13 August 2015

Starrett Combination Square Rehab and Praise

I've been annoyed with a problem that I suspect is common with similar vintage tools ever since I acquired a secondhand 12" Starrett combination square. While mostly a feature of its metalworking past, the scribe had trouble staying in its hole, dropping out unless it was inserted just so with the last bit of holding power left in the head.
About the same time that I was struggling to find a similar tool for students, I perused the Starrett website and noticed that there was an option for contacting the company. I selected "parts breakdown" in the reason scrolldown box. I wrote thus:
"I have an older model combination square with a scribe that has loosened over the years. Can you suggest any methods to adjust the hole that it inserts into or other ways to keep it secure and still useful?"
An acknowledgement arrived immediately and a fuller response forthwith. I reprint the email:

The Starrett part number is 01087-1/2. 

This awl bushing is just a small brass sleeve that has a taper on one end. The taper actually is what holds the awl in place. My guess is the taper section finally spread out over the years and the awl is now loose in the holder area. The old brass sleeve will need to be drilled out and the new sleeve inserted in its place (press fit). 

We can send you the replacement sleeve at no cost….the problem is getting it to you in a cost effective manner. If you have a suggestion on how best to send this low cost part to you – please advise.

Looking forward to hearing from you in this matter.

Ken Duffy

The L S Starrett Company - Export Department
121 Crescent Street
Athol, MA 01331   USA
Email: kduffy@starrett.com

Saints praise Mr. Duffy! Not even a demand for a receipt or a photo of the problem. I merely had to give a physical mailing address and the replacement parts would be on their way. Oh, I even asked for a few extra in case I screwed up the installation. He sent me five replacement parts. For those who don't understand why Starrett tools cost so much, this level of service explains their relatively low cost for the value of a tool that will outlive its owners.

The little parts arrived by FedEx directly from Athol, Massachusetts. I had offered to buy the free parts for the cost of shipping, but I was charged nothing. Not a cent or a fen. 

The instructions were to drill out the old shim and then reinsert its replacement. Being lazy and wary of letting my 'hard to replace in China' square come up against a twist bit, I pondered an alternative method. I took a short drywall and turned it into the soft brass insert. I then squeezed the head of the screw between vise jaws. 
The crudest solutions are sometimes the most elegant
I held a block of hard wood against the head and smacked it with a big ash mallet. It was driven out easily. Hurray!
I could see more clearly what had happened over the years.
The curtain peeled away
There are three flaps of metal on the end of the brass shim stock that compress against scribe. Either due to metal fatigue of abrasion, they no longer provided enough friction to hold securely. It's conceivable that after withdrawing the old sleeve, I could have pinched the flaps closer together and reinserted the original one. The amateur conservator in me was tempted to do so. The outer edge of the brass had been subjected to a lifetime or more of getting stabbed by the scribe's tip.

Shiny and shinier
I kept the original but decided to use the new sleeve and promised myself to cease being so rectally retentive. After blowing out the void in the head with compressed air, I pushed the new sleeve in with just finger pressure and then pressed the head against a flat surface to bring it flush.  

The tool rejuvenated and ready for the next lifetime of careful use.

From China I securely sing your mechanical praises, Laroy Sunderland Starrett, born in China, Maine!

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