I’ve been a cheapskate with measuring tools in the past. I’ve got an angle gauge that changes measurements if a mouse farts in its direction. I have a combination square that spends most of its time on the floor, in pieces. My shop time is almost non-existent. I’d rather spend my time building than working around the quirks of the tools I depend on to get things done.
So I decided to treat myself.
The Value of the Starrett C183 Steel Protractor
Let’s talk about cost. But we also need to talk about value.
The Starrett C183 Steel Protractor is not cheap and buying it was not an easy decision. I stared at the screen for hours before I clicked Add to Cart. There are lots of protractors on the market and a massive range of prices, and fortunately, they all have lots of reviews to investigate. Some reviews were fine. But there were just too many bad reviews to ignore. Customers complained that other ($10 range) metal protractors were flimsy. Some complained that they did not hold their settling (loose or inferior lock nut). And others mentioned that they went through several of them and different tools of the same model had differences in their markings.
My goal is never to buy another protractor. I’ve only owned my Starrett a few months but barring a fire or massive screw-up, I don’t see that being a problem.
One major concern about cheaper protractors was how many reviews mentioned flimsiness. They alleged that they could be easily bent, and my tools are no stranger to being knocked to the floor. So that’s a problem.
The Starrett C183 feels durable, heavy (for a protractor), and machined from high-quality steel. The head doesn’t bend at all. The blade curves slightly and springs back to where it should be. Permanently altering the shape of either piece would take considerable effort or a major accident. I doubt that everyday wear-and-tear will bend your Starrett.
Fit and Finish
A common problem with angle gauges and protractors is an inadequate locking mechanism. The lock nut on the Starrett C183 doesn’t look all that impressive. But it’s effectiveness and simplicity will leave you feeling like you made the right decision. It takes just a few twists to tighten or loosen the nut. And once it’s tight, the blade isn’t going anywhere. My biggest complaint about the handful of modern and vintage angle gauges I have in my shop is the flimsy lock. Up until this purchase, I thought hundreds of years of tool evolution had still failed to improve on this mechanism. I was wrong.
The accuracy of the gauge isn’t something I can speak to because I have no base for comparison. But so far my results have been precise, so I trust it.
Was $75 a lot to spend on a tool they used to hand out free in middle-school geometry? Sure. I can’t say with certainty that this tool is worth the price. Only time will tell. But it’s a pleasure to use and beats the competition in every metric I can test. I wouldn’t hesitate to buy it again.