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High build quality. Completely useless for making marks in anything hard. Tested on some 18ga ss, a36 mild, 6061 aluminum and nickel plated copper. It takes a surprising amount of downforce to make a divet that is between 1/32 and 1/64 wide. Unless you need the tiniest of marks don't bother, just use your old punch and hammer and forget this garbage exists.
Unfortunately, despite being very well made, it seems the tool wasn't assembled correctly and I couldn't make it work despite many attempts. Moreover, no instructions were provided with the tool? A replacement was ordered and I will soon correct these comments when an idiot proof delivery is achieved...
The day I received my 18C from Amazon, I tried using it on some suitable aluminum stock, to get familiar with it and see how its adjustment works. For a while, I couldn't get it to fire at all, even though I was adjusting it correctly: I turned the end cap so the spring nearest the user would be compressed less. Finally, I loosened the threaded sleeve near the tip, even though I figured that that sleeve isn't there for any adjustment purpose (I found out later I was right). After loosening the sleeve near the tip a bit, I could get it to fire about 50% of the time.
I wanted to see whether, in fact, the only adjustment on the tool is performed by turning the end cap; so I looked on the Starrett website for an instruction manual. (As other reviewers have pointed out, none of the Starrett automatic center punches come with any instructions, probably because the company believes that anyone who buys a Starrett tool must already know what he's doing.) There is no instruction manual available on the Starrett website either. I called Starrett using the toll-free phone number on the website. The nice tech support person I talked with told me: Yes, the only adjustment on the tool is via the end cap, and the threaded sleeve near the tip should not be loose prior to using the tool.
I explained that I could only get the punch to fire if I slightly loosened the threaded sleeve near the tip; even though I had loosened the end cap quite a bit. I also said that even after I did those 2 things, the punch would only fire about half the time; based on at least 50 attempts. I asked the Starrett tech support person whether I might have a defective item. He said I might have, and I should probably exchange it for a different example.
I'm kind of disappointed. This is the first Starrett tool I've ever purchased, and it took me a while to talk myself into paying what I did for it. (By the way, I think Amazon's price is very good: as I recall, it's the lowest I saw, and of course shipping is free for an Amazon Prime member.)
I may purchase a Starrett 18A, which is also a current Starrett product. The length of that unit is 4.85 in, according to the drawing I downloaded from the Starrett website; its largest diameter is slightly less than that of the 18C; and according to the website, the spring near the end cap has a smaller diameter than the one in the 18C. So the 18A should apply less force to the material than the 18C. That would be fine with me. I think the 18C would apply too much force for most of the work I do. Strangely, I see that if I purchase a Starrett 18A on Amazon, it would be through an Amazon reseller, so I would have to pay a shipping fee.
If I do purchase another Starrett automatic center punch, I'll cross my fingers and hope that I don't get another defective example.
By the way, 18C that I received is beautifully machined and seems to be well designed. I even took it apart, and I don't see anything wrong with it. Given all that, I'm very surprised that I can only get it to fire about 50% of the time.