Chris Schwarz's Blog

Anarchist’s 2015 Gift Guide, Day 3: Starrett No. 92 Compass

92_detail_IMG_9746

I promise this is not an all-Starrett Christmas. Truth is (I hate to say) the last few things I’ve bought new from Starrett have been disappointing (especially a small pair of dividers). This tool, however, has not been a disappointment. Quite the opposite.

For years I struggled with compasses in the shop. They were not hardy enough. They lost their settings. Even the expensive German ones I bought were just not up to furniture work. Then I bought the Starrett No. 92, and I am now set for life.

It’s robust, precise and sharp. It holds its setting even when knocked a bit. And you can swap out the pencil for a metallic tip so you can use it as a divider. I know it’s expensive. But I spent way more money on the five other compasses that weren’t up to snuff.

92_IMG_9743

Get it and be done.

The next item on the gift guide is dirt cheap. Promise.

— Christopher Schwarz

For Day 1 of this year’s gift guide, click here.
Day 2 is here.
For my gift guides from 2013 and 2014, click here.

6 thoughts on “Anarchist’s 2015 Gift Guide, Day 3: Starrett No. 92 Compass

  1. tailwagger

    Alternatively, I have a vintage French made “Goldenberg” “Tout Acier” (All Steel) dividers. They are beautiful, stout, hefty, and suitable for a wood shop. They may be a bit hard to find but when you do, well worth it.

  2. jasalomon

    Chris – Not long ago you mentioned that you bought a vintage Starrett 85. What prompted you to buy a new Starrett 92 in addition (or as a replacement)?

  3. stefanrusek

    Chris, can you share a few words on what you see as the difference between compasses and dividers? Growing up I called a thing with a pencil a compass, but Pete Ross calls his trademark dividers compasses. Also besides writing on paper, what do you use the pencil one for?

    1. Christopher SchwarzChristopher Schwarz Post author

      I can say this: The definitions are not absolute.

      If it has two pointy metal bits but no locking mechanism, I call them a compass.
      If it has two pointy bits and a locking mechanism, dividers.
      If it has a pencil as one of the bits: compass.

      Wish there were better words.

  4. stiltdancer

    I’d suggest buying a vintage drafting set instead. One can buy a top-quality American or German set from the 1950s (or earlier) on eBay for less than $20 with shipping if you take a little time. The set will contain several compasses and dividers, and they are a joy to use.

  5. stjones

    Or, if you have access to old tools or old tools users/collectors, you might look for similar tools made by the Wm. Johnson company of Newark NJ. I have several in varying sizes which are functionally similar to the Starrett. On my Johnsons, the curved beam is flat, not round, and the microadjustment is spring-loaded so you could theoretically change the setting by applying unusual pressure to the legs. And, of course, the old tools market includes Starrett, Brown & Sharpe, and other quality makers, but the only intact sets (including the metal tip and all the fittings) I’ve found have been Johnson.

Comments are closed.