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The Stanley No. 68 is as basic as boxwood and brass gets, and for the would-be rule collector, it’s perhaps the most accessible start point for a collection. Plain boxwood, originally stamped and later screen-printed, with the simplest and plainest brass pivot, hinges and end caps, it was amongst the cheapest rules that Stanley made, and the price and quality followed each other down the spiral as the Great Depression took hold of the US economy. It was made and marketed as a carpenter’s rule and/or a home use rule.
Of course, even with its most basic model, Stanley had competitors – the big names (Lufkin, Chapin, Stephens, Chapin-Stephens, Upson Nut Company, Standard Rule Company, Master Rule) all made the No. 68, or their own equivalent. Some just adopted the Stanley numbering system for their rules, and some (like Lufkin) maintained their own system, but also put the Stanley number on their rules in parentheses.
So this post is a tribute to the Stanley #68, a timeless (but cheap) classic – and yet there is not a single Stanley rule in the photo! At 12, 3, 6 and 9 o’clock, we have Lufkin #68 equivalents (parentheticals), and the rest are all Chapin-Stephens Company labeled C-S Co. #68. The quality of the Chapin Stephens product is, in my opinion, slightly better than the Stanleys, and the Lufkins a little worse, although of course all such judgments are subjective. Stanley acquired Chapin Stephens in 1929.