweak it like Woodenspoke did, or maybe sell it to someone who wants to do that.

I think you're best bet is to have one really good SE ( 24" seems to work for me for a "main" SE). Then use that sucker to find some really flat glass (get you're set of feeler gages for this- .002" minimum, but I'm mostly using a .0015" for checking stuff like this).

Then, when you've got your flat glass and have it set up, so it doesn't defect when putting pressure on it (I do that by making a stack of glass plates, which ends up as at least glass plates 1"-2" thick), you can make your own straight-edges by putting sandpaper on the glass. Or if you can handle buying a good surface plate, do that, I guess.

Now you've got your "master" SE for checking how accurate your DIY SE's are coming out.

An aluminum notched SE would be nice. Lighter weight, around 18" long, less likely to scratch fret tops.

Believe me, after I get all the frets buffed out, I really don't like laying my 24" steel SE on them. It's hardness and bulkyness are sure to put scuff marks or worse, on the frets. That's why I tend to go with the notched SE, 'cause it's currently the only SE I have around 18". Next one down is 12" ; too short for reading a whole neck.

As for "reading" from the nut to the bridge, I don't think you need ultra accuracy there. I mean, what kind of "reading" are we talking about in a situation like that ? Maybe determining a neck reset ? you can vary a few thou with that, for sure. Measuring distance from nut to bridge ? no precision ground edge needed there. We're talking about a rule there, not so much a straight-edge. (Actually, my main tool for measuring from nut to bridge is some of those "slats" off of venitian blinds, and I mark a couple marks (and small holes that I can see through) , some with compensation in mind.)

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Hey all,

On straight edges.....

They are only "True" on the ground narrow edges.

The big wide flat face is not assumed to be "True"

It's just too flexy.

Next, I would be real careful about "flattening" them on anything besides

a surface plate... A piece of float glass may be very uniform, but will bend

to conform to the surface under it.

This is different than lightly stoning down burrs from knocking about in storage.

..... which is considered "Normal Shop Practice"

On sources.... Go with a reputable Machinist supply company.

MSC, McMaster Carr, Enco, J&L Industrial, and Grainger are all

big Machine tool and die suppliers.

On brand names....

Starret and Brown & Sharpe are top names.

Mitutoyo is great Japanese quality.

Fowler is economy USA.... Usually very accurate, but rough around the edges.

SPI is usually Good quality Chinese stuff.

Then you get into the economy Chinese Misc brand stuff.....

which can be very good depending on where you get it.

For example, the cheap-o Chinese ground straight edges from Enco are probably

straighter than most folks can measure.

On the other hand, I wouldn't trust a Harbor Freight or some "Mystery Discount" brand stuff.

It is way too hit or miss.

I would consider the 36" one a great size.... but a truly good one will be heavy.

24"x 2"x 1/4" is probably the "Go To" size

Good luck


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