There are many pretenders to the Starrett C 604 RE. Accept no substitutes.
This 6” rule approaches perfection. I will stop everything I am doing in the shop until I can locate it. I bought my first one in 1996 at Aufdekamp’s Hardware in the then-scary Over-the-Rhine neighborhood in Cincinnati. It was about $20, which was a significant sum for me. But the experienced woodworkers with me that day insisted I wouldn’t regret the purchase.
And I haven’t.
What’s so dang perfect about this ruler? For me, it is the graduations etched into the steel and soft chrome background behind them. The soft chrome makes the rule easy to read and won’t reflect light like a mirror. If you buy a vintage rule, avoid the shiny chrome that Starrett used to use. It can be hard to read.
Many other rulers have graduations that are of too-similar lengths – the 16ths, 8ths and 4ths are too close in length, which makes the rule difficult to read. Starrett perfected the graduations, and I can take a measurement with one glance instead of four or five.
The graduations are finely milled into the steel and are filled with a durable black. Many other rules have graduations that are far too wide. And I am not talking about machinist precision here – many graduations on cheap rules are wide enough to interfere with handwork.
Finally, the little scale on the end is a nice feature. Very handy for measuring tenon shoulders, the depths of dados, etc.
It’s not perfect, however. If I could change one thing about the rule, it would be to remove the 64ths. I could probably work fine without the 32nds as well. When I need to get into 64ths and the like, I’m going to use a different tool.
But I cut the rule some slack on this point because it was made for machinists.
— Christopher Schwarz